Give a fish a man …

Would you give an old catfish a hand? Posted by Hello

I was checking out some river in Arkansas last year and came across a mysterious road sign that I had forgotten until today. It said: “No Noodling.”

I wondered what the hell that meant, but never thought to ask anyone. It all came back to me today when I saw story about how the state of Missouri is establishing an experimental noodling season this summer. Noodling is handfishing. It’s actually legal in a few states including parts of Arkansas and in Oklahoma. I read the Georgia Legislature is considering legalization of noodling. The “sport” is called hogging in some places. Why it is called noodling is lost to history “but it is speculated that it comes from the slippery nature of the catfish, which can feel like a wet noodle,” according to Discover the Outdoors

My first recollection of anyone even talking about handfishing was about eight years ago when I was eating jambalaya and drinking beer with a bunch of older Cajun men in Vinton, La. One of the fellows hailed from somewhere exotic like Ville Platte or along the Bayou Lafourche. He told about how, as a kid, he would jump into the bayou and stick his hand in an underwater stump then pull up a big old catfish. I wish I could recount the story word-for-word as it was quite colorful.

Now correct me if I am wrong, but just sticking your hand in an underwater stump sounds quite insane if not downright dangerous. Basically, noodling uses your hand for catfish bait. And some of those old cats can weigh 100 pounds or more. But it nonetheless seems to be a sport some want to engage in, maybe after some 20 beers, or a snootful of “Jesus in a Jar,” as one acquaintance used to call hooch.

Missouri’s experimental season imposes a bag limit of five catfish a day that are more than 22 inches long. Can you imagine using your hands to catch five catfish almost two-feet long in one day? It will be interesting to see down the road the number of old fishermen around those Missouri rivers who will bear the nickname “Stumpy.”

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