Noodling is the fishing method of pulling whisker fish out of holes with your bare hands. That's right. With your bare hands. Maybe gloves.
I honestly thought it was a country legend until I saw one of those shows. To my amazement it's real. People actually do this. Lots of them.
It's mostly popular in the south or along the Mississippi river. As far up as Wisconsin. If there's a muddy river with whisker fish in it, they might be noodling somewhere.
This has to be one of the craziest ways to fish I've heard of. Like swimming with sharks. Both take a type of courage I don't think I have.
Whisker fish aren't the only things that live in those holes. Snapping turtles, alligators, alligator snapping turtles, and who knows what else live in there. All of which bite. I'm not one of those people who gets up in the morning and thinks "HHMMM, maybe I should put my fingers down in a dark hole today and see if I can pull out a fish. I'm sticking with a rod and reel. But for those who do think this is for them, I'll tell you how it's done. I might even wade in the water next to people doing it. No, I'm not sticking my hand in that cookie jar.
The first thing you need is muddy water. Whisker fish hunt by smell. They like it murky and dark. They like to hide in holes, or under submerged trees and branches. Places along the bank that have a good cave like structure washed out are another favorite place for whisker fish to hide.
Mental note, these are the same places alligators, and snapping turtles like to hide.
The next thing you need, but is not required, are gloves. Whisker fish don't have teeth like sharks and things. It's more like really rough sandpaper. Their mouths are designed to grab food and not let it slip back out. They swallow it whole. This sandpaper will sand the skin off of you though. Especially if there thrashing around to get away. And they don't come willingly.
The next thing you need are people you trust. You might have to go underwater to get your hand in the fish. As you know people don't breathe underwater, fish do. This can be a problem.
You don't want to be stuck under their and have the people you're with just watch. Your life might be in their hands. So, think about it carefully. If you don't know any like that, find professionals. Their called lifeguards. Just tell them you won't pay until you get back.
Common sense went out the window when you decided to go noodling, so be practical. "If I don't make it back, you don't get paid."
You can, and probably should, find a professional noodler. These are the people who know all the ins and outs of the area. They compete in all the tournaments. They can tell you how it's done. And they won't let you get killed.
Just check around online for guides. They're tons of them in each area. Schedule in advance and make sure you get pictures. You'll have to prove to people you did this. That's it's not just a fishing story.
Well, it is a fishing story. A Whisker fish story. A noodling story. That is definitely one for the books. If you're like me it would be one for the kids, and grand kids. Well, when I have kids.
So, remember. Be safe, wear gloves, take friends, take pictures or film it. Tell your story. Moments like those are meant to be shared.