Noodling: catching a catfish by letting it bite your arm

Catfish noodling is a fishing technique that involves sticking your arm into a catfish hole and waiting for one of the big monsters to latch onto your arm as it attempts to escape.

Hillbilly Cat Fishing

Okie Noodling: a documentary on catfish noodling (via Kottke)


  1. I wonder if they have to worry about the bony fins the smaller catfish have. Holding it that close to your chest seems like you’re begging to have one of their foot and a half long fins puncture a lung.

  2. I know the people who made the OK noodling flim.

    The biggest problem is getting caught underwater and not being able to get to the air–not the fins.

    But it is just another type of happy madness.

  3. There are points in that video where everyone in it sounds like that mumbly “Paw” bear from the hillbilly bears cartoon.

  4. # 2: According to the documentary (which is great and I can’t recommend it enough), the biggest danger comes from the possibility of getting their arm caught in the crevices where the catfish like to hide. Since they’re out in the middle of nowhere, usually alone or with just one friend, a lot of noodlers have drowned this way.

  5. From my understanding, the other big danger of this sport is that those same crevices, where the catfish like to hang out, are also favorite hiding places for both snapping turtles and water moccasins.

  6. I once met a man who had lost most of his fingers on one hand due to his having accidentally grabbed a water moccasin in this way when he was a boy.
    It’s a dangerous sport.

  7. Having been on the receiving end of many catfish stings, I can strongly assert that those suckers hurt like mad. Even on the tiny ones it is 10X worse than a hornet sting. One can only imagine what it would be like to get a stick from one of these big ones.

  8. I’ve gone fishing a few times — not noodling, dear god, but some basic lake and deep-sea sportfishing — and I’ve always felt like it’s not exactly a fair fight. I’ve got a hook and food and 100lb line and all that jazz, and their primary method of defense — running away and/or biting/stabbing me — is useless.

    This kind of evens things up a bit. I dig it. Wouldn’t do it in a million years, but I dig it.

  9. As the fish ages, it’s spines get more and more worn down from going in and out of nesting areas. Fish over 5 pounds really don’t have points to their spines anymore.

  10. Does it betray too much about my background to say that my uncles have done this?

    For the record: I am not from the Ozarks. Is “prairiebillies” a word?

  11. they do this in northeast Texas, I went out once or twice, it’s fun, but I wasn’t so into it.

    the “hot chicks noodling” videos are all over youtube.

  12. I had a catfish bite my thumb when I was young and it hurt. Couple that with turtles, especially alligator snappers and … ouch.

  13. There was actually an experimental Noodling Season in Missouri a couple years age. I believe they are now considering making it legal year tound.

  14. Yeah, this happens a lot in North Texas, particularly amongst high schoolers and in urban areas (you DON’T want to eat the catfish from the Trinity River – you’ll get sick).

    Hopefully, these guys aren’t doing it during catfish spawning season, because if they are, they’re breaking the law.

  15. I still think it’s fake.

    How to noodle.

    Catch a fish, let it “oxygenate” for a good 15 minutes out of the water. Then bring back into the water while your friend films you “noodling”.

  16. This being BoingBoing, the only thing one can add to this is Duelling Banjos played on ukeleles.

  17. The fish seemed surprisingly placid and docile as they were being raised out of the water.

  18. Please stop using the word “hillbilly” when refering to Southern people. It’s actually a derrogatory word, and a quite offensive.

    Not all of us Southerners are stupid. This is actually the quickest and most effective way to catch large catfish. People from the South are not the only ones who fish this way.

    I would have expected a little more from Boing Boing.

  19. “Hillbilly Cat Fishing” was the name of the video. The only other reference to a “hillbilly” was the “Hillbilly Bears”. Both are proper nouns so I would say Boing Boing is doing pretty good.

    Your other point is well taken. We have a tendency to judge other cultures for self-mutilation practices. (eg. Rings around women’s necks in Thailand, foot binding in China) To me this isn’t that different.

  20. the real danger is also in those holes and or logs live snapping turtles and alligator gar. I met a guy whose only got two fingers and a thumb on his left hand.

  21. Yall just call us Hillbillies because none of you have the guts to try this yourself! Noodling is a big deal here…you don’t like it, don’t watch us lol but this ain’t just for fun…some of us have mouths to feed and businesses to run! Gotta do what you gotta do! Try it! You’ll be hooked! No more dangerous than driving to work!

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