While growing up in LA (Lower Alabama), I went gigging for suckers with my daddy and an uncle a couple of times. It only took twice for me to decide I did not want to wade down a creek in the dead of night while encountering all types of undesirable creatures like water moccasins.
I was only about 12 when I had a water moccasin come off a stump and swim between my legs. That did it for me and I never went again. They did some odd things back in those days that they called sporting and fun like reaching under creek banks looking for catfish or carrying a bag of rattlesnakes thrown over their shoulder.
The art of reaching under a bank and pulling out a catfish (you hope) became known as noodling. No guarantee that what was under the bank was a catfish. Other things like snapping turtles and snakes also occupied those places.
The majority of anglers are likely not familiar with noodling except what they might have seen on videos or programs on TV. Few anglers in Georgia can define noodling, and even though noodling became legal in Georgia in 2006, I also bet very few anglers have attempted the art of noodling.
Noodling involves the taking of catfish without benefit of hook and line or boat. All that is required by the angler to noodle is his arm or leg, and I’m not kidding. You can legally noodle for catfish in Georgia between March 1 and July 15, during any hours of the day or night!
To noodle, a person simply wades out into the water and sticks either his arm or leg into a promising catfish hole. The idea is that if a big old catfish is in that hole, it will instinctively grab hold of the arm or leg and all the person has to do is pull the catfish out! Doesn’t that sound like great fun?
It is a very inexpensive way to catch a good mess of catfish but you do need a Georgia fishing license to engage in noodling. Noodling might sound simple at first but after considering this sport for about 10 seconds, I came to a whole different conclusion. The definition of stupid is lacking in normal intelligence. Excuse me, but I do not think someone engaging in noodling would be considered completely normal.
However, today a different type of noodling can be done from the safety of your boat and it looks really relaxing. I saw a man on the lake this past week engaging in the new, modern type of noodling. It looked intelligent, sporting and was something I could be talked into doing.
This type of noodling, as I said, can be done from your boat and can be a safe way to catch a mess of catfish without getting wet or putting your arms and legs in danger. It is also legal and can be done year-round but especially at times when the catfish are active.
This type of noodling is named after the device that is used. It appears like a piece of swimming noodle with a short piece of line attached, which is terminated with a hook that can be baited with any type of your favorite catfish bait which could include a chunk of shad, bream or shrimp.
The hook, of course, should be a circle hook, which will guarantee a good hook set when the catfish swallows the bait. The circle hook also assures that the catfish is hooked in the corner of the mouth and will be fresh and lively when retrieved.
Anglers have designed numerous types of homemade noodles but they can also be purchased. Commercial noodles run anywhere from $6 to $8 each and can be bought in bundles of eight to 12 to save you a few dollars. You might choose to buy one and then using that design, build your own.
Once you have a fair number of noodles, say 10 to 30, you are ready to go noodling. Pick a promising spot for catfish bait the noodles and put them out. You want to seed an area with the noodles where you can watch the noodles from the comfort of your boat.
Once an old catfish grabs the bait, all you have to do is pursue the noodle until you can net the catfish. The man I saw last week was really set up nicely. He had scattered around 25 noodles around his boat. He was kicked back under a big umbrella with a cold drink and just waiting for a big catfish bite. To me, that looked like a lot more fun than wading a creek or sticking my arm under a bank.
One important point from me. If you plan to engage in this new type of noodling, please collect all your noodles after a day of fishing. I have found noodles while out the lake floating with no one around and a catfish attached. I released two catfish recently that were exhausted from swimming around with the noodle.
Good noodling and see you next week.
Outdoors columnist Bobby Peoples can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.