Noodling as a Hobby: The Art of Catching Catfish with Your Bare Hands

Looking for a new hobby that’s both thrilling and unconventional? Consider noodling!

This unique pastime involves catching catfish with your bare hands, and it’s gaining popularity across the country.

Whether you’re a seasoned angler or just looking for a new adventure, noodling as a hobby is sure to get your adrenaline pumping.

What is Noodling?

Noodling is a unique and exciting fishing technique that involves catching catfish using only your bare hands or feet.

This technique is also known as hand fishing, hogging, grabbling, or tickling.

It’s a popular hobby in the southern United States, where catfish are abundant in rivers and lakes.

The Basics of Noodling

To noodle, you need to find a catfish hole underwater.

This can be a hollow log, a crevice in a rock, or a hole in the riverbed. You then place your hand or foot inside the hole and wait for the catfish to bite.

Once the catfish bites, you grab it by the mouth and pull it out of the hole.

Noodling can be a dangerous hobby, as catfish can be large and powerful. It’s important to have a partner with you to ensure your safety and to help you pull out the catfish.

History of Noodling

Noodling has been around for centuries and was originally used as a way to catch food for survival.

It was practiced by Native Americans and early settlers in the southern United States. Today, it’s more of a recreational activity than a means of survival.

Noodling vs. Traditional Fishing

Noodling is a completely different fishing technique than traditional fishing. With traditional fishing, you use a rod, reel, line, and bait to catch fish.

With noodling, you use your bare hands or feet to catch the fish. Noodling is a more hands-on approach to fishing and can be a more challenging and rewarding experience.

Here’s a table summarizing the differences between noodling and traditional fishing:

NoodlingTraditional Fishing
Catch fish using bare hands or feetCatch fish using a rod, reel, line, and bait
Requires finding a catfish hole underwaterCan be done from a boat, shore, or dock
Can be dangerous and requires a partner for safetyGenerally considered a safer activity
A more hands-on and challenging approach to fishingA more relaxed and leisurely approach to fishing

Overall, noodling is a unique and exciting hobby that can provide a thrilling experience for those willing to try it. It’s important to practice safety and to have a partner with you when noodling.

If you’re interested in trying out catfish noodling, it’s important to know where it’s legal. Noodling regulations vary by state, and some states have restrictions on the practice. Here’s what you need to know:

Noodling Regulations by State

As of May 19, 2023, catfish noodling is legal in 16 states in the United States. These states are:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

In some of these states, there may be restrictions on the practice. For example, in Tennessee, noodling is only legal in certain parts of the state. It’s important to check the specific regulations in your state before you go noodling.

Native American Noodling

It’s also worth noting that some Native American tribes have a long history of noodling and may have their own regulations around the practice.

For example, the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma has a noodling tournament every year. If you’re interested in noodling on tribal lands, it’s important to check with the specific tribe for their regulations.

Overall, while catfish noodling is legal in several states, it’s important to follow all regulations and restrictions to ensure the safety of both you and the fish.

Noodling Techniques

If you’re interested in noodling, you’ll need to know the right techniques to catch catfish. Here are some tips to help you get started.

The Right Gear for Noodling

When it comes to noodling, you don’t need a lot of expensive gear. In fact, you can do it with just your hands. However, there are a few things that can make the experience easier and safer. Here are some recommended gear:

GlovesSturdy and waterproof gloves to protect your hands from the catfish’s teeth and gills.
HeadlampA headlamp to help you see better underwater, especially in dark areas.
Rod and ReelOptional equipment for catching other types of fish while you’re waiting for the catfish to bite. Not necessary for noodling.

How to Find Catfish Holes

To catch catfish, you’ll need to find their hiding spots. Here are some tips on how to find catfish holes:

Table: Tips for Noodling

Look for underwater holesCatfish often hide in underwater holes, so look for areas where the water is deeper and there are rocks or logs.
Check for signs of catfishLook for signs of catfish activity, such as bubbles or movement in the water. You can also try using bait to attract them to the area.
Be patientNoodling requires patience. You may need to wait for several minutes or even hours before a catfish takes the bait.

Underwater Safety Tips

Noodling can be dangerous, so it’s important to take precautions to stay safe. Here are some underwater safety tips:

Table: Safety Tips for Noodling

Watch out for predatorsCatfish aren’t the only creatures that live in underwater holes. Be on the lookout for snapping turtles, alligators, and other predators.
Be aware of your surroundingsAlways be aware of your surroundings when you’re underwater. Look out for dangerous currents, rocks, and other hazards.
Don’t go aloneIt’s always best to go noodling with a partner. That way, if something goes wrong, you’ll have someone there to help you.

Remember, noodling can be an active and exciting hobby, but it’s important to take precautions and stay safe. With the right gear and techniques, you can catch catfish and other freshwater fish in no time.

The Adrenaline Rush of Noodling

One of the main draws of noodling is the adrenaline rush that comes with it. When you’re searching for a catfish in the murky waters of a river or lake, you never know what you might find.

The excitement of feeling a catfish bite and then pulling it out of the water with your bare hands is a feeling that is hard to describe.

The Risks of Noodling

However, it’s important to note that noodling is not without its risks. When you’re reaching into holes in the bank or underwater crevices, you never know what might be lurking inside.

Snakes, alligators, and other dangerous creatures could be waiting for you. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions to protect yourself.

Another risk of noodling is the potential for injury. When you’re wrestling with a large blue cat, for example, you could sustain cuts, bruises, or even broken bones. It’s important to have a partner with you who can help you if something goes wrong.

To minimize the risks of noodling, it’s important to learn from experienced noodlers and take safety seriously. Make sure you have the right equipment and take the time to scout out potential noodling spots before diving in.

Adrenaline rushPotential for injury
Unique experienceDangerous creatures
Exciting way to catch catfishRequires experience and safety precautions

The Future of Noodling

Noodling has been a popular hobby in the southern United States for decades. However, the future of this unique fishing technique is uncertain. In this section, we will explore the potential challenges and opportunities that noodling may face in the coming years.

Catfish Population

The catfish population is a critical factor in the future of noodling. Overfishing and habitat destruction have led to a decline in catfish populations in some areas.

If this trend continues, it could become increasingly difficult to find catfish to noodle. However, conservation efforts and regulations can help protect catfish populations and ensure that noodling remains a sustainable activity.

Fish Populations

While catfish are the primary target of noodling, other fish species may also be affected by this fishing technique.

Noodling can disrupt fish populations by damaging spawning areas or removing large fish that play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

It is important to consider the impact of noodling on other fish species and to take steps to mitigate any negative effects.


Spawning is a critical time for fish populations, and noodling during this period can be particularly harmful. Noodling can disrupt spawning areas and harm developing fish eggs.

To protect fish populations, many states have regulations that prohibit noodling during spawning season. It is essential to follow these regulations and avoid noodling during spawning periods.

Great Depression

During the Great Depression, many people turned to noodling as a means of survival. Noodling provided a source of food when other options were scarce.

While the economic conditions of the Great Depression are unlikely to recur, noodling may continue to be an important source of food for some people in the future.


Stumping is a technique used by some noodlers to attract catfish by creating artificial structures in the water. While stumping can be effective, it can also be harmful to fish populations.

Stumps can damage spawning areas and create hazards for other fish species. It is important to consider the impact of stumping on fish populations and to take steps to mitigate any negative effects.


Noodling can be a dangerous activity, and accidents can happen. In some cases, noodlers have sued property owners for injuries sustained while noodling on their land.

These lawsuits can create legal challenges for noodling and may lead to increased regulation or restrictions on the activity. It is important to be aware of the legal risks associated with noodling and to take steps to minimize the risk of injury.


Remember that noodling is not legal in all states, so be sure to check your local regulations before you start. Additionally, always practice catch and release to help preserve the fish population and the environment.

Overall, noodling is a unique and thrilling hobby that can provide a fun and challenging experience for those who are willing to try it. Whether you are a seasoned fisherman or a beginner, noodling is worth considering if you are looking for a new and exciting hobby to try out.

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