Until this past week, I thought there was only one way to noodle for catfish. I have written about the sport of noodling where a person reaches under a river or creek bank and attempts to pull catfish from their hiding place. That type of noodling involves the taking of catfish without the 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.
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, maybe protecting its nest or a brood of young catfish, that it will instinctively grab hold of your arm or leg and all the person has to do is pull the catfish out! Doesn’t that sound exciting?
That type of noodling is called by many different names but the practice dates back to the time of the Native Americans. Some of the other names given to this sport are grabbling and tickling. Looking at some of the surrounding states, I found that the sport is legal in most of the local states including Kentucky (tickling), Tennessee (grabbling) and Alabama (grabbling).
I found out about another type of noodling this past week and it also involves going after catfish but in a completely different and SAFE manner. A longtime fishing friend, Matt MacCartee, told me about his families’ noodling technique for catching catfish and I mean big catfish. It does not require anyone to put them in danger of losing a finger, hand or leg.
This type of noodling got its name from the device (noodle) used to catch the catfish. All you need is a boat, some knowledge of where to noodle and a bunch of noodles.
“Noodling is a great way to fill the freezer for a fish fry, help provide balance to the aquatic ecosystem and introduce children to a fun sport of catching fish,” said MacCartee.
This type of noodling works good for catfish year-round but is best in the spring and summer, according to MacCartee.
“In the spring when the catfish are spawning, I target catfish in the coves where they spawn but when the shad move deeper during the summer, noodling tends to be best near creek or river channels,” said MacCartee. “The majority of the catfish we catch noodling in Lake Sinclair are channel catfish.”
MacCartee then explained the materials needed to construct the noddle. The items needed are a piece of swim noodle (preferably bright green or orange), a piece of half-inch PVC 12 inches long, a half-inch PVC “T” joint, some PVC glue, 30 or 40 pound nylon cord, a three-eighths or half inch egg sinker, a No. 1 barrel swivel, a No. 5 circle hook and some reflective tape (for easily spotting the noodle at night with a flashlight).
Once you have the materials, construction of the noodle is relatively simple. Cut the PVC pipe and swim noodle to a 12-inch size, glue the PVC “T” joint to one end of the PVC pipe and run the other end of the PVC pipe through the swim noodle. Next, drill a hole in that end of the PVC pipe.
Tie a 4-foot piece of the cord to the drilled hole, slip on the egg sinker and then tie on the swivel. Catfish tend to spin when hooked and the swivel will eliminate getting tangled. Tie a thee foot of cord to the other end of the swivel and then tie on the circle hook. You then can wrap the noodle with the reflective tape to complete the construction. See the accompanying photo of the finished product.
You are now ready to bait the noodles with the recommended bait of bream/shad heads or cut bait from those two species. You will need to construct several noodles for use in the area you plan to fish. Crank up the boat and go to the area you have selected to fish and drop the baited noodles around the area. You might want to place eight to 12 noodles in the area you are noodling. Then sit back in the boat and wait for the old catfish to take off with the noodle.
Some anglers go back to their dock or to the boat landing and then periodically return to check the noodles. Always collect your noodles after a day or night of fishing. Several times while fishing, I have come across a noodle with a catfish attached that was left in the lake. Likely the anglers could not locate the noodle or the catfish took the noodle and moved away from the area the person was fishing.
Once in the middle of the lake, I saw a noodle bobbing up and down. After a 20-minute chase, I caught the noodle and released a 20-pound catfish that would have eventually died from exhaustion. That noodle was not anything like the one MacCartee described in this article but it had hooked that big catfish.
The second type of noodling described by MacCartee sounds like a good way to catch some catfish and you might want to give it a try. I might even give it a try. At least I can keep all my fingers and toes.
Good noodling and see you next week.
Outdoor columnist Bobby Peoples can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.