Catfish Noodling: Dangerous, Exciting, and Crazy Fun

Please let me know if there is a better way to fish than noodling!

Noodling, a form of hand fishing that exploits the spawning behavior of catfish, is an adrenaline-packed competition between an angler (usually a large catfish) and an angler. Noodling is controversial because of its potential effect on catfish reproduction. It has been approved by 18 states.

You can also get very sick from it, as many people have died due to noodling.

Hannah Barron is a well-known noodler.

Noodling can be legal and safe. It is the best way to catch catfish.


  • Catfish Tips
  • Catfish Catching Season
  • What do Catfish Eat?
  • Catfish Types
  • How to Hold Catfish and Avoid Stings

Noodling takes advantage of Catfish Spawning Behavior

Winter loosens its grip and water temperatures reach near 70 degrees. Male catfish quit hunting to find a hole.

Biologists refer to catfish as “cavity-spawners”. Males of the big three species look for a place to nest.

Noodlers must look for nesting holes.

He fertilizes her eggs when she arrives and then stays to keep them aerated using his pectoral fins. He will not leave the nest until the free-swimming eggs are dispersed. This can vary depending on water temperature and may take up to 10 days.

He will continue to eat but will guard his next generation.

This is where noodling comes into play.

A noodler will search for a hole in the shallows and close off any exits. Then, they will try to figure out if they are on a catfish or something else.

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Learn more about the catfish spawning behavior check out this post: The Catfish Spawn

The Catfish Noodling controversy

This form of hand fishing is not for everyone.

It clearly takes advantage of male catfish’s spawning behavior, which won’t let them go without a fight. However, disturbing or worse, taking those males could result in the death of the clutch and decimating reproduction.

Missouri Department of Conservation explained that catfish are extremely vulnerable during nesting season (June-July) because they lay eggs in natural cavities, and then don’t leave the nest. Their eggs will quickly die if they are taken away. Traditional sport-angling methods aren’t likely to catch catfish nestlings.

This is the core of the problem: traditional fishing methods won’t catch egg-guarding males, and thus don’t affect catfish reproduction. Noodling, on the other hand, is a direct threat to the next generation.

In some areas, this is not an issue. The conditions for catfish are perfect in most of the south. This is why the next generation of blues, flatheads, and channels is almost certain.

How to Noodle Catfish

Noodling doesn’t require rocket science.

You should look for a shallow, muddy area where catfish can make their home. You shouldn’t let the water get deeper than your stomach. This is because you will need to be able to fight big struggling catfish without getting drowned!

To avoid snags, skip a shirt

We’ll get to that in a moment.

You will need to do this with your friends and a stick. To locate a nesting cavity, you and your fishing buddies will need to use your hands and feet.

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Once you have found one, it is difficult to determine if it is being claimed by a catfish or if it is being used as a home for a snapping turtle, beaver, or alligator.

This is a terrible mistake.

Once you are certain that there is a catfish in the nest, the noodler must reach inside the nest and lure the catfish to eat your hand. Grab the catfish as it clamps down and pull it out of the nest. Don’t let it go!

That’s all!

It’s almost true…

The Dangers and Benefits of Catfish Noodling

People can indeed and do get killed while they are noodling.

Drowning is the most dangerous danger. If the water is too deep and you don’t have someone to help, a large catfish could keep you down for much longer than you can hold your breath.

It is important to choose shallow water and to noodle with at least one other person.

Noodlers drowned in dams that opened up and poured tons of water into a shallow creek.

Avoid getting caught on underwater hazards. It’s a good idea to go shirtless or wear only short sleeves. I recommend skipping jewelry that could be caught or watches and bracelets.

Expect to get bruising, abrasions, and other superficial injuries.

While gloves are a good option for protecting your hands from sandpaper-like mouths and catfish, it is easy to slip a glove into an underwater hole.

Unfortunately, states like Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana are home to alligators and venomous snakes. It is not always easy to reach into a hole and find out who the owner of the property is.

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Last Thoughts

Do you think noodling is right for you?

It’s impossible to say. However, if it is legal, ensure that you are fishing in a legal area and take all precautions to keep yourself safe.

Although hand fishing is exciting, it’s impossible to ignore the dangers.

We hope you found this article helpful in learning more about noodling. If not, we would love to hear from you!

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Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.