(This was originally posted on 2008-01-07 as /archives/143)
Noodling is a traditional form of fishing where the fisher uses his own arm as bait, and risks being wounded, or risks being sucked down by the massive fish. The movie (Okie Noodling) is fun. I have a copy. I bought it on a hunch, because I dig The Flaming Lips (soundtrack), and I dig fish.
The practice is controversial, because the fish are pregnant females, so overfishing is risky to catfish populations. Proud noodlers believe that their techniques are fair, and safe, and say “that’s not noodling” about other folks’ techniques. The movie doesn’t really explain this, which is unfortunate.
Jeremy Bennett and his friends actually were noodling during the movie’s tournament, and that they actually caught the largest cat, but instead of entering their fish they had more beer, or something. Yes, that tournament win would have gotten them into the movie, and like everyone in that movie, Jeremy would have said, “that’s not noodling”, but these guys don’t brag about getting the largest catfish, they just eat it.
I can’t make this stuff up.
Talking about Noodling forced me to find an old picture from the very first noodling contest held at Pauls Valley. The pic is in terrible shape; i had to scan it in and then play with colors just so you can view it. These guys were your real winners. Erick Strickland on the left (RIP friend) was the best noodler to ever walk the banks of the soggy Oklahoma rivers. Micheal Martin in the Middle is a [deleted] and a good noodler when he’s not scared. I don’t know the other guy in the picture. The one man missing from this picture is Kieth Lamb, and he is the only person that could ever go 1-on-1 with Erick in technique, finding fish….doing it all. These 2 individuals were the best……….They were your true but not technical winners that day from the okie noodlin video. The fish on the right bumps the scales at about 68 pounds, with the other 2 in the lower 60s. that’s 180 pounds of fish that would have smashed both the biggest stringer and largest single fish weighed in that day, into oblivion ——- Long story short —–these guys were about an hour late to the weigh in. (not to bad considering that the contest lasts for 24 straight hours)
And one more thing, Erick and Keith Noodled the correct way. (There is a correct way to do it). They taught me the correct way. No gloves, sleeves, shirts, hooks, stringers, shoes. Just you, the fish, and the fish’s hole or crevice that it decided to be in that day. You take your blood, cuts, breaks, and scars with the sport. No complainers.
One thing I learned is that beer helped me become a better noodler. It seemed to provide a bit of lubrication between the utter fear of inserting my arm under a rock and waiting for it to get bit – akin to the feeling you get by slamming your hand or forearm in a car door (repeatedly).
Above all……the caught fish get cleaned, and then eventually eaten. very, very little waste. – Jeremy Bennett
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