“I stuck my hand down in this hole and pulled out a giant catfish.”
If you’ve ever heard about noodling for catfish, you might wonder what in the world might possess someone to stick their hand into a dark hole and hope something latches on.
Or, maybe you’ve never even heard of noodling before now.
So, what exactly is “noodling?” Well, it’s basically catching a fish with your bare hands.VIDEOS BELOW…
Some call it hand fishing. Some call it grabbling (or grabblin) or hogging, and of course, some call it noodling.
Even though noodling might seem scary at first, it can be fun like you’ve never experienced when you #putahandN1!
We’ll talk more about how you do it later on in the article… But first, some photos of some flathead catfish caught while noodling…
So, Can I Go Noodling For Catfish In My State?
You may have watched these videos and read the stories on this page and said, “There’s no way I’m ever doing that!” But, you might love experiencing the thrill of catching a catfish with your bare hands and wonder, “Is noodling legal in my state?”
If you live in one of the following 16 states, you may be ready to put a hand N1! (But, be sure to check your local game laws for legality and restrictions on noodling for catfish.)
You can click on your home state name below to find out what the catfish noodling laws are where you live.Also, be sure to watch the incredible noodling videos further down the page!
If you want to see pure outdoor joy, watch these catfish noodling videos below of our friends, Andrew Urban and Luke-Avery Urban and “Aly from Alabama” as they noodle some huge catfish! The videos below will make you smile… we promise!
After watching these, you’ll understand why we decided it was time for us to try noodling (be sure and read about that trip below!) You can also read about some other noodling adventures and learn about some other interesting names for noodling and how to try it yourself!
Catfish noodling joy
(Andrew’s Catfish Noodling video transcript below)
Shake it boy! Look at that. That’s a big boy. Hold him above your head if you can. That is a nice cat!”
“I think we might get him. Got him! Holy crap! Look at that, son! Look at that! Whoo! That’s a cat daddy right there, boy!
MORE NOODLING VIDEOS BELOW THAT YOU WONT BELIEVE…
Another Monster Catfish Noodling Video Moment
In this noodling video, Andrew’s brother, Luke Avery-Urban, puts a hand N1! Check out this incredible catfish noodling video!
(Luke-Avery’s Catfish Noodling Moment video transcript below)
“Luke’s under there. He’s got a fish hitting. Let’s see what he’s got. Whoo! Yeah baby! Yeah baby! C’mon… c’mon. I got you. Who’s your daddy?”
“It’s a big, big fish. It’s a big blue, I think. Or, a good size flat. It bit me good. It’s got to be a blue.
I can’t get my hand in its gill. I wish you could feel this fish right now. Can’t tell what’s going on.
It just swallowed my whole hand! My whole hand is in its stomach. It’s starting to go crazy.
That’s big blue. I didn’t even think it was a blue. It swallowed my whole hand like that.
It stinks! She’s a stinky one.”
So, How Can I Learn to Noodle A Catfish?
You’ve seen some incredible videos and pictures of people noodling. So, after watching and reading about it, do you want to learn to Put A Hand N1? Read below for a step-by-step noodling tutorial!
How to noodle for catfish:
Always have at least one person in the water with you, spotting you, when you noodle for catfish. Noodling can sometimes require you to go under water and holding your breath. Don’t overestimate your ability to hold your breath. Also, catfish are extremely powerful fish, so be sure you don’t underestimate their strength. You may also want to wear gloves to protect your hands. They bite hard!
Find where they’re hiding…
Check under boat ramps on holes in the bank. Some people also noodle in man-made boxes that have been submerged to attract catfish during the spawn. You can use a stick to probe in the holes. If there’s a catfish in the hole, it will often bite the stick with a distinct “thud.”
Stick your hand in the hole
This can be the most unnerving part of noodling. Be sure to keep your 4 fingers together so you don’t break a finger unnecessarily (see picture below!) Slowly move your hand around in the hole and get ready to get bit!
Once the catfish bites your hand try to close your hand, grabbing its lower jaw. Once you get a grip on it, try pulling it from the hole. Once you are able, slip your other hand up under the catfish’s gil plate (see picture below). This helps prevent the catfish from “rolling” and getting away. The roll is very powerful, so don’t neglect this step. On larger fish, you may want to wrap your legs around its tail to lock it up.
There’s nothing like the rush of noodling. You’ll be able to handle this step with no problem! And be sure to shout, “Put A Hand N1!”
What Do Other People Say About Noodling?
Check out some quotes below about catfish noodling from some people you may have seen on social media catching huge catfish with their bare hands!
“I love noodling because there isn’t anything that can prepare you for it. Every aspect of noodling is based on your ability to conquer your own fears — you can’t prepare yourself and you can’t practice. There is a level of surprise that is untouched in any other sport or hobby, and the adrenaline rush is absolutely incredible.”
Aly “Aly from Alabama” Schreiber
“Noodling challenges me every time and the feeling of conquering fear is absolutely addicting!”
“There’s just something about the adrenaline rush of going into a hole blind, but expecting to get bit every time! That’s what I noticed the first time I tried it a 12 years old! From the first bite of a little 3 lb blue cat, I was hooked on that adrenaline rush! It’s become something of a passion for me, not just a hobby at this point! Couldn’t really see myself going back to not doing it at this point!”
“It’s just the adrenaline you get from getting on a big fish, and the experience of having fun while doing it. But it all comes down to putting a hand N1 and that’s what I love the most!”
What Is Noodling Anyway?
Watching catfish noodling videos like the ones above from the Urban brothers and Aly from Alabama made me want to put a hand N1 too! What was it about sticking your hand into dark holes where you couldn’t see anything and hoping something huge would bite your hand?
We weren’t sure what the buzz was all about, but we were fascinated to find out what it was like to get bit.
So, we scheduled our first noodling trip with Luke-Avery Urban on Clarks Hill lake in Lincolton, Georgia.
But first, a limit out
Luke-Avery was generous enough to spend the whole day with us, teaching the N1 Outdoors audience how to fish for striped bass and hybrid bass. So, we spent the first part of the day striper fishing and it turned into a striper and hybrid limit!
Once we had limited out on striped bass and hybrid, we were off to some boat ramps that had produced some quality noodling trips over the years for Luke-Avery.
Spawning time is the optimal time for noodling catfish. We learned that water temperature is key in learning when the catfish spawn happens. The female lays her eggs in hollow logs, crevices or caverns under the bank, and in holes or openings under boat ramps, which is where we would be searching.
Once the female catfish lays her eggs, the male guards the nest fiercely until the hatch occurs. We found out that they will bite down hard on anything entering the nest!
Optimal water temperatures for blue catfish is 70-84 degrees, while some believe that 81 degrees is the magical temperature for blue cats. Most believe that the flathead catfish spawn an temperatures of 66-75 degrees. Whatever the perfect temperature is for each, we were able to experience both species in one outing!
Hurt at first bite
At our first stop, I got to experience what it feels like to get bit on the hand when trying to noodle a catfish for the first time. I learned quickly that it’s best to keep your fingers together when noodling. The first bite was actually on just my little finger. It sure didn’t feel very good! If you have never experienced how strong the mouth of a catfish is, noodling will help you understand!
Luke-Avery said he’s taken a lot of grown men noodling and most of the have yelled underwater the first time they get bit. I was determined to not do that. But, I will say I was certainly startled.
I tried multiple times to grab the catfish in that first hole and just could get a grip fast enough.
Finally, Luke-Avery said to let him try. He stuck his hand into the hole and got bit as well. When he came up he said, “that’s a blue cat. They bite harder than a flathead catfish does.” (Flathead catfish are sometimes referred to as mud cats, yellow cats or shovelhead catfish.)
We left that hole and moved farther down the boat ramp. Eventually, we were both diving down in 10 feet of water checking other holes. Luke-Avery was able to pull out a nice blue cat.
My first noodling success
When we left there, we went to another ramp where Luke-Avery had noodled some 40+ pound catfish in prior years. We got bit several times but were having trouble landing any cats. Finally, I was able to get a hand N1 and land my first flathead catfish! It was a rush for sure!
I found out that noodling was definitely worth all the hype and I can’t wait to put a hand N1 again!
Another Big Catfish story
– By Charles Farmer
Summer is upon us and in Southern Illinois, and that means it’s time for catfish to start spawning, which means noodling! Catfish swim up in holes under all sorts of things such as stumps, boat ramps, and rocks.
With noodling, the first thing you do is feel around with a stick in the hole because fish this big will be in holes 15, maybe 20 feet, back. We found a big flathead catfish under a boat ramp and we knew it was time to put a hand N1. So, I went under the murky water and put my arm in the hole, waving it around inside there and… Bam, I got bit!
So, I grabbed its bottom jaw and ripped it out of the hole while putting my other hand under it. We ran a stringer in it to see how big it was once he broke the surface. It was a monstrous 40+ pounder! I’ll never forget the day I put a hand N1!
Many of us can still remember shooting our first rabbit or catching our first bluegill. I recall the feeling of sneaking under under a bridge to shoot a pigeon, as well as the time I accidentally hooked my grandpa’s ear while bass fishing.
But, could we be over-emphasizing success and rushing kids into hunting big game too early? Shouldn’t our focus be to build confident, determined kids that have an appreciation and maybe even a passion for the outdoors?
A Fixation With Success
Today, the most common approach for getting kids to love the outdoors seems to be ensuring success. By getting kids to catch a fish or harvest an animal, we hope they will feel that same rush of emotions that we have fallen in love with.
But, it’s the context surrounding that success that is so rewarding, not necessarily the result. The rush should come from the hours we have put in developing our craft and the time we have spent thinking about what it will be like to finally hold a big fish or a set of big antlers.
Recently I went bass fishing with my sister, her husband, and my nephews Jack and Collin. I let the boys cast the whole time, and eventually the lures were getting far enough from the boat that I thought we might not get skunked.
Jack turned to me and said, “I thought we were going to catch more.” I told him, “That’s fishing Jack. I’ve been on a lot of good fishing trips where I didn’t catch anything.” If we had caught fish after fish it would have been more exciting, but the boys likely wouldn’t have seen the bigger picture. Failing teaches lessons that I don’t believe success covers.
Which develops better skills: passing a rod to a kid with a fish already on the line, or letting them struggle to cast far enough for a few trips before finally catching a bluegill? Which option makes them think things should be handed to them and which one leads to self-confidence and a determination to succeed?
We don’t want kids to think our sports amount to just killing animals, the way it is often framed by antis. As a hunter, I experience success and failure depending on how well I prepare and perform (of course, a little luck doesn’t hurt!)
We should focus on having kids take part in the whole process and understand that success is anything but guaranteed.
Rushing Kids To Hunt Big Game Too Early
As a bow tech in Utah, I often meet parents wanting to increase the poundage on their kid’s bows to clear the threshold for mule deer hunting. But, what’s the rush to hunt big game?
What I loved about hunting when I was younger was getting away from teachers and parents telling me what to do. I loved the unforeseeable outcome of the hunt and the challenge to outwit the game.
Today, we escape bosses and spouses to hunt larger, more demanding species, but the feeling of freedom and solitude in the woods is the same. That’s what I want my nephews to experience. I want to give them the opportunity to overcome obstacles through hunting and come to have a better understanding of the outdoors and what it takes to succeed.
The species should meet a kid where they are at. I don’t believe an eight-year-old can reasonably piece together a deer hunt without quite a bit of hand holding. But they can run around the backyard shooting rabbits and squirrels. Those hunts give kids the maximum amount of responsibility and decision making power.
Additionally, if a young kid shoots a big buck, will he ever enjoy shooting pigeons under a bridge? If a kid catches a marlin, will she get excited about catching a ten-pound carp?
Taking small steps to bigger game and more challenging hunts allows kids to learn more about hunting as well as themselves. In my opinion, when a kid gets excited about a hunt, puts in effort, and overcomes obstacles, that’s a success.
It’s Really About The Moments
“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”
– Henry David Thoreau
I once spent a few days guiding a father and his seventh-grade son fishing for salmon in Alaska. It was clear the kid wasn’t mature enough to comprehend that the trip represented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most people. Instead, he fixated on catching one salmon and proving himself to his dad. Unfortunately, the dad didn’t do much to get away from that fixed mindset of success.
What happens when they return home and the kid doesn’t want to go catch bluegill in the quarry because he won’t receive the same praises as for a 40-pound king salmon? Does it really build a love of fishing, self discipline or humility to have a paid guide hold your hand throughout the process?
By comparison, that
same summer I guided a 70-year-old man and his 40-year-old son. When I stood in
the river with the son he would say, “I just really want my dad to catch
one.” And, when I walked over to his father at the other end of the bend
he would tell me, “I’m really glad to see he’s having a good time.”
These were two guys that understood it wasn’t the fish they were after. They
wanted each other to the enjoy experience and weren’t fixated on their own
So, don’t worry so much about success or big game. Focus on providing an example of dedication and respect for the outdoors. You either get bit by the bug or you don’t. Some kids are wired to love the sport and some are not.
Fishing and hunting provide an opportunity to challenge kids and make them learn valuable lessons. It would be a shame to miss those opportunities by focusing too much on antlers and scales.
We are all wounded. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. The wounds remain. In time, the mind covers these wounds with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But, it never disappears; it is never gone. Sometimes, you’ll have good days, and in the midst of silent moments, it hits you: everything. It hurts to talk, to love, to remain above water.
Simply existing is difficult. No one cares; no one wants to hear about the days you spend lying in your bed, hoping to never wake up. You wish you could be anywhere or even in a time other than now.
“I love that which is invariably beautiful. Everything is beautiful where trout lie.”
We all have our ways of coping with these wounds. We have
our own acts of survival; our own ways of staying alive, even when life isn’t
life anymore. Your soul knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to
silence the mind.
Silence. The disappearance of white noise and chatter; the disappearance of people. Bubbling water, flowing from the snow melt, down the river and over stream beds of smoothed pebbles. Nothing but you and the reverie of what lies ahead.
I love that which is invariably beautiful. Everything is beautiful where trout lie. I hate that which is invariably ugly: people, television, iPads, and assorted social stigmas that come with living in a modern society. Doctors prescribing you a new prescription to dull your senses; to numb what you hope to one day feel.
In a world where most people spend their lives doing things they hate, my escape is the endless source of solitude. On the water, wading in a stream, or strolling through woods, I find solitude without loneliness. I fish because I love to; because fish do not lie; they cannot be bribed or impressed by power, but respond to humility. They respond to a patience only true fishermen know.
Patience. It is something I know. Mastering the art of fishing takes time. Taking that experience and portraying it on canvas takes even more time. But why? Anyone can paint a fish but where there is no emotion, it is just that: a picture of a fish. Channeling that feeling of excitement, the sweet fragrance of evergreen trees, or the repetitive song of a marsh wren into a visual work of art requires total immersion into the moment.
When I paint a fish, I’m painting the moment; I’m reminding myself that this is my refuge. A refuge where my lesions of life can heal; where my mind can drift like the dry fly on the Gros Ventre River. You watch your line or the reflection dancing and nothing more; somehow, you unconsciously grasp the sweet scent of summer, the memory of mountain bluebirds singing, and the wind gently sweeping the tinge of hair on your face. This is the calm; this is the silence your soul mediates with your mind.
“Trout… what fly fishermen are after. But are they really? Maybe it is the attainable sensation of hope that the next trout will be bigger, prettier, a challenge.”
Calm. At ease. I sit down and close my eyes, taking myself
back to a western seclusion. It’s like I’m sitting there on an exposed rock,
watching the sunset dance on cottonwood leaves. The towering Teton Mountains
are behind me. I’m watching time stroll by, sweeping in the last of the snowmelt.
Little did I know that this is where trout lie.
Trout… what fly fishermen are after. But are they really? Maybe it is the attainable sensation of hope that the next trout will be bigger, prettier, a challenge.
Me? I borrowed my husband’s rod, practicing the dance between rod, line, and water. Gently coaxing the fly back and forth then sorting the landing among the ripples, rocks, and current. I pick it up as it makes it way down river, ready to try again. Same movements, easing the line like I’m painting in plein aire.
I’m aiming at this swirl in the river, lessening the chance of a bite. I don’t care. I’m not fishing, or at least I didn’t think so.
I was immersed into the meditation of fly fishing; the flouncing elegance of casting and presenting my fly.
I start to bring in my line as it sweeps down river, but something happened. Something is different. My line is weighted. Then it moves upriver, unnaturally against the current.
My hands stay steady but my mind is still processing the thought that I have a trout on the end of the line.
How? Why? I wasn’t ready for a fish.
This uncontrollable feeling of pure excitement swept over me, and I couldn’t help but yell, “Holy Moly! I caught a trout!”
I still wasn’t sure if what I said was true. I reeled and hand-lined the trout in. Oh, indeed, it was a trout. It was a fine-spotted Snake River cutthroat.
I somehow caught a trout that fishermen go years trying to obtain but yet, always eluded.
“Pain is a part of life. Sometimes, it’s a big part. And sometimes, it’s as small as a nymph. But either way, it’s a part of the big puzzle, the deep waters, the great catch.”
In my excitement, I felt this peace overcome me. Contradictory, I know. I wasn’t after the trout. My soul knew the existence of what was there; a sense of healing and a chance to release.
All of this happened so fast, but my consciousness took in every millisecond, hyper-vigilant on my surroundings and emotions. I honestly could not process the disbelief and how an incredible moment was presented on my road to healing.
I’ve learned to control my outward emotions, but inside, I was weeping. I needed this. I looked down at this trout. It’s beautiful colors and spots matching the golden light that backlit my excitement.
Oh, how this trout unknowingly helped me; how the simple act of fishing helped me. I was releasing what pain and confusion my mind had warped into suffering. I gently supported the trout for it’s release.
For the release wasn’t just putting the fish back in the water. It was free; but was I? I had to let go. In doing so, I started to release the hurt. I released the fear. I started to heal. I have refused to entertain the old pain.
Pain is a part of life. Sometimes, it’s a big part. And sometimes, it’s as small as a nymph. But either way, it’s a part of the big puzzle, the deep waters, the great catch.
Pain does two things: it teaches you; it tells you that you’re alive. Then the reality of it drifts away and leaves you changed. It leaves you wiser. Sometimes, it leaves you stronger. That strength is hidden in the depths of weakness and despair. Either way, pain leaves its mark and everything important that will ever happen to you in life is going to involve it in one degree or another.
So take that rod, find water, and cast. You just might let something go.