OKLAHOMA CATFISH REPORT: Noodling – As Oklahoma as it gets

Get out and go fishing!

Will Rodden (holding the fish), Jeremy Pyle, Ryatt Rodden (11), Taylor Covel (13) and Rhae Rodden (10) pose with the channel catfish that Ryatt had just wrestled out of the hole. (Photo by Brooke Rodden)

By Jeremy Pyle
Wildlife Reporter

Catfish noodling. Also known as hand fishing, catfishing, stumping, as well as many other terms, is about as Oklahoma as it gets.

You wade into chest deep water reaching underneath the surface with your bare hands into holes and crevices anticipating a fish.

Once you find a fish in a hole, you cover the exits with your body and wrestle him out with your bare hands. Some people do it on a regular basis.

But most people I talk to have trouble overcoming the fear of reaching into a hole under the water and getting bitten by a catfish, let alone accidentally finding a snake or snapping turtle.

North Fork of the Canadian River. Early June. It was a sunny day, Father’s Day weekend.

Will Rodden and I went and took the kids out to try to finagle some fish out of their hidey holes. Water was great, a little cloudy from recent rains.

In hand fishing that’s a good thing because it keeps the fish from seeing you coming as well as in clear water. The goal is to spread out along the shoreline and locate a fish in a hole.

Once you locate that fish is when the fun starts. Everyone surrounds the hole, making sure to block off any escape routes and then it’s time to pull it out.

Now, contrary to popular myth, you are not sticking your hand in the hole so that the catfish can bite your hand and then you pull them out … when a catfish bites your hand, it’s usually more of a nip to scare you away as it retreats deeper into the hole.

The catfish are definitely not seeing your hand as something to eat, rather they are ready to fight. They nip fast and pull back, like a boxer with a good jab, keeping you at distance.

That being said, when they do decide to bite down, they can apply quite a bit of pressure.

Their teeth are similar to sandpaper, with flat gums used for gripping fish when they are feeding. Once pulled out of the water they tend to go crazy and if you don’t have a good grip, they will wiggle free.

Ryatt Rodden (11), Will Rodden and Jeremy Pyle show off their hand caught catfish. (Photo by Brooke Rodden)

On this trip, we got three fish, all under 5 pounds. All three were male channel catfish. Dark in color and having an enlarged head, indicative of male channel cats in spawn.

The kids all got a chance to get their hands on some fish and even though several fish got away, it was an enjoyable Father’s Day weekend for everyone.

Ryatt Rodden, 11, pulled his first fish of the year on this trip. This is his third year noodling and it’s exciting watching him take control of the situation when he comes across a fish. That, folks, is what it’s all about.

You don’t have to be a lifetime fisherman to enjoy going out and trying your luck. In fact, it just takes a will to go fishing. Get the kids out of the house. Get some fresh Oklahoma air in those lungs and some sun on the face.

There are several ponds in and around Yukon as well as Lake Overholser right close by. Go fishing. Take the kids. The next generation of fishing depends on it.