Texas legislature acts to make state safe for "noodling"

SAN ANTONIO, Texas Fri May 20, 2011 1:41pm EDT

A noodler competing in the Okie Noodling Tournament carries his catfish in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma June 30, 2007. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

A noodler competing in the Okie Noodling Tournament carries his catfish in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma June 30, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

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SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - Texas may still have problems like a multi-billion dollar budget deficit and public schools facing major spending cuts, but its legislature has moved to make the Lone Star State safe for "noodling."

Noodling, the time-honored Southern practice of catching catfish by hand, has been illegal in Texas, and noodlers were subject to a fine of up to $500.

However, lawmakers from east Texas, the part of the state most steeped in Southern culture, have long claimed it is wrong to ban what is also called by some "Hillbilly Hand Fishing."

"I personally don't noodle, but I would defend to the death your right to do so," State Senator Bob Deuell, who represents the east Texas community of Greenville, told lawmakers, who on Thursday approved legislation to make the practice legal.

Marty Jenkins, who runs the web site "Catfish Grabbers dot Com," says noodling is an age-old Southern tradition.

"It can be a family sport. We get out there and laugh at each other, see who can get the fish out of the water, see who can get the fish without losing it," he said.

Jenkins says 17 states currently allow noodling, which he says turns fishing into a thrill sport.

"You don't know if anything's in that hole at all, you run your hands down into that hole and all of a sudden a fish comes out and bites you, and you have to try to bring it out with your hand."

The Flathead Catfish, the fish most commonly noodled, is known as one of the most vicious game fish in the United States.

"The fish will bite your hand to tell you, 'hey, get out of my hole,'" Jenkins said. "You can try to grab hold of the jaw of the fish if you're quick enough."

Most states ban the practice because they think it's cruel, Jenkins said, but he contends it's no more cruel than catching a fish with a fishhook.

State Senator Deuell said: "It's a Southern tradition, it's done in a lot of states, I've seen people do it,"

"They seem to enjoy it, and we want to afford that enjoyment to Texans who want to participate."

The bill now goes to Governor Rick Perry -- whose position on noodling is not known -- for his consideration.

(Editing by Jerry Norton)

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Comments (7)
wpg420 wrote:
As a former fishing guide up here in Canada I can tell you that this is a truly challenging sport. Call it what you will, Hillbilly hand fishing or noodling, neither do it justice. Hats off to the folks that stick their hands into the hole knowing they’re likely to get bit.

Cruel? I don’t think so.

May 20, 2011 2:25pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
zygote wrote:
Good ol’ Texans, fiddling around while Rome burns.

And “Defend to the death”, sounds a little dramatic there State Senator, but hey, you Texans are all about being cowboys and gunslingers.


May 20, 2011 3:54pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
MrsBerry wrote:
I can’t believe a state legislature ever wasted time banning ‘noodling’ to start with! Hooray for folks working to reverse the ban and more power to crazy folks who enjoy the sport!

May 20, 2011 4:03pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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