Saturday, January 9, 2010

Catfish Noodling

When I was kid, I was lucky enough to spend the summers in southern Rhode Island. We were miles from some pretty cool beaches but the best part was that we were on the Pawcatuck River. Not much compares, for a young boy, to unfettered access to a boat on a river. I'd go out for the day with a net or swimming trunks or sometimes with only a book. I'd let the boat drift while plowing through the latest Stephen King book. For this I know, I am a very lucky person. It did much to shape who I am.

One of things we did in the evenings was go fishing for fresh water catfish (called horn pout). The best time of day to fish for pout is when the sun is going down so we would head out after dinner wearing a long sleeve shirt, covered in bug repellent and carrying a gas lantern. We'd fish for few hours past sundown. We didn't use poles but throw lines. Into my adulthood I thought these were called "trow" lines because of my father's French Canadienne accent. He doesn't pronounce his h's. Throw lines are spools of thick canvas thread approximately 30 feet in length, maybe longer. They'd have several hooks with bait on them on the end a few inches above the sinker. We'd unwind the thread being careful not to tangle, tie the empty spool to the side of the boat and throw the line with the baited hooks and sinker weighing it down. The rest of the excitement was waiting for the bites. Catfish are bottom feeders.

Up until today, I thought that was how everyone fished for catfish. But today I heard a podcast about noodling. Noodling is a fast growing sport, now legal in 13 states. It involves getting into the water and putting your hand in the fish's nest. As the male fish, who guards the nest, bites the noodler, he grabs it and pulls it up out of the water. This is illegal in a lot of states because it leaves the nest vulnerable to predators.

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