PB and J Otter aren’t doing their “Noodle Dance”, but Texas legislature is. I wanna be able to swim around in murky ponds and stick my bare hand into slimy crevasses and hope that I get lucky, who’s going to stop me? The Texas Parks and Wildlife commission that’s who, they’re on the beach as I emerge with my catch they are ready to issue me a hefty $500 fine.
I have never actually been “Noodling” in the traditional sense; I have taken a dive for some smaller specimen but nothing like 60-pound catfish that can be found in Texas waters. Hand fishing is illegal in Texas, and noodlers (those who partake in catching fish with their hands) are in an uproar.
How is noodling done? It starts by checking out the situation. Telltale signs of catfish presence are characteristic holes with entrances cleared of debris. It is a noodler’s job to dive underwater and stick his (or her) hand into the underwater hole hoping for a bite. That’s right, the hand is the bait, when bitten, noodlers shove their fist down a catfish’s throat or grasps onto its lower jaw. Its fight time, a noodlers has but a few crucial seconds to jump on that fish like a wrestler going for the pin, a noodler will wrap his legs and feet around the tail immobilizing it while the noodlers companions pull him and the prized catch out of the water.
But don’t try that at home, especially if your home is in Texas because you would be breaking the law. All of the effort that goes into these fish verses man battles goes un-recognized by Texas legislature banning hand fishing.
While fishing with poles, nets and other technology is aloud, to literally grab a fish by the throat (gills or jaw) is illegal. The Native Americans practiced this way of fishing long before they taught the settlers how to do it, who in turn have passed the knowledge on generation to generation. In many ways, noodling is tradition.
Tradition for whom? You may ask; imagining a toothless naked hillbilly wading into the water with a trucker hat and beer can in hand.
Who would want to swim around in the dark murk at the bottom of ponds and lakes plunging their fist into holes? Noodlers that’s who! And the mental image you may have conjured up for your imaginary noodler may or may not be correct, the problem I have with the noodling ban is the limitation of civil rights to those who have been using this alternative-fishing methods for decades.
If these noodlers are disrupting the environment of Texas, which actually has a flourishing and mostly unthreatened catfish population, then what are golfers doing?
Golf takes huge plots of land away from nature to create an artificial environment all its own. Golf courses often take over small ponds or even lakes and transform them into ball traps, and scenic features for club members. Is this pristine land management good for the environment? Where are all the critters that used to inhabit the forest, which used to come to the pond for a drink? To single out a relatively small group of people who go about a usual way of getting their food seems ridiculous. The claims against noodlers are that of unregulated fishing, unsportsmanlike methods, and endangerment for the eggs left behind in the newly abandoned waterhole.
There exist a social standard that noodlers are seemingly beneath. Legislation will protect socially accepted activities that may put environments and species at risk for the betterment of the society as a whole; golf courses fit the socially acceptable category and noodling does not. Commercial fishing puts fish populations at more risk than the small percentage who noodle.
On the whole, noodling is not a problem; the noodling ban is a problem for noodlers who simply wish to fulfill a tradition and hobby that has been passed down to them. Noodling does not appeal to a large amount of people (wonder why?), but for those who it does; they love it and wanna keep at it.
Texas noodler Brady Knowlton is pushing a new legislation to legalize hand fishing in Texas. He believes it is his right as a Texan to “Shove his bare hand into the mouth of a 60-pound catfish and yank it out of the river,” (The Wall Street Journal).
The most substantial claim against noodling is that it is unfair to the catfish that are snuck up on in their burrows. So it looks like it comes down to rights, who has more right to the water the catfish or the man? Looks like they will have to battle it out, oh wait, they already are. I think that taking down a catfish using wrestling moves underwater is a pretty fair fight, and certainly a lot harder than dipping a worm into the water.
But anti-noodlers say that baited hooks give the catfish the choice to bite or not. Where noodlers bombard the catfish in their holes and give them no “choice” whether to be eaten or not to be eaten.
Noodlers are risking life and limb to fulfill their hobby. In many ways they are more dedicated to fishing than their pole bearing counterparts. Shoving their hands into underwater holes is not a guarantee that a catfish is in that hole there could be some other predator in the hole that could take a real bite out of a noodlers hand.
So “Brady hold my beer, I’m going in”
What to you think about the legal, and physical battles going on between fish and man?
Campoy, Ana, “Long Arm of the Law Penalizes Texans Who Nab Catfish by Hand,” The Wall Street Journal 18 May, 2011. < http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703864204576321940917861336.html?mod=WSJ_WSJ_US_News_10_1>