New fishing method for brave fishermen: No rod, no reel, no sweat - go grabbling

Great Dive Trips at Bargain Prices with the Sea Divers

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Posted by on July 06, 2005 at 14:45:55:

It sounds like something out of a low-grade reality show. Go along the banks of a river or lake and stick your hands into holes underwater or under submerged logs - actually hoping something bites down on your fist.

And you hope that the thing doing the biting is a big catfish.

Noodling, also known as grabbling, is only legal in a few of states. Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina and Missouri allow the fishing technique.

Georgia joined that list July 1. House Bill 301 made the fishing technique legal from March 1 to July 15 each year.

After laying a nest of eggs, female catfish leave the immediate area and the male catfish stands guard over the eggs, and doesn't get to eat much.

As a consequence, it will try to gobble down almost anything it can. Especially a fisherman's hand that starts reaching down into the nest.

And once the fish clamps down on the fist, the fisherman pulls the fish to shore.

In theory.

A press release from the DNR warns newbie noodlers to always have a partner along, in case the fish overpowers them.

Articles scattered around the internet suggest the cats can do a "death roll" similar to a crocodile once a grabbler latches on with hands and feet.

Fostana Jenkins, a grabbler from Athens, Tenn., verified the stories.

"They'll roll - hard. We try to grab the fish with both hands to sort of stabilize them. If they roll hard, you can usually let them go, although I've seen them gobble way up on my husband's arm before," Jenkins.

She stressed the importance of having a buddy along for the adventure.

"Girls and children have more of a struggle trying to get the fish out of the water," Jenkins said. "We often just latch on with arms and legs, and get our buddy to pull us to shore."

Clay Keller, a local fishing guide and columnist for the The Hartwell Sun is more than a little wary of the new fishing style.

"People used to do this a lot, when the priority was to put food on the table, as opposed to fishing for sport," Keller said. "I've always had a phobia about running my hand under a log...

"Grabbling for a catfish is one thing. Coming up with a cottonmouth is something else," Keller said.

Keller remembered a friend who caught a muskrat - or perhaps, it caught him.

"He reached down into a burrow and the muskrat didn't like it a bit," Keller said. "That thing all but ate him up. It pretty much cooled me off on the idea."

Jenkins said that knowing what kind of bank to look for reduces the risk of pulling out a muskrat.

The Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division urged caution with the new tactic. "Now that noodling is legal, it may arouse the curiosity of many people, but I am not sure how many will actually attempt it," said WRD Chief of Fisheries Management Chuck Coomer. "I think the best advice our agency can provide is to take a friend with you when you fish and to use some caution, especially to those who are completely unfamiliar with this method, in the event that you come across something other than a catfish or have difficulty coming up for air."

HB 301 passed both the House and the Senate with an almost unanimous vote (only two votes against it in the Senate) and amends Georgia law (Code Section 27-4-37), relating to game and fish, by allowing for the taking of flathead and channel catfish by noodling.

Grabblers can take flathead, channel and blue catfish by hand, without the aid of any device, hook, snare, net or other artificial element and without the use of any scuba equipment, air hose or other artificial breathing apparatus.

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