Five Tips When Flathead Catfish Noodling

Have you ever heard the term noodling and do you know what it means? It’s actually the oldest form of fishing around but when you learn what it involves, you may consider it one of the most outrageous ways to fish you’ve ever heard of. Noodling refers to the practice of catching fish with your hands instead of rods, nets or other tools. This type of fishing is for the experienced angler who’s looking for some excitement and a thrill.
Even though it can be a very rewarding adventure for some, this type of fishing is definitely not for everyone. If you plan to go noodling for flathead catfish, you need to make sure you’re up to it physically and mentally. It requires both strength and bravery to tackle these fish with your bare hands.
You must be prepared for this and be able to hold onto the fish with a strong grip. It’s also important to be able to admit defeat because every attempt at noodling will not end in a catch. Sometimes, you just have to stop for the day and try again later.
If you decide to go noodling for flathead, learn all you can about this fish first. It’s important to know what you’ll be going up against so you’ll have a better understanding of what you’re getting into before you go fishing.
Noodling Basics
The flathead is the second largest catfish and it’s a fighter so get ready for the adventure of a lifetime. When you’re ready to get started, have a couple of friends go with you to act as spotters. Choose your spot and begin wading slowly into the water until you’re close enough to reach into the structure.
Sometimes, going underwater is required. For this reason, some anglers use scuba gear but others believe that’s taking too much of the thrill out of the sport.
When you find the right spot, reach your hands into the structure and start feeling around. When your hands enter the home of the catfish, it will usually attack by latching onto your hand. Use this time to grab the catfish by the gills with your other hand and pull it out of its hiding place.
Flathead Catfish Noodling Tips
Now that you know the basics of noodling, you need a few tips passed down from experienced anglers who have been doing this type of fishing for awhile. You should take all of the advice you can get when trying something this daring and unusual.
Here are five tips to use that can improve your chances of catching that big one by hand:
1. Look for areas where the fish can hide such as, submerged logs, rocks, or heavily weeded areas because this is where the flathead is most likely to be.
2. The spawning season is the best time to go noodling because the fish are closer to the shore and easier to find. Check the laws in your area before noodling during this season because some areas don’t allow it.
3. Once you have chosen your spot, poke a stick into the structure or hole first to try and establish if there is a flathead inside or something else.
4. When you’re ready, slowly begin putting your hands into the area so you won’t startle the fish before you have a chance to grab him.
5. Get familiar with the area before you go noodling. This way, you’ll know if there are any deep holes where you can step into or if there are certain areas that are too dangerous to be wading around in the water.
Following these tips can help you improve your noodling skills but be prepared to go home emptied handed from time to time. You can’t always catch a fish by hand. Before you go noodling for flathead, be aware of the dangers.
Understanding the Risks
Noodling for flathead catfish is no ordinary fishing trip. It’s vital that you understand the risk before heading out to the water. The possibility of drowning is always there no matter how good you can swim although, being a strong swimmer will help to minimize this risk.
Never go noodling alone. You need spotters to watch your back especially when you’re underwater and someone to help you get the fish out of the water. If you are bitten, they may need to help remove the fish from your fingers or arm. They may also need to pull you up from the water if you are pulled under by the fish or slip and fall.
Know that you will probably be bitten, more than once. Catfish are very strong and the larger ones can even peel the skin off your hand if it gets a good grip. This is a danger to be concerned with and wearing protective gear such as long gloves can help reduce the damage the flathead will do if it gets a good hold on you.
Catfish are not the only creatures living in these structures. There are snakes, muskrats and snapping turtles to name a few. Anyone of these along with the catfish can cause you significant injuries. The snakes can be poisonous and some of the others can bite off a finger or two if you’re not careful. If you’re willing to take these risks, you’re ready to begin your flathead catfish noodling adventure.


Dan Eggertsen is a fellow catfish fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on catfish fishing since 2004.

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