Greg Parker guided his flat-bottomed boat toward a spot near the northern shore of the Ross Barnett Reservoir. In the boat were no rods and reels, no bait buckets or tackle boxes - just a large cooler with some ice, a bag of gloves, a roll of duct tape and a few other tools of the hand-grabbers trade.

Parker cut the motor, removed his life vest and allowed the boat to glide to a near stop before he rolled over the gunwale, hardly making a splash. In his hand was a catch stick, used by poultry workers to collect chickens.

A second boat arrived with three additional people. They too removed life vests, and two begin to put on heavy gloves duct-taped to the legs of old cut-off blue jeans.

Parker, by this time, aligned himself with a submerged box. With a deep breath, he slowly disappeared into the stained water; a few seconds later he returned to the surface and nodded to one of the others that there was, indeed, a fish in the box.

The catch stick is used to feel inside the box for one or multiple fish. Parker now had the opening to the box blocked with his legs and can feel the large catfish nudging, trying to escape.

At one point, he smiled and explained that the fish has his entire foot in its mouth. Not a small fish, for sure, since Greg Parker is over 6 feet tall and wears a size 12 sneaker.

Jeff Harrell approached from behind and asked if Parker is ready.

Once all was set, Harrell submerged, and Parker moved his legs to allow Harrell access to the large opening in the box.

Parker could feel the fight going on just feet below the surface, and soon Harrell emerged with a huge flathead catfish neatly tucked under one arm.

Estimates based on years of experience place the weight of the big female at 40 to 45 pounds.

Over the next several hours the same scene was replayed over-and-over at different locations on the large lake. Sometimes there were no fish in a box, and other times multiple fish. Some were very large, with some being 10 pounds or less.

But almost always the fish were either blue or flathead catfish. Everyone wishing to grab a fish has an opportunity. On the day the team boats better than 300 pounds of live catfish.

"Over the years we have had some days that were better than others, but I can't remember a time when there were no fish in the boxes," Parker said. "Some of the boxes are almost sure things, in that there is a high probability that a fish will be in the box on every visit."

Parker, who began hand grabbing in 1995, admitted some boxes were probably fished by others who witnessed the team at some point in time, and returned to locate the boxes.

When he feels a boxes location has been compromised, he will either change the time of day to visit the box or move it all together.

He often places up to six boxes in one location.

"The boxes are made of wood, with a small hole in one end and a large opening in the other," Parker said. "If the fish is out of reach in one end of a long box, another diver can reach through the smaller hole and push the fish back toward the grabber.

"When the fish feels threatened, it will attack the grabber, taking the hand and some of the arm in its mouth."

So, really, the term "hand-grabbing" is a bit of a misnomer.

"In essence, the catfish is actually grabbing you," Parker said with a chuckle. "The fish are powerful - that is the reason you have to get an arm around them as soon as they come out of the box.

"Most men cannot hold a very large fish with a one-handed grasp of the lower jaw."

Other grabbers use a stringer or section of stout line to secure the fish before pulling it from the box. This might sound like a simple operation, but the fish generally has other ideas: Parker said he has been rammed so hard by fish that he almost lost his breath.

Greg Parker and his team use boxes located at a depth of 6 feet or less.

Other grabbers will go deeper, using scuba gear to reach the boxes.

Most grabbers use landmarks to locate their boxes during each outing. Others may actually have GPS coordinates for reference.

Those interested in hand-grabbing for catfish should check out page 42 of the 2011-2012 Mississippi Outdoor Digest for complete freshwater fishing rules and regulations, and it is a good idea to locate an experienced grabber to serve as a mentor.