Obviously noodling is a sport that not everyone can get their heads wrapped around, but those who can and actually grab catfish don’t mind getting their hands a little dirty — as well as slimy and scarred.
Mississippi’s 2016 grabbling season opened May 1 and will close on July 15.
The 2½-month season is set to coincide, at least at some point, with the peak of the flathead and blue catfish spawning seasons when the big fish move into either natural or man-made cavities to spawn.
The noodler reaches in with a hand or foot, depending on the situation, and tries to find a fish. If there’s one there, the goal is to entice the catfish into biting a hand, at which time the noodler grabs back and the battle begins.
It is the goal of the human to wrestle the fish, sometimes as big as 80 or 90 pounds, out of the house and to the surface before running out of air and having to let go or, well, before drowning.
Obviously, all the fish wants to do is get away.
“Sometimes you just have to let one go, but you always do everything you can not to do that,” said James Turner of Jackson, who noodles each year at Barnett Reservoir. “The last thing I want to do is come to the surface, face the other members of my team and say ‘I lost it.’
“That’s embarrassing, and believe me the guys I grab with won’t let you forget it the rest of the season. Heck they don’t ever forget. The other day, when one of them called to ask when we ought to start checking houses, he just had to gig me a bit about the one I lost on our last trip last year.”
So, when did they decide to start in 2016?
“We’re going to wait at least two weeks,” Turner said. “We went out Sunday (opening day) before the storms to see if the fish were there, and we checked three houses and found no trace. There was no evidence of mud or slime in the entrances. I think it’s going to be a late season this year. It may just be that way for us.
“We have some more houses in a couple of shallow Delta oxbow lakes where we may go and check to see if they’ve moved up already, but I don’t think it’s time.”
“I relate it to past years, and crappie and bass fishing,” Turner said. “I’m still catching crappie spawning and the bass are still shallow. Most years like that, the catfish are slow.
“But we have until mid July, so we’ll get plenty of time to enjoy.”
Mississippi has regulations established about placing structures in any public waters of the state. According to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks:
It shall be unlawful to place structures such as plastic or metal barrels, plastic or metal pipes and tubing larger than 4 inches in diameter, hot water tanks, concrete pipes and tires and any other non-biodegradable into the waters of the state for use as fish attractors.
However, wooden materials and plastic tubing and pipe materials may be used as fish attractors provided that the plastic materials are no larger than 4 inches in diameter. Concrete, rope, wire and nails may be used to construct fish attractors. It is legal to place such fish attractor materials into the public waters of the state provided written permission to do so is obtained from the federal or state agency which owns the specific water body.
The person placing fish attractor materials into the public waters of the state must have in their possession a copy of the written permission at all times when transporting and placing such material.