Four men in Iowa have been arrested for illegally catching catfish with their bare hands, a practice commonly referred to as noodling. The men reportedly caught over 170 pounds of catfish, which police confiscated after the arrest.
Noodling is a type of fishing where a person enters the water, seeks out a catfish hole and shoves his or her hands into the catfish's mouth before bringing it to the surface. In this particular case, the men used bathtubs in order to create the perfect spawning hole for the fish, thereby luring them into a trap.
Jason Telfer, John Saner, Chris Hafele all face three counts of unlawfully taking catfish by hand fishing. Their friend, Brant Saner, only faces one count of the same charge. The men's haul of over 170 pounds of catfish was confiscated by police, along with three full catfish and a small boat.
There are only 12 states that allow noodling, and Iowa is not one of them. Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Texas have legalized the practice. The other 38 states have deemed the practice unsafe or unacceptable.
One of the biggest threats to those who practice noodling is the risk of finding something other than catfish in the water. At any given time, alligators, beavers, snakes and snapping turtles may be pulled out of the water instead of the docile catfish. In those cases, significant harm may come to the fisherman.
Noodling has become popular in recent years, with several TV shows depicting the pastime and several states hosting noodling competitions and celebrations. Oklahoma, for example, hosts the Okie Noodling Festival and Tournament in which a Noodling King and Queen are crowned. The sport received its own series on Animal Planet, with the show "Hillbilly Handfishin'."