Friday, September 2, 2011

Gone Fishin'

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to have a fish bite your hand? No? Perhaps watching a fish bite someone else’s hand is more to the taste of most peopleThe recent Animal Planet show “Hillbilly Handfishin’,” first airing in 2010, has inspired adventurous hearts across the country to try their hand—literally—at this odd technique of fishing. 
Also known as “noodling,” this adventurous sport uses the fisherman’s hands and feet to catch the fish. A popular sport in the South, noodling has gained national attention through this unique television show. Viewers can expect a few good laughs as veteran noodler Skipper Bivins takes city slickers out in the water to try their luck at handfishing. Imagine the shock these folks must experience when they feel the mouth of a 70-pound catfish clamp down on their hand!
First-time noodlers can usually get quite the scare when they stick their hand down into murky water and feel the slimy skin of a fish waiting to chomp down. According to those who’ve tried this odd genre of fishing, a bloody hand or foot isn’t all that uncommon; you’ve just got to toughen up and stick with the fish, much like Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.” 
Unfortunately for some noodlers, encounters with the cottonmouth snakes that frequent the same holes as the fish have left some fisherman with the jitters. To remedy this problem, spotters are often used to alert the noodler of any slithery predators lurking in the murky water.
Although only a small percentage of the states allow handfishing because of environmental reasons, many noodlers throw back the fish they catch. Noodling is seen as a sport in the South, not as a main source of food.
The record catch for handfishing in the U.S. was a 123-pound flathead catfish, set in Kansas by Ken Paulie. In 2001 during the filming of a documentary on handfishing, it was brought to attention that there were no official contests for the sport. As a result, the First Annual Okie Noodling Tournament was held in Oklahoma that year.
Although this sport might not be for the faint of heart, hillbilly handfishing is a technique gaining attention and popularity nationwide. So if you ever find yourself bored with a regular old fishing pole, you might want to have a go at this bizarre form of fishing.

By Dani DeVore

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