Noodling for Catfish in Kansas

News & Tips: Noodling for Catfish in Kansas

While doing a job in Kansas I met Brandonn Nuckles and he asked me if I wanted to go noodling (an interesting fishing technique)with him. At the time I had just landed a good writing deal and they wanted me to do an article on noodling. I told him I'd go but just to take pictures and get enough info to write an article. This was a definite one time deal.

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Noodling involves diving into the water searching catfish holes for catfish and pulling them up by hand.

Everyone knows that noodlers are crazy. But if you go, when they start talking about the fish that they're feeling then suddenly you find yourself in the river trying it. Then the next thing you know, you'll be going every day. I'm scared of it and think it's crazy — and yet I do it.

Just the other night Brandonn, Chase and Matt asked me to go. This time we hit a smaller river and since it had just rained it was high and muddy. I don't like snakes, beavers or turtles when I'm noodling. One night we saw two snakes and last year Brandonn pulled up two turtles while I was taking pics for an article.

I'll save the how-to's of noodling for another week, but for today let's talk about some basics. For gear all you'll need is a pair of cut-offs, T-shirt and tennis shoes. I carry a knife in case I get hung in some a setline or to cut off a turtle if he bites you. A guy I know caught two turtles on a trotline and was carrying them up to his ranch house to show them to his kids. One swung over and bit him on the inside of his thigh. He had to cut off his head with his pocket knife.

Brandonn loves to find where they have dumped concrete slabs along a river bank to help slow down erosion. He also likes to find a big rock or concrete slab out in the river. He will dive and feel around for any caves under them.

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Brandonn Nuckles noodling for catfish.

During my trip, we would find holes going back into the banks. They were out in the water 3-4 feet deep. He'd feel in first with his foot and then dive down and swim up in them feeling around. If the hole goes in and then up it's a beaver hole and you need to get out of there fast.

In fact, I'm not real sure that all of the holes that we checked weren't beaver dens. What else would have made a big cave back into the bank? They sure weren't made by crawdads!

You will grow to not like people that set limb lines and trotlines and leave them. They are easy to run into and get hooked. I bet we didn't swim much over one mile and we had to have encountered at least five old trotlines and setlines. That's irresponsible.

It was tough fishing. We only found one hole with a fish in it and before we could corner the fish, it scattered. We did have one interesting event though. Someone pulled a handful of fish eggs out of a hole. You could see the little fish swimming around inside of the egg. That was unique.

If a hole is frequented by catfish it will have slime along the sides or on the logs. Bingo, you're getting warm. Well, hopefully I've piqued your interest in at least trying noodling. I know it sounds crazy, but it is a blast. I'm not sure that I like it — but I'm going to keep going.