I had heard of this type of fishing before. However, I always thought that it was just people kidding about it or spinning tall tales.
Then two years ago I ventured into the northern part of Arkansas and discovered that it is done quite a bit. As a matter of fact, a television show was even done about it.
I had the opportunity to spend four hours with a gentleman who explained in great detail the fishing art of Hoggin or Noodling. His name was Crowbar Russel. He and his cousin Jason have a show on the Outdoor Network called the "Jason and Crowbar Show."
The image above is an actual catching of a catfish barehanded.
This type of fishing isn't for everyone. It is a skill that you learn and refine with many attempts. Still there are many individuals that do it.
This type of fishing begins in the latter part of the spring season. You first study the areas where the large catfish like to lie. This could be in holes close to the bank of a river, in holes that have been washed out by the current, or by trees that are submerged in the water.
When the temperature starts to climb and the water starts warming up, the catfish will become very lazy and seek out these holes. It is not unusual for a fish to use the same hole over and over for several years. Sometimes a hole might even have more than one large size fish in it.
When you are ready to get the fish, you bring a partner with a boat. Usually one member stays in the boat, while the other wades close to the hole. Sometimes there might be a second person in the water as well. They are there only to assist. The individual that is in the water moves very slowly up to the area. They then submerge into the water and actually take their hand and push it into the fishes mouth. With the other hand, they grab the fish by the gill. They then lift the fish up out of the water and toss it into the boat.
Many times the individual in the boat will have to give assistance in getting the big fish into the boat. Sometimes the person that does the work in the ater will wear a pair of gloves. This helps with gripping the fish as well as getting their hands cut up by the fish teeth.
It is also good to have a good pair of old tennis shoes to wear. It helps the individual get a good grip on the river bottom and it protects their feet from stepping on sharp objects and rocks.
On thing that is needed by the person in the water is the ability to be able to hold their breath for at least two minutes. Usually, you can surface for air and the fish won't move. You just have to do it slowly with very little action in the water. Some individuals will tie a rope through the back part of a belt. This is to protect the person in the water in case the current gets too swift or if they start having difficulty with the fish.
While you have the fish in the water, the weight of the fish isn't much of a factor. However, once you get the fish out of water, the weight can cause some problems. That is when having another individual in the boat can help secure the fish.
In this image three individuals are struggling with a fish.
If you are the type of individual that would rather leave this to the experts, you can still enjoy the sport by watching it being done.