For those of you who planned to strip down to your jeans, wade into the Green River, stick your arm into a dark hidey-hole in the mud bank, let a giant catfish clamp down on your fist, pull it out, wrestle it into your canoe, fry it up and eat it, you should know that's not legal in Kentucky until after June 1st. See: 301 KAR 1:410. Taking of Fish by Other than Traditional Fishing Methods. That's when noodling season begins.
On the other hand, there's a good chance you'll get a pardon from the Governor:
On Dec. 29, Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher pardoned the first nine persons indicted by the special Franklin County Grand Jury which reviewed evidence from prosecutors, and their charges were later dismissed. During a statewide-televised address in the Capitol rotunda announcing his pardons, that was interrupted repeatedly by a cheering crowd of political appointees, Fletcher compared the violations specified in the indictments as no different from “noodling out of season." Noodling is a form of catfishing by hand. The next day Fletcher asserted his Fifth Amendment privilege when called to testify before the grand jury.
Here's the story picked up by the New York Times. Governor's Troubles Threaten G.O.P. in Kentucky
Noodling means no hooks, no lines, no rods, no reels. Just hands. Caveman fishing. It's also properly called "grabbling" and in some areas hogging, tickling, or dogging. The person doing the grabbling wades into a body of water where catfish are known to lurk, then reaches underwater and starts feeling for holes in the bank, in logs, under rocks and so forth. Catfish are found in holes when spawning. Female catfish lay their eggs, then a male cat moves in to guard the eggs.
Grabblers reach blindly into the holes because they know if a male cat is on guard, it will bite their fist. Then they can pull it out with their arm buried in the fish up to the elbow or higher.
You never know for sure what's in the hole you're probing. It might be a catfish. Or it might be a snapping turtle, a beaver or a snake. Some grabblers wear gloves. Most, however, believe this hinders the sense of touch necessary for determining the type of creature in the hole, its position and the best method for capturing it. In the vernacular, it's the difference between going "scuba" and going "natural".
There are some big tournaments around the country, like the Oklahoma Catfish Noodling Tournament in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma ("Not Your Ordinary Small Town").
Here are the current and former queens of the Noodling Tournament:
And there are some some big-ass catfish:
Do yourself a favor and watch the "Girls Gone Grabblin'" Video: HERE
From "Goodbye to a River"...
Some grabblers whom Davis Birdsong knew - do I remember that James Lemmon, deceased, was among them? - once located an enormous yellow cat at the spot where Squaw Creek and the Paluxy come together into the Brazos. Though he would let them touch him without moving, there was no question of anyone's being able to wrestle him out from under the deep-hollowed bank where he dozed, nor did such offerings as a ripe dead kitten on a great hook attached to sash cord even make his whiskers quiver.
Wanting him with that heat of desiring that has nothing really to do with meat, and digs back so far in the relationship of man to beasts and gets so tangled with "sport" that it disrupts all agreeable semantic theorizing, they puzzled.
One, inventive, went into Glen Rose and got a blacksmith to make him a short iron harpoon. He tied it with a rope to an empty oil drum, and followed by his companions and the blacksmith and that considerable fragment of the town's population who'd gotten wind of the affair, went back to the river. Shrugging off help, he stripped and jumped into the water with his apparatus, dived bearing the spear back into the monster's dim cavern, jammed it into his side, and got his shoulder broken in two places as the big fish came out, well stuck. Whooping along the shore, splashing through the shallows and swimming when they had to, the rest of the crowd chased the bobbing, racing drum for a half-mile down the river. When it stopped and the catfish rolled up to the surface dead and they took him out, he weighed 117 pounds.
Maybe that's the shape of pretechnological American sportingness. There was risk, and the guts to plunge against the risk. There was ingenuity, and practically no ritual. There was joyous illegality. There was success, and a hell of a hunk of meat in the end. If it was a long way distant from that pink-coated, view-hallooing pursuit of the uneatable by the unspeakable that Surtees ironically loved and Wilde satirized, it was at least something in its own right. Is still, even...
"Goodbye to a River" pp. 246-47.