I generally try to stay away from “Texas specific” topics here but this one is too good to pass up. I got a phone call early yesterday morning that there was some activity going on in Austin Texas regarding catfishing, more specifically catfish noodling.
Ever since the release of Okie Noodling, the documentary by documentary filmmaker Bradley Beesly appeared on PBS years ago noodling or hand fishing has become a household name. It is very rare that I have new clients in my boat that don’t ask me about catfish noodling and whether I have ever tried it. It is conversation that often occurs among fishermen and everywhere else for that matter, it even seems to be a popular topic among office water coolers.
I have covered catfish noodling in depth here at Learn To Catch Catfish and even covered the Catfish Grabblers Girls Gone Grabblin’ video series that takes a group of young ladies out to the water and lets them try their hand at hand fishing for flathead catfish. If for some reason you have been living under a rock and are not sure what grabblin’ or noodling is check out our catfish noodling article.
Currently the sport of hand fishing for catfish is only legal in a handful of states, and is illegal in Texas. The closest place for most anglers to go from Texas to do some “grabblin’” is Oklahoma.
Texas Representative Gary Elkins-R from Houston has put a bill up in front of the House Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee yesterday to legalize catfish noodling in Texas. The bill would evidently allow Texas anglers to purchase stamp that would make it legal for them to start hand fishing for catfish in Texas. They bill also evidently includes a provision that would make it illegal to fish using these methods during a three month period, to protect the flathead catfish during spawning season.
Much of the debate that takes place in angling circles surrounding this form of fishing is in relation to the damage that can be dome to flathead catfish populations by hand fishing during the spawn. During this time many (or most) of the fish are on their beds which makes the especially vulnerable and producing some huge numbers of catfish for those willing to run the risk of sticking their hand underwater into a dark muddy hole.
The first thing that came to mind when I heard (and verified) all of this was, really? Texas is laying off thousands of teachers and the public education system is crumbling right before our very eyes and these guys are down there debating whether or not they should allow someone to stick their hand into a hole and grab a catfish? I don’t want to turn this into a political rant so I will just stop there.
I made some “unofficial” calls to my contacts at Texas Parks and Wildlife today to get their take on the bill to legalize Texas catfish noodling and it appears (at least based on the people I spoke with) that they are OK with the move towards legalizing hand fishing in Texas as long as the three month window is in effect to protect the fish during the spawning season.
I am pretty accident prone. In addition, there are not many things in this world that scare me, but I don’t like snakes, not one bit. The thought of running my hand up in a hole with a “see what happens” approach is not something I want to do. I have been with others noodling but am just not the one that is going to be running my hand around in unknown areas.
[box]Have you ever been grabbling or noodling for catfish? If it was legal in your state would you try it?[/box]
Update: I finally received a copy of HB 2189 in my email this morning and it appears that there is no provision included at this point for not allowing noodling during the spawning period for Flathead Catfish. You can read more in the link below:
I have reached out to several more of my contacts at Texas Parks and Wildlife today and the feedback I have gotten is that they have no objections to the bill as long as a provision is in place to eliminate hand fishing during the spawning window but that is the only way that they will support it (off the record of course).
Texas is taking some aggressive action right now in their research and studies of creating trophy catfish fisheries so this is a slippery slope for them to go down if they are not careful.
For some reason, this has a foul smell to me and I think it should be in the hands of Texas Parks and Wildlife with input from biologists and sound research and advice, not the House Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committe . Remember when the TPWD Board of Commissioners made bowfishing for catfish legal a few years ago without thoroughly thinking through what they were doing (bowfishing for catfish is now illegal again)?
What is my advice to you?
Contact your representative immediately (find them through the link below) and tell them to put the brakes on this deal and put it in front of Texas Parks and Wildlife, giving it the due diligence that it deserves.
Let’s let Parks and Wildlife manage the fisheries, and let the House worry about other matters that they actually know something about.