Touring Texoma: Noodling on the Red River

Several weeks ago, we had a great time on one of our tours of Texoma, noodling out on the Red River .

But on Friday, August 5th, Darrell Franklin was visited by Oklahoma's Department of Wildlife Conservation and given a 90- dollar ticket.

That's because, of course his Texas fishing license is not legal in Oklahoma.

So, that's one thing you need to keep in mind if you're crossing the state line.

But, something else that's changed since we shot this story in late June, using a net or seine became illegal in Oklahoma on July 1st.

It was already illegal in Texas, where noodling only became legal several weeks ago when Governor Perry signed it into law.

In Oklahoma, noodling is defined as the taking of nongame fish by use of hands only... that's a fish with a flat tail

In Texas, it's legal to noodle or fish by hand for any catfish.

If you want to stay out of trouble, the main thing to remember is you've got to land the fish with your hands.

But, to learn more about regulations, here are the numbers you need to know.

In Oklahoma, you can call 405-850-1960.

The number to Texas Parks and Wildlife in the Wichita Falls area is 940-723-7327.

This is the story that was shot before the use of seines became illegal in Oklahoma.

Darrell says it was great fun had by all! 

Oh.. there he comes. All right. Y'all get ready.

That fish came up and got me right there.

13- year old Baler Stewart's from Ringling.

And, before we even made it to the Red River, Baler filled us in on what we might expect while noodling.

Baler: "I was just feeling that other fish, and he came from the other side and got me right here."

Noodling for catfish goes back at least to the time of Native Americans.

But, during the Great Depression, it made a big come- back.

It's often a family custom now in the South and Midwest, passed on through generations.

In fact, Patrick Stewart's late father was his best river fishing buddy.

Patrick: "Now I've got 5- kids, and nobody's out of place down here. Everybody's thrilled to death. This is the place they want to be, out of all the places they could be."

And, the Stewarts' friends here feel the same way.

They've unraveled a seine that's stretching to the ground, around this fallen tree, because huge catfish have made a hole up under its roots.

Those flatheads are about to be pushed out.

Patrick: "Every now and then one of these flatheads will get mean, and go to free swimming, and biting inside the seine. And, that's just going and grabbing people. And, that adds to the excitement. It makes it a lot more fun when people are jumping around in the seine getting bit by fish."

Cindy Stewart: "I used to wouldn't go. We've been married 18- years. And, I always thought he was crazy. And, then in about 2006, I caught a.... right there, right there...... I caught a big fish... 81 pound blue on a rod and reel, and then I decided I wanted to go."

Cari Stewart/Patrick & Cindy's daughter: "I love it. I mean like.. I don't even like to go anywhere during the summer because I'm afraid they're going to leave me alone. I just love being down here catching fish."

Patrick: "These flatheads have to be 21- inches or longer to be legal is the deal. You have to have a 4- inch seine. Can't keep anything besides flatheads out here noodling with your hands."

And, by the end of the day, when they're taking down the net, and it might not be that long, they've got enough fish to fry to feed a neighborhood.

There's another one! Got him!

Scott Cathey was probably 7- or 8- the first time his granddad took him out.

Scott: "It's just a great opportunity to get your family out to the river, get out and spend some time with your family. And, they all love it, and it's a lot better thing than playing a video game or laying around the house."

Cindy: "I get butter flies just like before a big game."

Cari: "Did you feel him? He was right under my foot."

Patrick: "Here he comes! Get ready! Here he is. Get him."

Baler: "That one's got some of my skin in his mouth!"

Patrick: "Don't turn him loose! That's supper."

Cindy: "I have 5- kids, and all 7- of us are just a bunch of river rats."

Cindy: "She's a little bit territorial in her spot."

Cari: "Yeah but.. it's way better than being anywhere getting into trouble, or anything like that. So, I don't know. I love it."

And photojournalist, Curtis Jackson and I loved it too, even though we left just about everything to the experts, this time. Including the fish fry that followed.

It was an experience that brought families and friends together.... an experience, and a lasting memory, that can now be shared on both sides of the Red River.

Governor, Rick Perry signed the bill that makes noodling legal in Texas last month.

Noodling should never, ever be done alone because you never know when you'll run into a huge, granddaddy catfish that could take you under, and not let you back up.

Some experts believe noodling threatens the catfish population, because eggs left behind are vulnerable to prey.


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