Noodling….let the good times roll!

Published 4:04 pm Tuesday, April 30, 2024

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It’s been many, many moons ago when I last enjoyed a leisurely afternoon fishing. It was enjoyable even when the fish were not hungry and decided to not to swallow the bait. Being outdoors away from the daily grind of your job and enjoying the sun and a breeze in your face is more than enough for me to call it a good day.

I do remember the fun of jug fishing. It’s simple from of fishing that been around for years.

Although jug fishing is legal in North Carolina for anyone with an up-to-date fishing license, the state Wildlife Commission requires that the jug must have the user’s name and address or Wildlife Resources Commission customer number legibly inscribed. You can’t use live bait and you must remove your “catch” on the same day it’s hooked.

Jugs that do not meet these requirements can be removed by wildlife enforcement officers.

Jugging got its name back in the day when fishermen would use glass jugs, tie a line to the handle of the jug added a weight, hook, and bait, and then watch for the jugs to bobble and float down the river. The fisherman would follow the jug, wait for the fish bite and pull the fish into the boat.

The object was to have several jugs in the water at the same time to heighten your chances of catching more fish.

The glass jugs finally gave way to plastic jugs and as with most things these days a new more modern form of jugging…noodling. No, not the noodling one sees on TV where grungy characters feel around the banks of the river until they find a hole then put their hand in holes and pull out giant flathead catfish. That’s more along the lines of catfish wrestling and I value my arms, especially my fingers, way too much than to stick them in the mouth of an ornery, 75-plus pound catfish. I’ve heard stories of guys popping tendons loose in their wrists, fingertips smashed purple, and arms lacerated by underwater rebar.

Then there’s the fact that all species of catfish have sharp spines on the leading edges of their pectoral and dorsal fins. The noodling I’m referencing is just a new name for jugging due to a change in the apparatus.

Simply go down to your nearest local store that sales the colorful swimming noodles that children use in the pool and purchase a dozen or so. This is by far the most effective and efficient way to transport and deploy these “fish catchers. They sure beat the devil out of glass jugs and aren’t as bulky as the plastic ones.

Here’s how to use them (as passed along by my former publisher, the now late Joe Cowart):

Take the noodle and cut them up into thirds.

Take piece of black 1/8 inch irrigation tubing, cut it long enough to fit across one end of the noodle. Cut one end of that tubing at a 45 degree angle.

Insert the angled end of the tubing into one end of the noodle about two inches from the end. This is a simple yet important step in build your fish catching machine. The tubing will keep the line from tearing the Styrofoam noodle into when a fish bits your bait.

Insert the fishing line thru the irrigation tube and tie that end off very good, (some folks use nylon string but I prefer a 20-30 pound mono line.) Your line should be cut at a depth of 8-10 feet.

Use an appropriate weigh for the speed of the current you’re going to fish. I prefer an egg sinker about 1/8 of an ounce.

Run the weight onto the line, and tie a barrel swivel at the end of the line. Tie on a leader to the other end of the barrel swivel about 60-80 inches long and tie on your hook. I use a #00 hook with bait keeper shank. The bait keeper shank has little barbs up the shank, which better holds your bait on the hook.

Roll your line onto the noodle, and stick your hook into it.

Joe told me that he prefers to use cut bait, saying that works better due to its toughness and it tends to stay on your hook longer. He also told me to never throw away old molded cheese or old hot dogs as both work well for bait, especially for catfish.

Now here’s where the funs begins. Go down to your favorite river, creek or lake, launch your boat and let the good times roll. Use your fish finder and locate a sandy flat bottom about 10-12 feet in depth. Bait your noodles and toss’em overboard. The weight will roll the line off the noodle and right down to the big ole catfish lair.

Keep a close watch on the colorful noodles. If one bobbles, turns up on one end, takes off down the water or even disappears for a moment, the excitement is on. Follow the noodle for a ways and give the fish time to play out and get tired. Then pick the noodle by the line and bring in the fish. You can use a gaff to catch the line, however a fish net or a paddle will work.

Best of all is the camaraderie while you’re waiting on a bite. Take some snacks, cold drinks, and wait for the tall tales to begin. The kids will love it and it’s a great way for your “better half” (if they choose to join the fun) to get a tan.

You’ll be a genius…the kids are happy, the wife is happy and you’re out enjoying your favorite sport …fishing.

And you don’t have to lose a finger or get popped by a dorsal fin in the process!

 Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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