Fishing for salmon in Alaska -- done that. Bone fishing in Belize. Excellent. Angling for sea bass -- what a nice day on the boat. When I'm not writing, I'm fishing. Fly fishing, spin casting, salt water. It relaxes and sustains me.
I took the sport up in earnest when I lived in New York's Adirondack Mountains back in the 1980s. I'd climb aboard my buddy Eddie V's boat every spring, summer and fall day after leaving the newsroom. The two of us would earnestly work the bass and perch grounds of northern Lake George or southern Lake Champlain. Oh, what a time. I didn't even mind when Eddie hooked the meaty end of my left shoulder instead of a smallmouth.
I've even ice fished, for about, let's see, two minutes. It seemed more relaxing to walk across the frozen shelf of Lake Champlain and into the warm bar on Route 22.
Fish stories? I got a million of them.
One day, not that long ago, I was researching a book I was writing. I came across something called "noodling." It was a strange sounding name. I had never heard of it before. I soon learned it had nothing to do with Chinese food, fettuccini or sex. It had everything to do with fishing. Bare-handed fishing, to be exact. And not just any fish. Catfish. Bare-handed cat fishing. Have you ever seen a catfish? Their faces and bodies resemble the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Tasty, oh yeah. Ugly, you bet. Some have heads as big as soccer balls.
Grabbing a catfish with your bare hands is not my idea of a good relaxing time, but who am I to judge. It's just one of the wacky and sometimes dangerous ways people fish. Go to the next page and find out more.
Call it what you wish, noodling (my favorite), hogging or hillbilly hand fishing. Catching a catfish with your bare hands is a time well spent for some people. When French explorers Jacque Marquette and Louis Jolliet paddled down the Mississippi River in 1673, some gracious soul warned the pair of a "demon who would engulf them in the abyss where he dwelt." Mark Twain, whose own death was exaggerated, once claimed to see a catfish more than 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall and weighing 250 pounds (113.4 kilograms). "If Marquette's fish was the fellow to that one, he had a fair right to think the river's roaring demon was come," Twain wrote in "Life on the Mississippi" [source: Bilger].
Catfish like to hang near rocks and logs. They're bottom feeders, so they rarely swim to the top. A noodler will wade along the river bank, groping and probing the bottom with his hands. The goal, if you haven't already figured it out, is grab hold of the fish. Not by the tail. Not by its fins. They want to stick their hands down the fish's maw and haul it out.
Some noodlers will wipe their arms with rotting fish guts to attract catfish. Noodlers have to be careful. The demons of hollowed out logs and bridge pilings can grab hold of a person's arm and not let go.
Once upon a time, humans hunted practically everything with a bow and arrow, including other humans. These days, anglers use the weapon in pursuit of the Asian silver carp, an invasive species that can grow up to 100 pounds (45.36 kilograms). The carp are not a meek fish. They eat up to 40 percent of their own body weight in plankton, leaving little else for other fish. They also push out weaker native species [source: Schaper].
When a boat approaches, the Asian carp jump out of the water like Polaris missiles from a nuclear sub. Some have been known to gobsmack boaters across the face. Chris Brackett, owner of Brackett Outdoors in Mapleton, Ill., decided to teach the carp a lesson. He perfected the method of shooting the leaping carp with a bow and arrow. Aerial bowfishers take aim riding in a speeding boat. When the carp jump, the fish hunters let their arrows fly [source: Konway].
Extreme Kayak Fishing
Anyone who has seen the classic movie "Jaws" knows the unforgettable scene in which Roy Scheider who plays police chief Martin C. Brody, spots the film's nemesis, a great white shark, for the first time and says: "... you're gonna need a bigger boat." For extreme kayak fishermen, a bigger boat is not an option.
Extreme kayak fishing means fishing in a kayak for some of the most dangerous fish (in terms of size and temperament) on the planet, including sharks and marlin [source: White]. It's not easy. Catching a mammoth fish from a paddleboat can cause a fisherman to lose his or her balance and strength. It also means fishing for creatures that would like to have you for dinner. "Gulp!"
One of the sport's most extreme fishermen is Jim Sammons, a San Diego native. Sammons is the first and only kayak angler to get a marlin in California waters. He's also caught thresher sharks weighing up to 200 pounds (90.72 kilograms), tarpon up to 150 pounds (68.04 kilograms) and tuna up to 125 pounds (56.7 kilograms) [source: Sammons].
Surf Fishing for Sharks
Australians do everything large. While most of us would settle for surf casting for sea bass or some other fish, a few hardy souls surf cast for sharks. Everybody wants the big one and you can't get any bigger than landing a great white. After baiting their hooks, the Aussie fishermen paddle a surf board out into the ocean where they drop the bait, a chunk of chum the size of an infant. When shark time comes around, hold on to your pole.
Anglers surf cast for sharks in other places, too, generally for the more diminutive of the species. The key to landing a shark is the bait. Some sharks are picky eaters. Sandbar sharks, for example, love sheepshead, while some large sharks like to chow down on rotten jackfish [source: Texas Shark Fishing]. Getting the right tackle is also key. The best rods cost up to $125, not including the reel. The experts say the cheaper rods and reels will end up costing you more in the long run [source: Texas Shark Fishing]. Do your homework because the sharks are waiting.
During a fishing tournament in the mid-1990s, Paul Melnyk hooked a good-sized striped bass off the coast of Montauk, N.Y. The fish was a whopper and would have put Melnyk in contention for the top prize. However, tournament officials learned that Melnyk caught the beast while swimming. They disqualified him. Melnyk was more than upset. But a new sport was born, "skishing" [source: Rhoads].
The idea behind skishing is simple. Hook a fish big enough to tow you through the water. Skishers, wearing flippers and wetsuits, swim hundreds of yards from shore out into water that is well over their heads. While out in the briny deep, they cast and cast, hoping to land a fish big enough to give a tow. Skishers believe skishing puts humans and fish on a level battlefield [source: Rhoads].
That red snapper you're enjoying for dinner might well be tilapia. Learn more about fish fraud at HowStuffWorks.
Author's Note: 5 Wackiest Ways to Go Fishing
Fishing is a great sport, no matter how one decides to participate. Still, I'm not the type that will fish for a shark in a kayak or go noodling with my friends. I'll stick to fly casting for trout and bass.
More Great Links
- Bilger, Burkhard. "In the Monster's Maw." The Atlantic. February 1997. (May 24, 2012) http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/97feb/catfish/catfish.htm
- Konway, Bill. "Extreme Aerial Bowfishing: Jumping Carp Breaks Woman's Jaw In Illinois." Field & Stream. Aug. 21, 2009. (May 25, 2012) http://www.fieldandstream.com/photos/gallery/fishing/2009/08/when-carp-attack?photo=0#node-1001334939
- NBC Sports.com "Seaguar's Extreme kayak Fishing Challenge." (May 26, 2012) http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/45726230/ns/sports-outdoors/
- Rhoads, Christopher. "Swimming with the Fishes: Anglers Tangle of 'Skishing.' The Wall Street Journal. July 26, 2010. (May 26, 2012)
- Sammons, Jim. E-mail correspondence. (June 5, 2012). http://www.Kayak4Fish.com/
- Schaper, David. "Asian Carp: Can't Beat Them? Eat Them." NPR.com. July 12, 2006. (May 24, 2012) http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5542199
- Texas Shark Fishing.com. "Shark Bait." (May 26, 2012) http://www.tx-sharkfishing.com/shark-fishing/shark-bait/
- White, Jerry. "Extreme Kayak Fishing." Paddling.net. (May 25, 2012) http://www.paddling.net/guidelines/showArticle.html?223