Noodling coming to West Virginia

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You may not be able to make stupidity illegal but it is possible to regulate certain expressions of it. Such as, as a sport, wading along rivers and putting your hands into holes under the water that you can't see into in the hopes of catching a catfish.

WV DNR creates regulations for catfish noodling

Starting in 2019, hand-fishing for catfish becomes legal in the Mountain State. A recent vote by members of the state Natural Resources Commission established a season for the practice and set up limits and regulations for it.

The action came in response to Mountain State residents’ desire to join the legions of people in the South and Midwest who enjoy reaching into riverbank cavities, sticking their hands into the mouths of big catfish, and wrestling the fish out of their holes. Division of Natural Resources officials proposed the regulations, and the commissioners — seven political appointees who establish season dates and bag limits — OK’d them.

The rules, as approved, are pretty straightforward.

The noodling season will begin each year on June 15 and will end on Aug. 31. This puts it at a time of year when water levels are relatively low and catfish cavities are easier to reach. The summertime season also ensures that noodlers, who often wade in neck-deep to reach prime spots, won’t fall victim to hypothermia because the water is too cold.

Fishing will be restricted to daylight hours only, for two reasons: One, having people stumbling around in the water at night isn’t the safest thing in the world; and two, law enforcement officers can police the activity more easily.

Hand-fishing, as practiced in West Virginia, will be about as simple as it gets. Participants won’t be able to use bait or fish attractors to entice the fish out of their holes. They also won’t be allowed to use gaffs or spears to latch onto their quarry.

Diving underwater to noodle will be allowed, but the use of snorkels, SCUBA gear or any other artificial breathing apparatus will not.

When noodling, participants are to seek fish only in naturally occurring cavities and naturally occurring habitat. Grabbing fish out of artificial cavities or nest boxes will be illegal. It will also be illegal for participants to create artificial cavities or nest boxes for future use.

For the most part, hand-fishing will be allowed only on the state’s rivers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes, Stonecoal Lake, Hawks Nest Lake, Mt. Storm Lake and Cheat Lake. Small state-managed impoundments will be off-limits because DNR officials are trying to increase catfish populations there.

The daily creel limit for noodling will be four fish, which will also count as part of a hook-and-line angler’s daily limit. The limit of four is an aggregate total that would include all catfish species.

Only two fish in any daily limit can be blue catfish, and only one fish may measure more than 35 inches in length. If the body of water being fished has more restrictive limits, those will be in effect.


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Rules for letting fish bite one's self - fishing industry must be worried about noodlers irritating their customers by the competition for the big ones. Funny and stupid simultaneously. Oh and we get to pay for this new noodling bureaucracy.

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Seen it done a few times in MO. Looks like a lot of fun till you reach in and find a water moccasin or a snapping turtle! We used to get some pretty big snapping turtles in the Meramec river. I wouldn't want to grab one barehanded, might be missing a digit or 2 afterward.

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