Fall 2010News

How does it feel to…catch a fish with your bare hands?

“‘Noodling,’ or ‘hogging,’ as my relatives termed this practice, was a type of sport fishing practiced and discussed by my relatives throughout my childhood. Because it was considered such an unusual and a somewhat daring and daunting practice, participation in this sport was considered only for the adventuresome and fearless among my relatives. I soon learned that this experience was not as much about athleticism as it was about an adventurous spirit.

“So, this particular adventure began on a dare, with my two brothers and several uncles on one very dry, hot summer day. We began the adventure in the Flat Branch, a creek that runs through the heart of central Illinois. The summer had been particularly dry, and the Flat Branch water level was so low that one could walk down the middle of the creek. Even in the deepest places the creek was only about five feet deep.

“The water was lukewarm and murky. I was primarily concerned with meeting up with snakes or other varmints that called the Flat Branch home. Once we were all in the water, the first task was to locate a fish. This was accomplished by very, very slowly and smoothly running one’s hands along logs and branches submerged in the water where the carp and catfish typically rested.

“Finding my first fish was quite eerie; the water was cool, and the fish slick. Of course, I hoped with every ounce of my body that it was a fish and not a snake. One had to approach the fish from the tail forward. Catching the fish called for slowly sliding your hand up into the gills of the fish and then, with a strong hold, quickly lifting the fish straight up out of the water.

“Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough on my first try and the fish slipped right out of my hands back into the water. This was quite startling and scared me to death!  But I would not be defeated. I continued to search along various branches and logs until I came upon another resting fish. This time, I determined that, once I’d slid my hands in through the gills of the fish, I would move like lightning.

“Although a challenge, once I had the fish up out of the water I held on tight. I had in my hands an eight-pound carp that wiggled and turned frantically, trying to get loose. I moved quickly to the fishing boat that served as the holding area for our catches and quickly threw in my carp! It really was quite an exhilarating experience and gave me a real sense of accomplishment.”—Brenda Clark, assistant professor of music

the authorMarty