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Noodling or not, it was a big catch

By Staff | Jun 26, 2010

Remember the movie ‘Jaws?’ After that Steven Spielberg thriller came out 30 years ago, people stayed out of the ocean for years.

After reading this story, you may stay out of the Blue Earth River for the rest of your life.

A couple of boys from Frost have quite a fish story to tell. And, in this case, it isn’t about the one that got away.

They got this monster.

Bodey Bell, of Frost, was fishing in the Blue Earth River with his brother, Sinjin, and cousin Logan Kelly, when he latched onto a big fish.

A very big fish.

His grandfather, T.J. Johnson, of Frost, says that at one time the big fish leaped completely out of the water, trying to dislodge the hook from its mouth.

But Bodey hung on, and he landed the leviathan.

It was a flathead catfish. The fish weighed in at 30 pounds and was 40-inches long.

After they weighed and measured it, they let it go, practicing catch and release.

Now that would be quite a tall fish story, except that they had a camera along that night and Sinjin Bell snapped a photo of it.

I am reprinting it here. Although it is just a little blurry, you can clearly see the size of the thing.

And, the size of its mouth. That is Bodey holding up the fish by its lower lip. The position of his hands reminds me of the sport of ‘noodling.’

Have you ever heard of it? You have if you watch television channels like TLC.

Noodling is catfish fishing without a hook, rod or reel, or spear.

The only equipment you need is your hand.

Noodlers wade or swim in rivers and stick their hands into underwater holes and caves along the shore and wait for a flathead catfish to bite their hand.

Really. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

While the catfish stays chomped on to their arm, the noodler pulls the monster fish out of the hole and throws it into a nearby boat or on shore.

Hopefully, their hand is still intact. They will need it for the next cast. Er, I mean thrust.

This sport is pretty common in the South – places like Oklahoma. In fact, it has become so popular, there has been a documentary made of the sport, and it has been featured on several television shows, including Family Guy and Cougar Town.

While in the photo Bodey has his hands in the catfish’s mouth, to hold it up, he didn’t actually catch it while noodling.

Another Faribault County resident, however, has participated in the gutsy sport.

Although it might be considered a sport to prove your manhood, this Winnebago woman has noodled.

Madge Toland, wife of Winnebago Police Chief Bob Toland, is from Oklahoma, and once was talked into trying her ‘hand’ (pun intended) at the unusual way of fishing for lunker ‘cats.’

Toland was born and raised in Oklahoma, living there until she was 18. From there she moved to Alaska, met her husband Bob and after five years moved to Minnesota.

But, while a teenager in Oklahoma, she went noodling with a bunch of friends.

The truth, she says, is that she never really got her hand chomped on by a catfish.

Like any fisherman will tell you, some days the fish are biting and some days they aren’t.

Noodlers have pulled in giant catfish, weighing 50-60 pounds or more. A 30-pound fish in the Blue Earth River isn’t too bad.

Eleven states authorize catching fish by hand. (Yes, you need a noodling license in Oklahoma.)

Perhaps it is time for the sport to come to Minnesota.

Or not.