Wisconsin Girl Travels South to Noodle By Kristen Monroe
Growing up in a family of hunters & fishermen has lead Kristen Monroe of OutdoorNews.com to have passion for the outdoors. Recently, Kristen visited Southern Illinois to try her hand at ‘noodling.’ Photos by Don Gasaway.
I never thought I would do it. After watching others on television, it actually scared me. In addition, many intelligent friends called me crazy for even considering it. But, I like to push myself and learn about new things. Last weekend I traveled to Southern Illinois, where I met other outdoor writers at Rend Lake. Fishing with my fly rod is great fun but grabbing a catfish out of a crevice is a heart pumping adventure. It’s known as noodling, hoggin’ and also hillbilly hand-fishing.
It’s a good idea to go with guides that know what they are doing. Nick Shafer from Crappie Predator and Rend Lake Crappie Masters guides, Craig and Jason Miles knew the lake like the back of their noodling hands. Sometimes it’s takes more than one person to get them moving and plug the holes so they can’t escape. Plus, it’s safer. The area guides work as a team, along with Jason Johns of Boneyard Fishing. Johns has a brand new lodge near completion for all of their guests to sleep in comfort.
Hand-fishing next to I-57 along the rock wall quickly became a challenge. We reached into the cracks searching for the spawning catfish and protecting themselves from the hot sun. My first encounter was a simple leg bump. A live creature brushed against my leg- I must have spooked it. Part of me felt relieved that I didn’t have to experience getting bit. Suddenly, I had my first nip from a channel cat. Yes, I let out a yell — not because of pain, but because it startled me. He slipped right through a hole and swam away chuckling. Had I not been wearing a glove, certainly it could have drawn blood. Earlier in the day Dan Stefanich, fellow outdoor writer decided to wear a glove on one hand and left the other bare. After seeing his gloveless hand after grabbing a 25 pound flathead, my decision to wear them was pretty simple.
Then something ignited in me. Going home empty handed was not in the plans. While focusing I searched like crazy. “There’s one over here,” said Shafer. I hold my breath and plunged under and aggressively searched. I pinned him against the rock and didn’t let go. The celebratory look on my face didn’t last reaching the surface with my channel catfish. The slippery sucker rudely escaped before the photo opportunity.After searching a few different mud holes we returned to the dock. Nestled under a large concrete slab a big flathead awaited. All three guides worked like crazy to get her moving. Finally she was in a position for me to reach. I pulled like crazy with one hand under her gill and the other clinched tightly in the mouth. Surprisingly the 35 pound flathead was easier to pull out than the small channel cat. But the flathead was far more fun to take a picture with.