Fear no noodler.
Applied Science--After Texas legalized noodling (hand-fishing) in 2011, some catfish anglers became concerned that this practice might lead to overharvest, especially of large flathead catfish that are targeted when spawning in logs and crevices. To evaluate this potential threat, biologists with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department conducted a tagging study on Lake Palestine and also quantified growth, abundance, and mortality of flatheads there *
The crew tagged flatheads of three size classes to check noodling's effects on larger fish. Rewards up to $100 were offered to encourage reporting. Returns indicated low exploitation of this population, less than 4 percent.
The biologists calculated that exploitation would have to reach 15 percent for effects of noodling on large flatheads to be evident. But they found that noodling and trotline fishing were far more efficient that rod-and-reel fishing, and increases in pressure from those sectors could reduce numbers of the largest catfish, which had higher rates of mortality, as some fish exceeded 25 years of age.
* Bodine, K. A., J. W. Schlechte, R. A. Ott, D. L. Bennett, and J. D. Norman. 2016. Estimating exploitation and modeling the effects of hand fishing on a flathead catfish population in East Texas. N. Am. J. Fish. Mgmt. 36:1416-1424.