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Noodling tournaments coming this summer

Itís not for the timid and it is not for those who prefer to stay dry while fishing, but noodling can be one of the most exhilarating activities a sportsman ever experiences. Noodling is the sport of fishing by hand, just a man and a fish and, of course, a healthy appetite for adventure.

Veteran hand fishermen know that the prime time is coming soon to wade into Oklahomaís rivers and lakes and come out with an armful of flatheads. The flathead catfish is the primary catfish species that can be taken legally by noodlers in Oklahoma. As temperatures warm up, flathead start searching shallow water for holes under logs, rocks and along mud banks so they can spawn. They will stay in the holes to deposit and fan their eggs until they hatch, and noodlers can pull the fish from those holes. Fork-tailed catfish including both channel and blue catfish, are classified as gamefish and must be released immediately by noodlers.

Several noodling tournaments have sprung up in recent years giving a chance for noodlers to test their skills against each other.

ďNo hooks, no bait, no fear,Ē is the motto for the First Annual National Noodling Tournament, Festival and Fish Fry to be held at 7:00 p.m., Saturday, June 14. The event, hosted by the Johnston County Chamber of Commerce, will be headquartered at Scottyís Blue River One Stop, eight miles north of Tishomingo.

Contestants will vie for prizes including $500 cash for the biggest fish. Even if you donít catch the big fish of the day, you can enter to win the dubious Ugliest Noodler crown. Live bands, craft booths and a noodling queen pageant will round out the festival. For more information about the tournament, call (580) 371-2175 or send an e-mail to jcchamber@simplynet.net.

For the past several years, the Pauls Valley Catfish Noodling Tournament has attracted hundreds of visitors to the south-central Oklahoma town. Once again, Bobís Pig Shop will host the event at 6:00 p.m., July 12. The event will feature a fish fry, live music, a noodling queen pageant and plenty of monstrous catfish.

For more information about the tournament, call the Pauls Valley Chamber of Commerce at (405) 238-6491 or log on to their Web site at paulsvalley.com.

Those interested in noodling in Oklahoma should be aware that the daily bag limit for noodlers is three flathead catfish. Flatheads must be a minimum of 20 inches to be kept. Additionally, noodling is a "hands-only" sport, and the possession of hooks, gafts, spears, poles or ropes with hooks attached while noodling is prohibited. For fishing regulations or to purchase a fishing license, log on to the Departmentís Web site at www.wildlifedepartment.com.

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