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Birdshot and backlashes

NOODLE AND DOODLE-SOCKNow there you have a couple of terms not exactly familiar to North Country fisher-folk. There have been some discussion of noodling on TV and in the printed press in recent weeks because it is a controversial item among fish managers as well as anglers.Noodling is legal in a lot of southern states and legal in Minnesota only in regard to rough fish like carp or suckers. But down south it is one of the more popular methods of harvesting big catfish.Noodling is done this-a-way: In warm weather, fishermen wade along the shore feeling underwater for holes in the banks. There are a number of critters that make holes in muddy banks and catfish seem to like to explore these places. When a wading fishermen finds a hole, he slides in his hand slowly to see if he can locate a catfish. It may seem dippy, but a catfish will seldom leave the hole just because a hand comes slithering in.The fisherman slides his hand along the catfish, sort of stroking him and eventually works the hand up to the fish’s mouth. Then he jams his thumb in the catfish’s mouth and grips under the chin with his fingers and pulls the fish out of the hole. It’s kind of a strange feeling hauling a thrashing catfish out of the water by his face, but that’s how it works.Only in the south, those catfish grow to monstrous size. And big mud cats can run upwards of 50 pounds. The fisherman who connects with one of these by hand is in for an experience. On top of that, catfish have wicked spines on their back and side fins, thus it does not pay to get one of these wiggling critters near a leg or abdomen.There is also another thing to think about. Holes underwater may be inhabited by big snapping turtles that can clamp down on a finger. Or there may be a water moccasin visiting the hole. Frankly, it is a lot safer catching a catfish by hook and line.DOODLE-SOCKThis is a deep south fishing method used for bass. We’ve never seen it done up here and not a whole lot in the south, either. Anglers use this along brushy streams with overhanging foliage. Tackle consists of a long bamboo pole, maybe 14 or 16 feet in length. On the far end is fastened about two feet of heavy fish line, like 12 or 15 pound test. The lure on the end is a bucktail tied on a treble hook. The color doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of difference.Here how it is used: The fishermen cruises his boat tight in along the overhanging trees and brush, looking for a hole in the understory. When one is found, the pole with the bucktail is shoved in near the bank and then swished around or bobbed up and down. Big bass quite often lurk along undercut banks where trees hang down, watching for frogs or other tidbits. When a big ol’ bass spots the bucktail dipping into the river, he figures it’s a juicy bull frog and nails it, getting impaled on the treble hookGetting the fish out from under the brush and back to the boat is a fairly exciting chore. The angler slides the pole back, hand-over-hand, until the thrashing bass on the line is simply flopped over the gunwale and into the fishing craft where it is promptly subdued. From the standpoint of sportsmanship, there is maybe something left out, but getting a big bass into the boat, particularly a bass that isn’t the least bit tired from fighting, can generate considerable interest. It will probably not become popular in Minnesota. Sportsmen consider doodle-socking a lesser means of catching bass.On the other hand, a lot of fisher-folk down in Dixieland don’t think much of dark house spearing, either. It probably depends on how a person grows up.Next Saturday, Jan. 15, the trout season opens in all the lakes outside the BWCAW. So who cares about noodling or doodle-socking?

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