Hand-fishing or "noodling" will make its debut in Missouri on June 1.
The Missouri Conservation Commission voted in December to open a limited season as part of an effort to answer biological questions surrounding requests for such a season.
So far, interest in the season is minimal. As of April 29, the state had sold 17 of the $7 Hand-Fishing Permits.
The season runs from sunrise to sunset June 1 through July 15 in parts of three streams.
- The Fabius River system from the mouth to the Highway 61 bridge and the South Fabius River in Marion County from the Highway 61 bridge upstream to Dunn Ford Access.
- The Mississippi River from the mouth of the Fabius River upstream to the mouth of the Des Moines River.
- That part of the St. Francis River that forms the boundary between Arkansas and Missouri.
Hand fishers may take up to five channel, blue or flathead catfish in the aggregate daily. A 22-inch minimum length limit applies to flathead and blue catfish. They can use their feet and bare hands without the aid of hooks or other manmade devices. They are not allowed to possess fishing equipment, except stringers, while on designated hand-fishing waters or adjacent banks.
Only catfish may be taken by hand-fishing and only from natural objects or natural cavities.
Hand fishers are required to report their catches within 10 days of the end of the season. They must send in a report at the end of the season even if they caught no fish or did not attempt to hand-fish during the season.
Gathering information about hand fishers' success will contribute to the body of knowledge about catfish and how they are affected by different types of fishing.
Fisheries biologists normally sample fish by using boat-mounted electrical generators to temporarily stun fish with low-level current. That method works well in large streams and narrow ones with deep holes. The technique is not very effective on Missouri's wide, shallow prairie streams.
Hundreds of fish will be fitted with tags, and anglers who report catching a tagged fish will receive a $25 reward. At the end of the year, anglers who returned tags will be included in a drawing for four bonus rewards of $250 each.