This week’s free documentary from Snag Films is Okie Noodling, a profile of the culture and sport of noodling, the deep-rooted Southern practice of barehanded fishing. This intimate, and often violent, tradition has its roots in Native American hunting practices and has been passed through generations of southerners for hundreds of years. The Sooner State is one of the last to allow this ancient and controversial fishing technique.
Through personal stories of Oklahoma – fisherman, game wardens, noodlers and historians, Okie Noodling, a one-hour documentary, gives a voice to this vanishing feature of American rural life. Noodlers dive into creeks, rivers and lakes swimming under embankments in search of catfish nesting holes. As Burkhard Bigler of the Atlantic Monthly explains, “Wading along the shore or diving to the lake bottom, (the noodler) reaches into likely nooks and crevices, wiggling his fingers and waiting for a nip. When it comes, he hooks his thumbs into the attacker’s mouth or thrusts an arm down its throat and waits for the thrashing to stop. If he’s lucky, the thing on the end of his arm is a catfish.” The result is scraped and bloodied limbs and occasionally broken bones. Each noodler bears the scars of the battle.