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  • Texas | Columns

    Legalizing Noodling

    by Bob Bowman
    Bob Bowman
    In the midst of a session that dealt with taxes, Medicare fraud and other serious issues, the Texas Legislature finally dealt with an issue of concern to East Texans--noodling.

    I have to admit that, in my seventy-five years of living in East Texas, I did not know what noodling was.

    So I consulted a Webster Dictionary, but it wasn’t of much help.

    I found nooky, which means sexual activity; nooning, which means having a meal at noon; and a definition of noodling that means playing an instrument in a “desultory manner.”

    But I couldn’t imagine the Legislature banning musical instruments.

    Then, in an East Texas newspaper, I read Jacksonville Senator Robert Nichols’ report to his constituents.

    After reporting on new budget estimates, Medicare fraud, reauthorizing the Texas Forest Service and insurance for dependents of state employees, Senator Nichols reported on the noodling issue.

    Noodling, it seems, is catching catfish with your hands. And until this year, noodling was illegal in Texas. Just why this practice was illegal is beyond my comprehension.

    If you can catch catfish with hooks and lines, why would grabbing them with you bare hands be illegal?

    Anyway, Senator Nichols persuaded the Texas Senate to pass legislation that allows individuals with a valid fishing license to practice noodling.

    “While this is not a practice I would necessarily recommend, those with valid fishing license should not be prevented from enjoying this activity.” said Senator Nichols He added a footnote: “To limit individual pursuit of happiness in such a way would be a little fishy.” The senator is a good lawmaker, but a lousy punster.

    In a second East Texas newspaper, I read another fishy story. The writer, a county extension agent, said fish “can see color under the water and, frankly, they see better under the water than we can.”

    Marion County Extension Agent Brock Fry said, ”When fishing a jig in muddy water, you probably want to use a larger profile bait that makes noise or even smells”

    “For the most part, you will find that the more active fish are associated with clearer water, yet not fish bowl clear,” said Fry.

    Now that you know what noodling is and that fish can see underwater, perhaps it’s time to stop reading and go to the lake.

    July 5, 2011 Column
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    Bob Bowman's East Texas >
    A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers
    Related Topics: Fish & Fishing Stories | Texas Animals | Columns
    (Bob Bowman of Lufkin. is the author of almost 50 books about East Texas history and folklore. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)

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    The Forgotten Towns of East Texas, Vol. I
    By Bob and Doris Bowman
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