Noodlers want hand bait to be legal
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Noodlers want hand bait to be legal

Date: March 9, 2009
By: Nathan Higgins
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SJR 8

Intro: It's a strange word for a strange practice but members of Noodler's Anonymous say they want to see their sport legalized.

Nathan Higgins has more from the State Capitol.

RunTime:2:40
OutCue: SOC

Some say they are crazy, but noodlers say they're courageous.

In noodling, fishermen use their hand as bait.

Noodlers like Northeast Missourian Claudia Wilkinson's son brave it all when they reach into unknown waters.

 

Actuality:  WILK3.WAV
Run Time: 00:01
Description: "You're not getting ready to see what you're taking out of a hole."

And noodlers don't know where they're reaching.

Noodlers plunge their hands into underground lairs and holes in logs reaching for the largest catfish they can find.

Once the fish bites, the noodler wrestles with the fish attempting to bring it to the surface.

Avid noodler Howard Ramsey says he's never lost any fingers but has received many cuts from bites.

Right now, noodling is banned by the Missouri Department of Conservation and noodlers have tried to legalize the sport for the past ten years.

The bill would create a season from June to July and noodlers could only catch five fish per season.

The Department of Conservation opposes the measure saying noodlers are a biological harm to Missouri's catfish.

Actuality:  TURNER2.WAV
Run Time: 00:09
Description: "Well, hand fishing targets the very largest reproductive fish in the population. If we legalized it, we would jeopardize the entire catfish population."

That was Department of Conservation spokesperson Bill Turner who also said fewer adult fish leads to fungi buildup, which kills the catfish eggs.

Wilkinson's son disagrees.

Actuality:  WILK4.WAV
Run Time: 00:04
Description: "They say we target big fish. How are we targeting big fish when you can't even see what's in the hole?"

Supporters from Noodler's Anonymous gathered at the State Capitol late last month to speak to the Senate Agriculture Committee. 

Supporters ranged from age seven to sixty-three-year-old Ramsey who has noodled for nearly fifty years.

Ramsey brought his kids and grandchildren more than 200 miles so they could show their support.

Ramsey's grandchildren said noodling is a family tradition..

They said they look forward to passing the tradition on to their own children.

Ramsey also testified saying the Missouri Department of Conservation discriminates against noodlers.

According to Ramsey, there are more than 650,000 fishermen in Missouri and each year they are allowed to catch twenty fish.

Ramsey asked the committee why noodlers can't be given a two month season.

Ramsey also questioned the argument by the Department of Conservation.

 

Actuality:  RAMSEY.WAV
Run Time: 00:11
Description: "Catching catfish when engaged in reproduction is no different. Biologically, how fish are killed in the fishery is irrelevant. That is proof of discrimination."

This year marks Ramsey's tenth year supporting the bill on behalf of Noodler's Anonymous.

The Senate and House have approved the bill in the past, but never in the same year.

Ramsey says he's optimistic this year and says his family will continue to stick by their motto:  "If you ain't bleeding, you ain't hand fishing."

In Jefferson City, I'm Nathan Higgins.


Intro: The practice of "noodling" captured the attention of legislators today. 

Nathan Higgins has more from Jefferson City.

RunTime:0:41
OutCue: SOC

For ten years similar measures haven't made any splash in the legislature, but supporters tried again Wednesday to legalize "noodling."

Opponents say noodling, catching fish by hand, is dangerous for the catfish population because hand fishing targets the largest adult reproductive catfish.

Noodler's Anonymous spokesman Howard Ramsey disagrees.

Actuality:  RAMSEY.WAV
Run Time: 00:11
Description: "Catching catfish when engaged in reproduction is no different. Biologically how fish are killed in the fishery is irrelevant. That is proof of discrimination."

Ramsey said Missouri catfish belong to the people and Missourians should have the right to fish as they please..

Reporting from the State Capitol, I'm Nathan Higgins.


Intro: Use the hand not the rod was the proposal by supporters of noodling to Missouri senators today.

Nathan Higgins has more from Jefferson City.

RunTime:0:34
OutCue: SOC

A hearing which garnered much attention would allow grabbing catfish with your hand to be legal.

Conservation Department spokesman Bill Turner opposes the measure and says a noodling season would drastically alter the Missouri catfish industry.

 

Actuality:  TURNER2.WAV
Run Time: 00:09
Description: "Hand fishing targets the very largest reproductive fish in the population. If we legalized it, it would jeopardize the catfish population."


The bill would create a noodling season from June til July and would restrict hand-fishermen to grab only five fish per season.

Reporting from the State Capitol, I'm Nathan Higgins.


Intro: A strange word for a strange practice as legislators today listened to a measure advocating a "noodling season."

Nathan Higgins has more from Jefferson City.

RunTime:0:44
OutCue: SOC

Noodling season supporters say they hope hand-fishing becomes legal.

The bill would allow noodlers to catch five fish per season from June til July.

Opponents say noodlers just chase the largest fish and harm the population.

Claudia Wilkinson says that's not true and so does her son.

Actuality:  WILK2.WAV
Run Time: 00:12
Description: "They say we target big fish. How are we targeting big fish when you can't even see what's in the hole? It's like, it makes perfectly good sense. His little speech about taking a bull:  you can see what you're getting ready to slaughter. You're not getting ready to see what you're taking out of a hole."
 
During the Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, Republican Senator Chuck Purgason said the issue should be settled between Noodlers Anonymous and the Missouri Department of Conservation, not by uneducated legislators.

Reporting from the State Capitol, I'm Nathan Higgins.