John's Journal...

Hand-Grabbing or Noodling for Catfish in Mississippi

A First-Time Hand-Grabber Better Wear a Glove

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: When you’re hand-grabbing catfish (noodling), most of the action takes place underwater, but when the catfish and the fishermen come up, the action’s Click to enlargealmost like grabbing a tiger by the tail. When you’re underwater, and you grab a big flathead catfish weighing 20 pounds or more in the mouth and pull it out of the box you’ve sunk to create a hole where it can spawn, you’re in for a dramatic catfish fight. I learned about hand-grabbing for cats from five-time world-champion turkey caller and founder of Preston Pittman Game Calls Preston Pittman of Pickens, Mississippi. “My friends Michael Willoughby and Steve Bowden are the real hand-grabbers,” Pittman says. “They’ve been doing it for years, and they’re the best I’ve ever met.” Willoughby and Bowden build boxes and sink them on Ross Barnett Reservoir, near Jackson, Mississippi, before hand-grabbing season arrives, which generally runs from May until about mid-July in Mississippi. Then, when hand-grabbing season starts, they check their boxes to see if the boxes have any catfish in them. Willoughby and Bowden always leave some boxes undisturbed to give the catfish a spawning place to reproduce more catfish. “A hand-grabbing trip is fun for the entire family,” Pittman explains.

Chassidy Galione of Mississippi recently started hand-grabbing cats. “We prefer to take our beginners to shallow boxes, so they don’t have to stay underwater for a long period,” says Steve Bowden. “We sink our boxes from 3- to 6-feet deep. This way, beginners don’t have to go underwater and hold their breath for very long, and they quickly and easily can learn how and where to catch cats. Too, if they have any problems, we can help Click to enlargethem. If they run out of air, they simply can put their feet down and stand-up. Shallow-water boxes often pay-off in just the same number and size of catfish as our deep-water boxes. This is a fun way of catfishing, and it’s legal in the Click to enlargeState of Mississippi and a few other states. We always suggest that a first-time hand-grabber wear a glove, because the flathead catfish has sandpaper-like teeth. If you grab the cat without a glove, and it starts twisting and turning, many times it can peel that top layer of skin off the back of your hand. So, we want to make sure the people who go hand-grabbing with us have a good time, catch a cat and don’t have any bruises or scrapes from the catfish’s mouth.”

Be sure to visit our YouTube Channel at to learn more about hand-grabbing for cats and to see more hand-grabbers catching cats. Maybe next year, you can go hand-grabbing, too.

Today's Video Clip
First Time Hand Grabbers Better Wear a Glove

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Tomorrow: One Big Party

Check back each day this week for more about "Hand-Grabbing or Noodling for Catfish in Mississippi"

Day 1: Hand-Grabbing for Catfish – Fun for the Entire Family
Day 2: Catfish-Grabbing with Two Hands
Day 3: A First-Time Hand-Grabber Better Wear a Glove
Day 4: One Big Party
Day 5: Why Use a Box for Hand-Grabbing Catfish


Entry 568, Day 3