If you're in a survival situation and fishing gear or a survival fishing kit is not an option, you don't have to give up hope. Hand fishing, noodling, hogging whatever you want to call it, can be a successful and achievable way to catch your next meal, just be ready for a more intimate experience with your seafood.
There are thousands of lakes and rivers in the United States that produce catfish, some serve up monster channel cats, others have gigantic blue cats which are the largest of the North American clan, and then others have flatheads that are known as beastly behemoths. Many places in the United States foster a good environment for all three species.
Before we go into some tips for catching these elusive catfish by hand, I will mention, noodling is considered unlawful in some places across the lower 48, but has been legalized in many places as well. Fishing whether it be by hook and sinker, or by hand is often best during spawning season. For crappie its late spring when the fish come up in the shallow flats to spawn, for bass tournaments in April, May and June it's when they are on their beds spawning, for bluegill/perch the best fishing is in when they are in shallow clear water on their beds, once again, spawning. The same goes for catfish. The highest rate of catching a catfish by hand is when the male is laying in whatever nook the female has laid her eggs to protect them.
Now that we're all on the same page, here are some tips to get your hands on your first noodled catfish!
#1 Locate a water source inhabited by catfish
#2 Search the river or lake for either structures or holes that provide a nook where a female could lay her eggs inside, and then the male could lay in wait to protect them until they hatch
#3 Once you locate a hole, hollowed bank or rock cavity, be aware that several other inhabitants such as beaver, snakes and turtles like these kind of habitats, BUT they will not be in holes without air. If you're worried about other critters, run a stick in the hole first.
#4 Try to establish if there are multiple exits
#5 Get ready to get bit! And when you do, noodlers describe it as a clap of thunder, hold on and get ready to fight the storm like your life depends on it, because it very well might!
Keep in mind, having your arm swallowed by a giant fish doesn't tickle. But when it comes to survival you gotta do what you gotta do.