Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

June 18, 2013

Noodling event is truly unique

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat

bporterfield@pvdemocrat.com — It’s unique to say the least as Pauls Valley’s big noodling festival each year keeps on drawing more and more attention from around the globe.

Just days ago it was a British accent on the other end of a phone call asking for more information about this Saturday’s 14th annual Okie Noodling Tournament again centering around the local Wacker Park.

When asked why the interest, the foreign journalist simply said, “We don’t have anything like that,” in a reference to his home near London, England.

This is just one example of the interest again coming from all over for both the festival and noodling itself.

One local official believes the totally unique nature of noodling is what brings more and more inquiries each year to find out more about the activity of catching large catfish by hand.

Add to that each festival held here is the world’s largest catfish noodling contest.

“Not only do handfishers descend on the area, but spectators, friends, relatives and fans of both the movie and the sport come to Pauls Valley from all over the country for this unique event,” said Della Wilson, president of the PV Chamber of Commerce.

Wilson is referring to the 2001 documentary film “Okie Noodling,” directed by Bradley Beesley.

The film focuses on a unique breed of fishermen who catch large catfish with their bare hands in the rivers and lakes of Oklahoma.

It includes interviews with handfishing veterans and footage of real noodlers in action.

After the release of the film the local noodling event really began to take off.

According to Wilson, last year’s noodling tournament had more than 200 participants and 10,000 plus spectators, along with some of the biggest flathead catfish in the country.

That compares to only 11 noodlers when Pauls Valley hosted its first organized tournament here.

“Given the excitement the festival always generates in the local and national press, we predict the 14th annual event will see even greater attendance numbers,” she said.

It all officially begins at noon Saturday, June 22.

Noodlers will fish statewide for one day before gathering in Wacker Park for the always popular weigh-in, which should get started around 6 p.m..

Earlier in the day there will be mid-afternoon festival events for kids, including a noodling clinic at 2 p.m. followed by a catfish eating contest at 3 p.m.

The crowning of Miss Okie Noodling is scheduled for 7 p.m. that night.

Awards will also go out for the biggest haul of catfish and biggest head.

Live music and various vendors will also be featured at the park throughout the day.