Mark Rowan of Broken Bow took the top prize of $1,000 at this year’s annual Okie Noodling Tournament in Pauls Valleys with a 60-pound flathead.
Rowan’s team also had the top three-fish stringer in the natural or hand fishing division with a total of 150.56 pounds, anchored by the 60-pound brute. That earned another $400 for Rowan and his cousins who comprised the noodling team.
Second place and $300 went to Nathan Williams of Roff with 142.16 pounds. Placing third and winning $200 was Jacob McGregor of Blair.
The largest stringer in the scuba division was weighed in by Michael Smith of Eufaula, 149.86 pounds, which earned him $400.
Tom Lane of Eucha and Patrick Bennett of Ada finished second and third in the scuba division by weighing in 146.82 pounds and 142.16 pounds, respectively.
The top female noodler was Brandy Sparks of Walters who grabbed a 44-pound flathead. The top youth noodler was Dakota Garrett, 15, who weighed in a stringer of 111 pounds with the big fish a 41.9-pounder.
This was the 12th year for the Okie Noodling Tournament in Pauls Valley. There are now several noodling tournaments around the state, but the Okie Noodling Tournament was the first.
Noodlers can catch flatheads by hand in June and July as the males stay on the holes to protect the eggs spawned by female flatheads.
Noodling is illegal in most states, although Texas just legalized it this year. Many states fear noodling is too dangerous but some ban it because of the wildlife conservation issue – the belief that too many catfish are lost as a result of flatheads being pulled off the spawning nests.
But Oklahoma biologists say there are so few noodlers that noodling doesn’t negatively impact the flathead catfish population as a whole. More catfish are caught on jug lines or trot lines in Oklahoma than by noodlers.