Noodling tournaments are now common in Oklahoma, but the one that started the craze, the Okie Noodling Tournament, will be Saturday in Pauls Valley.
Noodlers from across the state will convene at Wacker Park in Pauls Valley by 6 p.m. to weigh in their flathead catfish in the 14th annual Okie Noodling Tournament.
This year, noodlers are allowed to bring only one fish to the weigh in. There will be no competition for largest three-fish stringer as in past years.
“Part of (the reason) is conservation,” said Bradley Beesley, founder of the Okie Noodling Tournament and filmmaker of the legendary “Okie Noodling” documentary that brought worldwide attention to Oklahoma handfishing. “It seems like there is one or two (noodling tournaments) every weekend in June.”
Also part of the reason is to make it less stressful for the tournament staff. Most of the competitors were checking in their fish shortly before the deadline, Beesley said.
“We have a finite number of fishery biologists that can safely handle and weigh these fish in,” he said. “With everyone weighing in three (flatheads), it taxes out our guys and resources.”
Allowing only one fish also will make it easier to get the flatheads in the holding tanks more quickly, he said.
Thousands of people show up at Wacker Park to gawk at the monster flatheads and attend the party.
The Okie Noodling Tournament still attracts worldwide media attention. Every year, Beesley gets requests from media outlets across the globe to follow and film an Oklahoma noodler on an adventure.
“I always get lots of media requests,” Beesley said. “I have received a lot of emails like I do every year from different folks and different countries.”
14th annual Okie Noodling Tournament
Where: Wacker Park in Pauls Valley
When: Saturday. Weigh-ins begin at 6 p.m.