Oklahoma Family Completes Epic Quest to Noodle Catfish in Every Legal State

An Oklahoma man and his two sons managed to successfully noodle a catfish in all 17 states where the bare-handed fishing method is legal, the angler wrote in a recent Facebook post. Nathan Wayne Williams, who guides noodling adventures in the Sooner State and participates in catfish noodling tournaments throughout the country, announced the accomplishment on August 13 after he and his sons—River and Phierce Williams—caught their final catfish of the trip in West Virginia.

Their journey began in Texas and took the Williams crew more than four months to complete. They documented the entire trip on Williams’ Facebook page and his Youtube account, Adrenaline Rush Adventures. “We were exhausted and considered giving up a few times in the last few days,” wrote Williams. “We completed states in small groups intermittently. On the last leg we did 8 states in 14 days.”

Williams said he utilized a network of local noodlers to help him and his boys locate catfish in unfamiliar parts of the country. “We made lots of memories and lots of new friends,” reads the August 13 post. “My truck had 94,000 miles on it in the beginning of May, nearly 30,000 miles later she is sitting at 123,000. When we started our journey I thought it would be awesome to complete in 1 summer(noodling season), but realistically I thought it would take at least 2 summers!”

In Maryland, one of the few northern states that allows noodling, Williams said he couldn’t find any locals who’d ever caught a catfish with their hands. But after eight hours of searching, the crew finally located a hole that was loaded with flatheads. “We found at least 10 fish in 1 rock hole,” he wrote. “Most fish we have ever found in 1 hole!! Wow!! Thank you Maryland!!”

After coming up empty handed in Kentucky on August 8, Williams put up a Facebook post asking local “handfisherman” for help. Two days later, he finally managed to find one flathead right at dusk. “A lot of the serious handfisherman and guides in Kentucky told me I was wasting my time…that they were done spawning,” he said. “Just goes to show if you keep searching hard enough sometimes you find what you’re looking for.”

From May 21 to August 13, Williams documented himself and his sons noodling catfish in Louisiana, Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and several other states. Along the way, they participated in at least two catfishing tournaments and even took home prizes in the Okie Noodling Challenge on June 20.

Read Next: The Family Guide to Noodling

According to a video that Williams posted to Youtube three days ago, the biggest fish of their months-long quest came out of Oklahoma waters. It was noodled by 14-year-old River and topped scales at just over 65 pounds, taking the top prize for heaviest fish caught during the 2023 Okie Noodling Challenge.