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October 7, 4:00 PM ET
Chat with Wright Thompson

Roger Tiger (Atlanta)

Hey Wright, what do you think of the Cardinals chances to win the world series? I really really hope they do!!

Wright
  (3:48 PM)

I'd be very amenable to the Cards winning, um yeah.

Ryan (philly)

Did you witness someone actually noodling? How intense is it?

Wright
  (3:49 PM)

Ryan,It's insane. I planned on trying it right up until the moment I felt the fish's teeth. Then I decided that I was gonna kill off my inner George Plimpton.

Chris (Oklahoma)

I have been noodling for years and its an absolute blast, I have done speeches and wrote papers over noodling in my college speech and comp classes to try and get noodling out there so others understand it.

Wright
  (3:50 PM)

Chris,A reader from Boston asked what kind of injuries noodlers get. Care you answer?

Taterhead (Oxford)

Can you give me the real scoop on your cuz Puffer? How did he convince L to marry him and bear children that great? Oh and fishing related, what's the biggest bass you've caught in Benton?

Wright
  (3:51 PM)

It's Bentonia, though I've never caught a fish on the farm. Puffer tricked Leigh. That's the only possible explanation.Thanks for the note.(Sorry for taking the personal question. Waiting on more fishing ones.)

tom (denver)

Did you get any indication if the people who Noodle are nuts? You have to be to stick your arm in a dark hole to catch a fish, right?

Wright
  (3:52 PM)

It's funny. When you grow up doing something your entire life, it doesn't seem nuts. It seems normal. It's like the frog boiling in a pot of water analogy.

timothy (Pittsburgh)

What kind of size of fish do these guys get?

Wright
  (3:52 PM)

up to 100 pounds.And the legend is that the fish at the bottom of dams in reservoirs are the size of Volkswagons. I've had an Army Corps of Engineers diver tell me that.

Sully (LA)

I heard the sport is still illegal in many places. Why is that?

Wright
  (3:54 PM)

Scientists say that studies prove the taking of giant catfish off the nest kills not only that fish, but the thousands of eggs the fish was guarding. And while rod and reel anglers catch a fish, they have no way of getting a hook into a catfish nest.

Evan (Texas)

So, did you decide not to keep going after you already got in the water and felt the fish teeth yourself, or did you see someone else experience it and then stop?

Wright
  (3:56 PM)

I was standing next to a boat ramp in Stillwater Oklahoma and I felt the teeth and knew I wouldn't try. The producer, Martin, is a bigger chicken. He wouldn't even consider doing it. Bwaak, bwaak! Bwaak, bwaak!

Will (Chicago)

Are catfish that dangerous?

Wright
  (3:56 PM)

The water is. You can get hung up down there, wedged in a hole.

Dick (Queens)

Ive Done it

Wright
  (3:56 PM)

Where?

Tal (Boston)

So, the people just stick their arms in, feel around for a catfish and yank it out with their bare hands? How in the heck are they physically able to do that?

Wright
  (3:58 PM)

Not for the faint of heart or biceps. They use both hands, putting their thumbs in the corner of the fish's mouth and their fingers through the gills. For really big fish, they wrap their legs around the tail to keep it from rolling.Like I said.Nuts.

Steve (Washington)

Wright, how much do the fish fight back?

Wright
  (3:58 PM)

Like a person would fight back if a giant stuck their hand in their child's room. They got berserk.

Janelle (Braymer, MO)

You talked about the daughter in OK but not Gary Webb's daughter. She has caught one that was over 70 pounds. Overall it was a good segment. It would be great if they would legalize the sport.

Wright
  (3:59 PM)

I didn't know that.That's for telling everyone.

kyle (oklahoma)

How many states is it legal in?

Wright
  (4:01 PM)

I think 19. I don't have the script in front of me.

Will (New Orleans)

What do they do with the fish after they've caught it.

Wright
  (4:02 PM)

Skin.Filet.Batter.Fry.Dip in tartar sauce of ketchup.Eat.

Greg (Atlanta)

ARe their teeth that big?

Wright
  (4:03 PM)

Not big. Actually, more like sharp sandpaper. But combined with the torque...

Rob (Raleigh, NC)

What are the arguments about making it legal?

Wright
  (4:03 PM)

Rob,Noodlers say they've done it for generations and that the studies are just science in reverse so the state wildlife authorities can save all the catfish for people who pay for licenses and, also, expensive equipment.

Wes (NYC)

From most of the highlights I've seen of noodling, the fish are always huge. Are they always that big when they're catching them?

Wright
  (4:04 PM)

They're not always that big. Mostly, they are about the length of a forearm and hand.

Mike (Mpls)

I have heard of people mistaking a catfish hole for a beaver hole while noodling and getting their arm munched right off. No this is not a joke.

Wright
  (4:05 PM)

It is for real. You're right.The trick, the noodlers tell me, is to see if the dirt is packed down. If it is, catfish live there. If not, it could be a beaver. That's why they don't recommend gloves.

taterhead (again) (oxford)

thx for taking the "personal". love puffer. i was always scared of the barbs on the back. these guys aren't. don't they stab?

Wright
  (4:05 PM)

There are a lot bigger problems than the barbs, sadly enough.

Wright
  (4:06 PM)

No, David in Athens, we're not.

Mike (Mpls)

Did you wear the standard cut off jean shorts or stray from the typical noodling uniform?

Wright
  (4:08 PM)

I was, sadly, out of uniform.Please mail jean shorts to the producer:Martin KESPNBristol, CT

Bill (Dallas)

What kind of footwear do these guys have? They must need something that gives them good footing in that mush.

Wright
  (4:09 PM)

A lot of guys go barefoot.They want to know what they're stepping on.

Justin (Ohio)

You know what else is fun. ALLIGATOR WRESTLING! NUTSO!

mary (ms)

How often do the noodlers get their hands bloodied--every time, rarely, or frequently

Wright
  (4:11 PM)

Almost every time, seems like.

Mike (Mpls)

Did it ever dawn on you to ask who the genius was who originally came up with the idea to stick their bare hand into a hole to see if a giant fish was in there?

Wright
  (4:12 PM)

The Greek writer Oppian wrote:The fish in careless ease supinely laid,The grappling fingers of the swain invade.Up from the deep he springs and bids the preyRecant his error in aerial day.

Bob (La)

Are there national tournaments or anything or is this more of a recreational thing?

Wright
  (4:13 PM)

There's an Okie Noodling Tournament in Paul's Valley, Oklahoma. This past year was the 10th annual.

Will (London)

Is it just catfish they noodle for or are there other fish?

Wright
  (4:14 PM)

Catfish.

Trey (KY)

Aren't fish usually fairly dynamic creatures? How are these guys able to get to a fish before it darts away?

Wright
  (4:15 PM)

They trap it in a hole and have friends block potential exists with their hands, legs or bodies. It's a team effort.

Thomas (Maine)

Wright, this isn't about noodling, but I wanted to say I still enjoy your piece on the Masters and your dad that you wrote a while back. Still one of my favorites. That makes me want to ask...out of all of your stories at ESPN, which as been the one you have gotten the most response from?

Wright
  (4:17 PM)

Thomas,Thank you so much. That response was huge, and to hear people tell about what their own father's meant was inspiring. Different stories get different sort of reactions. The Ole Miss 1962 story started an interesting dialogue, as did the Tony Harris piece, which had a comments thread featuring Harris' friends and family members interacting with readers. My favorite is the one about my daddy. He died five years ago on September 29.

Mike (Mpls)

Please tell me there is going to be an E60 episode dedicated to noodling.

Wright
  (4:17 PM)

Aired last night.

Mike (Mpls)

Opposite the best baseball game of the season. Nice timing. Any re-airings?

Wright
  (4:19 PM)

It's online. search e60.

frank (LA)

Will you be doing any more work on E:60?

Wright
  (4:20 PM)

yes. can't wait to get started on the next thing.

greg (boston)

what other stories do you have in the works?

Wright
  (4:21 PM)

Got a Muhammad Ali piece, and a story about Billy Cannon. There's a Yankee Stadium story running Friday that is interesting.

Mike (Mpls)

I'm watching the piece right now...this is fantastic! Did that guy emerge from thee water still smoking a cigarette?

Wright
  (4:24 PM)

yup.well, a cigar.cant make this stuff up.

Wright
  (4:24 PM)

let me know if you have any questions about the piece. how's this for interactive?

Mike (Mpls)

Wait so his daughter even got in there and caught one and you wouldn't try it?

Wright
  (4:28 PM)

Yup.(Go ahead. Say it.)

Mike (Mpls)

By "it" I assume you mean sane.

Wright
  (4:30 PM)

yes.

Wright
  (4:33 PM)

Mike,if you have any questions after this is gone: wrightespn@gmail.com...

Justin (Chicago)

Which did you drink while doing it: Keystone Light, Busch Light, or Milwaukee's Best?

Wright
  (4:34 PM)

The Lee Academy Special: Falstaff.

Mike (Mpls)

That was awesome. Thanks for taking the time to answer questions.

Wright
  (4:34 PM)

No worries.Always enjoy the conversation.

Justin (Chicago)

You're going from noodling to ali? Seems like the standard writing progression.

Wright
  (4:44 PM)

That's it guys. Thanks for chatting.