Great State: Catching River Monsters by Hand

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LAKE SKIATOOK, OKLAHOMA -- If he's not working construction, you can find Kaleb Summers swimming through his Oklahoma summer. But it's not the water he enjoys. It's the fishing. "There's a giant fish on every river system," he insists. "It just takes finding them."

The 'noodling' season for Oklahoma is nearly complete by late July. The big catfish have moved to deeper waters. But Kaleb can't resist a little exploratory swim at Lake Skiatook. Poke stick in hand, he works and cracks in big rocks where catfish might be guarding a clutch of eggs. "As soon as we head out on the water and see some big rock structures we'll pull into them," he says. "The best resource I have is Google Earth."

Which brings us to June of 2012. Kaleb and friends used an air boat for the first time in search of spots no one had ever been to before. They found one at an undisclosed location and, sure enough, the hole concealed a monster. "There's a million rumors floating around and I started half of them," Summers smiles.

Of the big fish, Summers recalls, "She walloped that stick. Pulled it out of my hand and I knew there was a pretty good fish in there." It took several big gulps of air, both hands, and his friends holding onto his legs but he managed to land a catfish in excess of 70 pounds. "After the initial shock factor, it looked like I had a shark on the end of my arms," he says.

Kaleb took his catch tot he official weigh in at the 2012 Okie Noodling Tournament and walked away with checks totalling $2,500 for the biggest fish. "It was a team effort," says Kaleb giving his partners credit for finding the hole. "Right on down to keeping the fish alive."

In June and early July Summers and friends run a noodling guide service in Northeastern Oklahoma. The water here is a little clearer. The shoreline rocks hide bigger fish than most people realize. The big fish might be off the nests by now but this Summers has enough memories of the 2012 noodling season to last a lifetime.

After the noodling tournament an OSU professor helped Summers release the winning fish back into an Oklahoma river system.

Kaleb and friends run a guide service called Summers Time Outdoor Adventures, which includes noodling. Their website is here

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