For Okie Noodlers it’s a Father’s Day weekend on the river

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SHAWNEE, OKLAHOMA -- This family parks along the banks of the North Canadian River east of Shawnee.

Nate Williams, sons Jace and River will spend most of the weekend fishing, not with hooks or poles, but with their bare hands.

"I grew up noodling the North Canadian," says Nate. "It's my go to river. That's my favorite spot to fish."

Nate and a buddy learned to Noodle on their own, one daring the other to enter the fish's lair.

Williams recalls, "I was like I dare you to try and he was like I dare you to try."

"Somehow I caught that very first one and ever since I've been hooked."

From Oklahoma City downstream all the way to Lake Eufaula, Williams scours the steep clay banks reaching into pipes and under rocks.

"River caught a 54 pounder, what, when he was 5?" says Nate before his son corrects him by holding up 4 fingers.

They catch Blue Catfish some of the time but the big fish here are the Flatheads who will bite this time of year to guard a clutch of eggs.

Describing how he caught a fish on camera, Nate says, "I reached my arms out in the water and caught him kind of like a baby."

Nate carries the scrapes and scars of two decades noodling.

The biggest fish he ever caught by hand weighed in excess of 80 pounds.

As a fishing guide he might keep the 25 pounders he pulls from a drainage pipe about six feet down.

But this weekend marks the annual Okie Noodling Tournament in Pauls Valley.

Williams says, "That's always the biggest one of the year."

Nathan won it a few years back.

He places in the top five just about every year.

So he returns these fish back to their holes in the river bottom, too small to be tournament winners.

This Oklahoma dad has bigger cats to fry.

How does that old saying go?

Give a man a catfish and he'll eat for a day.

Teach a man to noodle and you might hook him for life.

For more information on the 18th annual Okie Noodling Tournament go to

To learn more about Nate Williams, his guide service, and to see some amazing fish go to