Four nabbed for noodling

Four southeast Iowa men have been charged in Van Buren County with unlawfully taking flathead catfish by hand-fishing, otherwise known as â??noodling.â??

Conservation Officers with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources observed the men catch several fish from artificial structure in the Des Moines River near Selma. As the flathead catfish were laying and guarding their eggs, they were observed taken by hand and a gaff hook.

Charged in the case are:

Anthony Telfer, 28, Eldon: Three counts of unlawful taking of flathead catfish by handfishing

John Edward Saner, 49 of Batavia: Three counts of unlawful taking of flathead catfish by handfishing

Chris Lee Hafele, 38, Ottumwa: Three counts of unlawful taking of flathead catfish by handfishing; One count of no fishing license

Brant Donald Saner, 28, Agency: One count of unlawful taking of flathead catfish by handfishing.

Seized during the arrest were three flathead catfish ranging from 12 to 27 pounds, and a 14-foot jon boat, motor, and trailer. In addition, approximately 174 pounds of catfish fillets were seized from the Jason Telfer residence

The defendants are scheduled to appear in court in Van Buren County on July 12.

Noodling or handfishing for game fish is legal in some states, but unlawful in Iowa. Iowa Conservation Officer Bob Stuchel said â??This is a serious problem in our rivers and streams during the months of June and July when we have low water levels making these large fish vulnerable. Many fish are taken by hand from natural spawning structure on the stream and river beds, but in this case the individuals observed were removing the large flathead catfish from old bathtubs specifically modified and placed on the river bed below the water surface to attract and hold the fish.â??

Anyone with any information about illegal fishing is encouraged to contact their local conservation officer, or call the Turn In Poachers (TIP) hotline at 800-532-2020.