Two self-professed Oklahoma hillbillies (Skipper, left, and Scooter Bivens, right) lead a group of thrill-seekers to a lake. In neck-deep water, they aim to flush out a daddy catfish guarding the eggs in its nest. The humans struggle to grab the thrashing papa with bare hands. Look out — those catfish can bite! That’s what happens each Sunday on “Hillbilly Handfishin’” (Animal Planet, 10 p.m.).
Animal Planet boasts that hand-fishing will “positively affect” participants. What about the catfish? Reaching in a nest can damage eggs; even if the adult fish is released, it can be hurt as well. “You’re sticking your hand in its mouth,” points out Joe Jerek of the Missouri Department of Conservation. And while the show mainly depicts “catch and release,” real-life hand-fishers often take the catfish home for dinner. Without Dad, says Jerek, eggs will typically form a fungus and die.
To protect catfish, most states ban hand-fishing — but there are exceptions. This year, Texas became the 12th state to OK the practice. Another new Texas law legalizes hunting wild hogs from aircraft. So maybe the next show to drive animal lovers crazy will be “Helicopter Hog Huntin.’”