Noodling in Missouri

Mary Grigsby writes book on rural subculture

Mary Grigsby, associate professor and department chair of Rural Sociology, has written a new book, “Noodlers in Missouri: Fishing for Identity in a Rural Subculture.”

The book captures the folk tradition of hand-fishing for catfish, also known as noodling, in Missouri and examines its appeal to the community. Hand-fishing for spawning catfish has been passed down for generations in rural Missouri, despite its illegality.

Grigsby explores the importance of the natural environment, individual worth and community identity to the mostly rural, working-class noodlers. She interviewed 30 Missouri noodlers, including a woman, to give perspective.

The book’s focuses on culture and identity is part of the research she does at CAFNR. Grigsby’s research includes the sociology of consumption, culture and organizations/rural social organizations; science, technology and society studies; and social inequality (class, gender, race and ethnicity). The book has earned praise from colleagues.

“Understanding the subculture of noodling is a way of better understanding gender and social class in the United States, not just rural Missouri,” said Cynthia Struthers, associate professor of Sociology at Western Illinois University and research associate at the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs. “I never would have thought catfishing could be this interesting.”

Mary Grigsby.
“’Noodlers in Missouri’ is yet another definite contribution to the literature on gender as it intersects with class and region,” author Suazanne Tallichet said. “Grigsby’s depth of understanding and keen analysis are fueled by her obvious passion for her work and commendably sensitive representation of the lives of these rough and ready hand-fisherman and fisher-women of the rural South.”

Grigsby is also the author of “Buying Time and Getting By: The Voluntary Simplicity Movement” (2004) and “College Life Through the Eyes of Students” (2009).

The book is published by Truman State University Press and is available from the publisher in paperback for $30, as an eBook for $23.99 or on