OCEAN CITY – Hillbilly Hand Fishin’ premiered last week on the Animal Planet channel, featuring Ocean City locals.
The show is produced by Half Yard Productions, which is actually the name of a beer glass. According to the production company, the principals Abby Greensfelder and Sean Gallagher used to frequently visit the same bar in their college days and order the same beer, a half yard.
Half Yard Productions is an award winning entertainment development and production company. The company is currently producing shows for networks Bravo, TLC, Discovery Channel, History Channel, National Geographic Channel, Versus, as well as the Animal Planet. Some popular TV shows the company produces are Say Yes to the Dress, American Loggers, Real Housewives of D.C, Chopper Wars and now Hillbilly Hand Fishin’.
Ocean City local Kevin Meehan edited Hillbilly Hand Fishin’ and also had a little to do with the influence in casting the show.
When Meehan, son of Ocean City’s mayor, heard about the show and the kind of people the casting department were looking for, he immediately thought of his two buddies, Josh Hardt and Mike Stavrinos. “Two likable, adventurous “dudes” who would be good on TV and who would love to go noodling,” he said.
Josh Hardt, born and raised in Ocean City, is a long-time friend of Kevin’s.
“I’ve been friends with Kevin since middle school, so we go way back,” he said.
Upon hearing about the show, Hardt was naturally interested in an adventure.
“I was super stoked when Kevin called me and asked if I wanted to be on the show,” he said. “I love anything new and exciting, and Noodling sounded ridiculous. I had to say yes.”
Josh’s partner on the show is Mike Stavrinos.
“I didn’t grow up in Ocean City but I went there every summer since I was a child,” said Stavrinos.
Meehan and Hardt met Stavrinos at Towson University, which is where they all attended school. Stavrinos founded the Towson University Surf Club, so naturally it was a common ground for them to all meet.
“I’ve always loved the ocean…I never really picked up surfing until I went to college,” Hardt explained. “I was lucky enough to do a study abroad program in Australia for six months and I think that’s where my love for surfing really started. Something about the ocean just makes me feel at home.”
When Stavrinos got the news about being on the show, he felt excited for another escapade as well.
“I was really stoked for another adventure,” Stavrinos said. “A little apprehensive because I didn’t know what to expect. They didn’t tell us anything until the day before we left. It was all a secret.”
Hillbilly Hand Fishin’ is a show that explores the extreme sport of Noodling. By definition, Noodling is the art of using your bare hands as hooks and feet as bait to catch giant catfish. According to Half Yard Productions, the show follows a family whose business it is to teach city folks about the centuries-old art of hand fishing. Booking clients, guiding beginners as they reach into underwater holes and crazy family dynamics prove to be uniquely turbulent and an unforgettable adventure for viewers.
“It was crazy and cold,” said Stavrinos. “We went early in the season and the water was freezing. It was so crazy going underwater and having huge catfish try and bite you. I can’t really describe it. Your putting yourself in harms way knowing your going to get hurt.”
Hardt added, “The Noodling itself was a huge adrenaline rush.”
Hardt added, “You’re underwater holding your breath, jabbing around in the dark, waiting for a huge fish to come out and chomp on your foot, pretty insane. We ended up catching a 70-pound behemoth. It was great. Definitely one of the cooler things I’ve done in my life.”
Hardt and Stavrinos finished in first place on the show, catching the biggest fish. They received a Noodling trophy and joined in on a traditional catfish broil with the rest of the crew.
The men felt privileged in representing Ocean City on a national TV show.
“I’m stoked to have the real O.C hit the television screen. I love Ocean City and what it’s all about,” Stavrinos said. Hardt said he was pleased with the finished product and felt privileged to be associated with the production.
“I think we represented Ocean City very well,” Josh said. “I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to go down for the show and looking back I’m glad that we did it. We had a blast. I can only hope that we get to go back for round two.”