The ideal summer vacation for Jen Grottenthaler typically involves a beach and "drinks with little umbrellas in them." Certainly more adventurous than her former college roommate, Sherry Insley has loved being around the water since the days she used to go sportfishing with her family off Ocean City.

Neither had ever heard of handfishing, or as the locals call it, noodling.

So how did two thirtysomethings with young children living in Baltimore wind up spending nearly a week this summer in an Oklahoma town so small it's not even on the map? And how did they get enticed to submerge themselves in the warm, muddy waters of the Red River to catch catfish with their bare hands?

Welcome to "Hillbilly Handfishin'," Animal Planet's new hit reality show that makes what Billy Crystal did all those years ago in the movie "City Slickers" seem tame.

Grottenthaler and Insley, whose friends started a Facebook fan page called "Noodling Hot Mamas" and who jokingly have considered a spinoff reality show of their own, will be featured in Sunday night's episode along with two University of Maryland students and the owners of a gourmet fish store in Chicago.

The show airs at 10 p.m.

Not that Grottenthaler, 35, will be watching.

"The funny thing is, I don't have cable," said Grottenthaler, who lives with her husband, Chris, and their two daughters, ages 4 and 5, in Locust Point.

Insley, 33, who lives in Baltimore County with her husband, Mitch, and their 2-year old son, said she doubted she would stay up to watch but that a viewing party at a more reasonable hour in the future was in the works.

Nor will Louis Lam, whose nickname "Moose" belies his diminutive stature, watch Sunday night either.

"I have to get up at 6 on Monday," said Lam, a junior electrical engineering major from Gaithersburg who joined his best friend, Kin (Gary) Hulamm, a graduate student in cyber security at Maryland, for the trip to Temple, Okla.

But plenty of others will be caught up in the antics of Skipper Bivins, a lifelong noodler and serial needler, and his sidekick, Trent Jackson. What started out as a business called "Big Fish Adventures" has become a television show in which three pairs of city folks are brought down to the Texas-Oklahoma border "to get out of their regular lives," executive producer Keith Hoffman said.

That was certainly the attraction for Grottenthaler, who found out through a local Listserv that a Silver Spring production company was looking for potential noodlers. The term stems from the fact that noodlers put their hand in a hole to try to pull the catfish out. It is legal in only 13 states but not in Maryland.

Grottenthaler said her involvement "started out as a joke or a dare," something she and Insley had done throughout a friendship that began as students 15 years ago at UMBC.

Past dares were usually benign. A few months after they met, Insley invited Grottenthaler, who had grown up a military brat in Germany and England, to eat hard-shell crabs and go deep-sea fishing. In turn, Grottenthaler invited Insley to her family's home near London and got her friend to dye her then-red hair platinum blond.

"Her mother said I looked like a tart and she wouldn't take me to a family dinner," Insley recalled.

More recently, Insley got Grottenthaler to run in her first five-kilometer race and Grottenthaler signed the two of them up for a Zombies run, in which people in zombie makeup chase runners in the woods, next month in Darlington. Insley then got Grottenthaler to join her for a skeet-shooting and whiskey-tasting event.

"When I saw this, I thought it would really top that," Grottenthaler said of their six-day noodling trip.

It did.