Channel catfish are omnivores, and can be caught using a variety of natural and prepared baits, including crickets, nightcrawlers, minnows, shad, crawfish, frogs, bullheads, sunfish, and suckers. Catfish have even been known to take Ivory soap as bait.
Juglines, trotlines, limb lines, and bank lines are popular methods of fishing for channel catfish in addition to traditional rod-and-reel fishing. Another method uses traps, either "slat traps" (long wooden traps with an angled entrance) and wire hoop traps. Typical bait for these traps include rotten cheese and dog food. Catches of as many as 100 fish a day are common in catfish traps. When removing the hook from a catfish, anglers should be mindful of the sharp spines on the pectoral and dorsal fins.
Channel catfish, Ictalurus punctatus, is North America's most numerous catfish species. In the United States, channel cats are the most fished catfish species with approximately 8 million anglers targeting them per year. The popularity of channel catfish for food has contributed to the rapid growth of aquaculture of this species in the United States.
A member of the Ictalurus genus of American catfishes, channel catfish have a top-end size of about 40–50 pounds (18–23 kg). The world record channel catfish weighed 58 pounds, and was taken from the Santee-Cooper Reservoir in South Carolina, on July 7, 1964. Realistically, a channel catfish over 20 lb (9 kg) is a spectacular specimen, and most catfish anglers view a 10-lb (4.5-kg) fish as a very admirable catch. Furthermore, the average size channel catfish an angler could expect to find in most waterways would be between two and four pounds.
Channel catfish will often coexist in the same waterways with its close relative, the blue catfish, which is somewhat less common, but tends to grow much larger (with several specimens confirmed to weigh above 100 lb).
As channel catfish grow longer, they increase in weight. The relationship between length and weight is not linear. The relationship between length (L, in cm) and weight (W, in kg) for nearly all species of fish can be expressed by an equation of the form:
W = (L/L_1)^b\!\,
Invariably, b is close to 3.0 for all species, L_1 is the length of a typical fish weighing 1 kg. For channel catfish, b = 3.2293, somewhat higher than for many common species, and L_1 = 45.23 cm.