Aggressive feeding habits, fast growth and affinity for shore line structure make the catfish a natural for teaching young and old the secrets of fishing. This feisty battler enjoys a state-wide distribution due to its ability to prosper in almost any lake, river, creek or pond. The ability to reproduce in hatchery settings makes the catfish a natural for stocking programs.
Raising catfish is not only for stock to aid in the management of healthy bodies of water, they are often required to re-stock lakes and rivers depleted by die-offs natural or manmade.
In Illinois catfish raised in the state mostly come in the form of non-vulnerable (8-inch in length) channel catfish. Some fingerling blue catfish obtained from outside, grow to the non-vulnerable size in the hatchery and are released elsewhere in the state. The channel catfish program is a put/grow/take fishery. Other larger fish from private purchases are usually the source for the put and take urban fishing programs. The catchable size fish allow the participants to get the excitement of catching grown fish.
Creel studies show that anglers catch 70% of the fish at a size of about 1 1/2 pounds. The remaining fish probably succumb to natural mortality in nature.
The most commonly stocked catfish is the channel catfish. The readily reproduced subspecies is popular with programs to teach children the joys of fishing. Numerous waters across the state receive fish in anticipation of fishing derbies for children. Derbies are mostly the product of the efforts of local groups. Others are part of governmental programs.
The most common method of catching channel catfish comes from using a small bobber (float) above a hook and small sinker about 18-inches. Minnows cut up pieces of other fish, cheese, nightcrawlers, chicken or turkey liver or stink bait. The latter is often a mix of cheese, fish parts and secret ingredients whose name comes from the odor it usually omits. Most any rod and reel combination works for catfish. Most often the line is monofilament in the 10 to 12 pound class.