Catfish are the most harvested freshwater gamefish PERIOD! Whether it be commercial fisherman, paylakes, or recreational anglers. Catfish are taken by commercial gear such as hoop nets, gill nets and trotlines. They are also taken by recreational anglers on limb lines, jug lines, trot lines, and of course rod/reel. Not to mention other methods such as bow fishing and hand grabbing (or noodling).
CPR(Catch/Photograph/Release) and regulations protecting the larger catfish has become extremely important. These larger fish are the oldest/rarest of the catfish. These large catfish also happen to be the biggest breeders, with the best genes for producing another large catfish.
It should also be noted some of the greatest harvest numbers for Commercial fisherman and paylakes, come during the spawning season when catfish are more vulnerable. This also holds true for noodling, as the fish are pulled directly of the nest they are protecting.