After fish reach the desired market size, they are
harvested, transported to the processing plant, and processed. These practices are
relatively standardized across the channel catfish industry.
Fish are harvested using large seines pulled through the pond by tractors. The netting
used to construct seines is sized to capture the smallest fish desired for processing.
Seines for food fish commonly use a net with about 1.75-inch mesh, which retains fish
greater than about 1 pound and allows smaller fish escape and remain in the pond for
Fish are transported alive to processing plants. Much of the processing is done by hand,
but there is a trend towards increased automation to reduce processing costs. A variety of
products are marketed, with common products being fillets, fillet strips, steaks, and
whole dressed fish. Overall, about 53% of a live catfish is converted into salable
products after processing. Processed catfish are available either as fresh, ice-packed
product or as various frozen products. Frozen fillets account for the largest portion
(over half) of total sales.