You've been squeamish. You've been tentative. You've never caught a catfish before. Or maybe you have, but you've always been able to shirk the duty of getting the fish off the hook. Finally, though, you decide today's the day, and you're going to take it off the hook yourself. But where do you even hold the thing?
There are a few different ways to hold a catfish. Some anglers pick the catfish up by the bottom lip and hold it with one hand while they work on the fish with the other. If you have a flat surface (or the catfish is small enough to fit in your hand), you can run your hand along the fish to flatten the dorsal fin and keep the side fins down. [Source: Brotherhood of Catfishermen] With this hold, however, it's important to be firm and definite with your grip. If you are tentative when keeping the fins down, the fish can wiggle out of your hand, spring back up, and poke -- hard.
Still not convinced? Many anglers use old towels and rags or, alternatively, gloves to help handle the catfish when using either of these techniques. Because catfish don't have scales, they are slipperier and sometimes harder to handle than normal fish. [Source: Take Me Fishing] A towel can help you get a better grip on these slippery suckers, as well as provide a little protection in case one does get its fins in you.
You should be concerned about handling the fish, as they can poke you with their fins and it can sting. But what about being bitten? Though a catfish can bite you, its bite is relatively mild and feels more like rough sandpaper than anything else. Many anglers consider getting poked by a fin a worse fate. Be careful on those "keepers" though -- some larger catfish can break the skin when they bite.