Catfishing in Canada? You Betcha!

The Red River of the North is 545 miles of catfish heaven. It begins in the U.S., and forms the border between North Dakota and Minnesota until it crosses into Manitoba, eventually dumping into Lake Winnipeg. The Red River is home to North America’s finest channel catfishing. Anywhere on the Red River, whether upstream in the U.S. or downstream on the Canadian side, you have a legitimate shot to catch a 20-pound or larger channel cat.

The real gem of the Red River is not so hidden about 15 miles north of Winnipeg, Manitoba below the St. Andrews Lock and Dam. This very special section of river is the last 22 miles before the river meets Lake Winnipeg. This area boasts an amazing phenomenon where large numbers of huge channel cats migrate up the river out of the lake to feed. In fact, it is more common to see 20-pound channel cats than 10-pounders in this stretch. Migrating fish are stopped by the dam, keeping them in that section of river. This ongoing feeding frenzy goes on from opening day in May through mid-September, when the water temperatures tell cats to head back to the lake for winter.

If you are a seasoned catfish veteran, you already know about this special place. But if you are not part of the catfish world, this stretch of river is a vacation all in itself. This is the place where you can truly measure your catch by the ton. There are many guides to choose from in the area who can make your stay more enjoyable or help you get started.

One very unique opportunity this area provides is that it is centrally located on the way to many other great Manitoba or Canadian fishing destinations. You may not know it, but you pass right by this trophy fishery as you head to Northern Manitoba, or even as you head to the Whiteshell area. You are also very close to it when going through Winnipeg on your way to the Ontario side of Lake of the Woods.

Being only about 20 minutes north of Winnipeg, you could even make it for a day of fishing before or after catching the plane to your fly-in destination to catch something else. It is worth mentioning that as you drive up to Canada, the U.S. stretch of the Red runs along Interstate 29, providing other angling opportunities along the way as well.

If you are a DIY catfish angler, it is a bit daunting when you arrive for the first time, especially near the Lock and Dam. But it fishes pretty much like any other catfish water. It is fairly featureless, and there are no snags, so you are limited to current seams and holes. Yet there are just so many fish that you will figure it out quickly.

You can use many different setups and techniques to catch the fish, but you can’t use just any bait. The channel catfish of the Red River are very specific in their taste, and if you have the wrong bait you will have a long day. In spring, you should have suckers; in summer (June and July), goldeyes; late summer through early September, leopard frog is king; and as the water cools into the 50Fs for the last couple of weeks, cisco is the answer. It should be noted that you cannot buy these baits on the Canadian side, but you can locate it to catch yourself. Get online or make some calls, and people will help you get set up. Of course, good guides have the proper baits for the situation.

No matter if you are on your way to Canada, passing through the Winnipeg area on the way to a fishing trip of a lifetime, or you just want to catch large numbers of trophy channel cats, there truly is no other place like this 22 miles of catfish heaven on earth.


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