REFLECTIONS ON CATFISHING THE RED RIVER (MANITOBA)
by Daniel Kiazyk
Part 2 Anatomy Of A Cattin' River -- deciphering the Code
This river is known throughout the cat fishing world for its large ornery channel cats. Good size cats swim from its headwaters in Minnesota to its outflow/estuary, Lake Winnipeg. In terms of age, the river is not the oldest nor is it the youngest … in general it is a middle aged river. It meanders throughout a fertile flood plain (which on occasion it floods with a vengeance) and is lined by maple, ash, oak and a few other types of deciduous trees. The name, "Red river" comes from the clay particulate that is suspended in the water and which gives the river its brownish/red hue. For some folks coming up to fish the river for the first time, the river may seem large in comparison to some of the smaller streams where they normally angle. It is not, however, overly large and is on average 300-400 yards in width for the most part.
Like every catfish river, this one has some prime locations and other locations with few if any fish. This article focuses on those particular places (locations) where you'll find this river's cats. On some occasions, you'll decipher the code by just watching others; however for a large part, you'll have to do a bit of research on your own – with your eyes, boat, and electronics. Get to know the river a little better and it will certainly mean a few more cats in your boat
Big cats feed in many different river areas. At anytime throughout the open water season, channel cats will be feeding in different kinds of water. The emphasis in this article is upon location (However this is not the only factor influencing cat location as bait, calendar period, water temperature will also significantly impact the bite you'll encounter). Location is, however, a significant determining factor.
On the main river one of best places to look is on the down current side of a river bend. The Red has a gouged out these areas over the years to produce some prime habitat. Not all of these locations will hold fish, but most do. The bigger the hole, on the down current side of a river bend, the greater the number of larger cats that it will hold. Some bends aren't large enough to have a big enough hole, but when you find one – it'll be a spot worth your while.
Another prime spot to catch Red River channels is the "hole". This one word is not the best understood by many who fish for cats. Holes may not be circular but they might involve an enlargement in the rivers channel, they might also be a generalized depression with only a few feet of difference in depth from the rest of the river. Pools, as was mentioned in the companion article to this one, usually follow after a set of rapids or falls. This concept is extended and expanded in the slow moving Red. I've personally found that holes can be found by traveling the river while watching the sonar. After a few trips up and down the river, you'll begin to notice definite changes in depth in certain areas; Slow down and get a feel for the hole. Some folks have seen me going around in circles in places wondering all the while if I'd been hit by a 2 oz. Lead weight. Nope, I'm just looking to see how deep and large a hole may be – one little note to add here is that over the years I noticed that a hole's size and depth do change from year to year.
Another significant spot would be Netley Creek and the floodway. Both these incoming waters-ways have an impact upon where cats will set up throughout the season. These two areas in later spring when warmer water will flow out of them into the Red will be locales to fish for good size cats. The warmer inflow will attract bait and cats, especially after larger downpours. Cats in the latter situation will set up at the mouths of these feeder waters to pick up on any forage items that will be washed their way. I've caught 20 lb. cats in water less than 2.5 feet of depth – this can be really fun, especially if you put on a pair of waders.
Humps, especially deeper water humps will hold significant numbers of larger cats; Why? Humps on the Red seem to be composed of rock. These rocky formations seem to attract the whole range of aquatic life and in turn hungry cats that feed on that aquatic life. I've found cats all around and on top of these humps. However, in front and behind seem to be prime locations. Placing your boat in front of the hump and casting back to it (both front and back side) will be your most effective tactic.
Quite significant for the Red River is its main channel. The channel connects in some way or another every other element described in this article. The channel too takes on many shapes and forms. Very significant are its parts: The ledge, edge or break line where it meets the bottom of the channel below. It's at these pivotal points where fish will seem to be concentrated at times. Why at these points? It would seem that the presence of baitfish in these areas will attract larger predators such as walleye or catfish. Ledges, as already mentioned are cat hot spots, but they become even better when they occur transversally to the rivers current. One in particular that I can think of on the Red is one of my "go-to "spots for cats in almost any season. Find one yourself and your bound to find a cat or two!
One particular locale not frequented to any great extent by catmen are the mid to upper river depths where cats will suspend or spend time feeding on this or that baitfish. Goldeye in particular will draw cats off the bottom on the Red. If you can find an area where goldeye are suspended and are being caught using a bobber and worm you'll often catch a number of cats. If you do catch a cat on a worm-baited hook having a larger float system ready to take a piece of cut bait can usually result in some memorable action.
Finally, there are some deeper flats which can yield some good cats depending on the season – slow tapering flats are good as well earlier on in the season, but as summer's heat gets things sizzling, cats move out of these areas for more suitable accommodations.
So where do you when first coming up to angle the Red for Cats? There certainly are some locales which are better than others. I would say that the locations mentioned above will help you zero in with a little more proficiency on those areas that will produce fish. Having said the latter doesn't mean they won't be caught elsewhere….On the contrary if there's one thing that I've learned over a number years with regards to cats….. there's always something else on which or somewhere else where they'll bite. It's just a matter of having enough time to decipher where they're at…