Big Manitoba cats

The best thing about working on this fishing show that I have teamed up to do with CJBN is that it encourages me to fish more different places.
The reality is there isn’t a lot of reason to leave Sunset Country or even Lake of the Woods or Rainy Lake, my two favourite bodies of water.
I say it all the time; we have the best multi-species fishing opportunities in the World right at our doorstep.
There is one species we don’t have, however—the mighty channel catfish.
Manitoba’s Red River, especially the area north of Winnipeg, near Selkirk is home to some of the best cat fishing in North America, not only for numbers of fish, but big ones as well.
As close as it is to Ontario, I had never gone and fished for these critters, despite having invitations from friends to go and do it several times. Well, I finally went last week and it did not disappoint!
We were fortunate to have two boats out there for our trip.
I jumped in with my good friend from Winnipeg, Jason Gauthier. Jason is a successful businessman from Winnipeg and is part of the Lund Boats pro-staff team.
In the second boat was another buddy, Ryan Sproule, marketing manager for Lund, and his son, Brock. Ryan and Jason had been fishing cats several times in the weeks leading up to our outing and they had been consistently having good fishing.
The system for catching these big fish is relatively simple. You need an anchor for the boat, a heavy rod, some heavy fishing line, a two or three-ounce sinker and a heavy circle hook.
We launched the boat below the dam at Lockport and were literally fishing in seconds. Jason anchored us up along a break in the current and we pitched our baits behind the boat.
The bait part of the system was frozen shrimp that Ryan got for us at a grocery store on the way to the boat ramp—big, frozen shrimp, that actually looked pretty tasty but these were for catching cats.
Other anglers around us were using chunks of baitfish, like mooneye, which they catch in the river. One thing is for sure, you need to have some sort of meat for these endeavour, catfish have a very good sense of smell.
Basically we were pitching these baits behind the boat, the bait itself being about 12–24 inches behind the sinker.
We would just let the sinker sit on the bottom, while our bait fluttered around in the current. When a cat bit, you knew!
We also caught several freshwater drum, which are another tough fighting fish. They were all between five and 15 pounds.
The circle hook is really nice because every fish is hooked in the corner of the mouth where it can be easily removed without harming the fish.
They are great anytime you are using live bait because the fish will not get hooked deep in the mouth.
The key is that you don’t really set the hook, you just start reeling and put heavy pressure on the fish.
My first cat of the night was a monster fish that weighed around 25 pounds. I caught it on an 8 foot Shimano Compre musky rod and it literally had the rod folded right over, these fish pull extremely hard! Much harder than any other freshwater fish I have ever caught.
Living in the current all the time probably shapes and toughens them up a little more than lake fish?
This is an extremely easy to get to fishery.
You can easily take your own boat and go do it or you can hire a guide. A quick Internet search will get you in touch with the best guys.
Our entire experience will air sometime next winter during season 2 of Fishing with Gussy.