Thursday, 7 September 2017

Zebra Mussels in the Red River

It comes with little shock or surprise... inevitable really, sooner or later they were going to show up in the Canadian stretch of the Red River. In fact, I think they were "officially" found in 2013, or at least their larvae were. Zebra mussels have been all over the local news through the last few years, though they have been in North America since at least the mid 80's.  They are an invasive mussel that poses a major threat to aquatic ecosystems and infrastructure and they are slowly taking hold in a few bodies of water in Manitoba. This summer some popular beaches along Lake Winnipeg have had masses of these mussels wash to shore after big wind events and recently I came across a few dozen along the Red River.

We were shore fishing a stretch of the southern Red River the other day when I noticed a two centimeter mussel attached to a rock. After closer inspection there were a few more of varying sizes. None of our native mussels or clams are able to attach themselves to rocks and I immediately knew what they were. The river is more than a few feet down from its average level and with the bite slow at our location I began to scour the rocks in the area. I quickly found more Zebra Mussel shells, each one was dried out and the sizes varied. This rocky stretch of the river appeared to have a small population of adult zebra mussels and I dreaded to think how many more could be on the rocks beneath the water.

I changed my focus to the rocks at the waterline and began to notice live zebra mussels. They were surprisingly well attached to the rocks but with some prying and twisting I was able to carefully remove and then kill them. Eradication impossible and efforts futile I know although I still felt the need to hunt out and destroy as many of these little mussels as I could at our fishing spot. (how can you tell the fishing wasn't to hot at this spot)

In the end we did find a few different species of fish willing to bite our baits, channel catfish, goldeye and freshwater drum were all landed however none were really picture worthy.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

2017 Catfish Masters Cup In The Books

The 2017 Catfish Masters Cup has come and gone and so has passed my first taste of competitive angling. We had planned to enter the inaugural year, but circumstances didn't allow for it and we were determined that wouldn't be the case for the second year. The tournament is a one day, two person team, catch, measure, photo and release format with each catfish over 34 inches qualifying with a 10 fish total, running from 8 AM to 4 PM. Measurement and action shots of each qualifying fish get sent by text to the organizer and a confirmation is then received via text.

We did some pre-fishing the day before the tournament (cut off time 4 pm) and it was awful! After over 16 spots tried and soaking a multitude of different baits we were able to land two catfish over 34 inches. Water levels were low, temperatures high and there was minimal surface activity. Our confidence and outlook for the next day took a serious hit. With the Red River a two hour drive from home we don't fish it as much as many who entered, but when we do fish it, we are usually rewarded with good numbers and ample trophies, sadly this was not the case. After the rules meeting it was clear the bite was going to be tough and through conversation with other anglers and looking around at the many clad in fishing jerseys and guide shirts, the competition was starting to look fierce.

Saturday was a new day and my partner and I both went in to it as positively as we could. With a revamped strategy and lots of spots in mind, we were going to give it our best effort and not give up. Plenty of bait, ice, fluids and snacks were packed in two coolers, as the weather forecast was calling for a high of 34C. Boats were launched and inspected and slowly one by one the stretch of river around the docks at Selkirk park was filling up. Anticipation was building as we tied some back up rigs waiting for the 8 am trickle start. As the minutes counted and the trickle start began we waited for #17 and off we went heading south bouncing over a dozen other boats wakes. 

We worked the shallows, main channel, drop offs, holes, flats, bends, pockets, you name it we tried it, moving every 15 minutes or so if we wouldn't get a bite. As each hour passed without a bite, the days outlook was looking worse. Out of all the boats fishing within sight, only one of them had caught two fish. After about our tenth move Jay missed a bite within five minutes of tossing out his bait. This was more than we could say for the previous 3.5 hours and things were possibly starting to look up. Over the next 100 minutes we were able to bring over 10 catfish to the boat with 5 of them qualifying. All our work and effort was finally starting to pay off! Our morale was suddenly sky high and the roller coaster ride that is tournament fishing was providing more excitement and emotion than we had bargained for. The bite scaled back for our last 90 minutes of fishing with a handful missed and sadly a couple fish were also able to spit or shake the hook, which rarely happens when we fish for cats. With enough time to make it to the launch for cut off we were on our way, but it was a moral victory not heading back with a big zero.

After chatting with some of the teams while loading and packing up the boat, it became clear that it was tough all around. Some boats came back with none landed over 34 inches and others with one or two, we also heard of at least two teams that did better than us. At the awards banquet it became clear we were in the money and after 6th through 10th were awarded, fifth to first were called and fifth was where we stood. 1st through 3rd were all guides for the same business that spend hundreds of hours on the river each season and with the kind of bite that seemed to be going on and the caliber of competition, we were definitely happy with our finish. 

The what ifs? and emotions of tournament fishing are many and what's done is done and in the books. The tourney for sure has room for improvements and maybe with a few volunteers and more sponsors it can grow and even entice anglers from further away. (I sure hope so) I would encourage folks who think they know the red river and love hammering catfish to give this one a chance. Would I do it over again? Hell Yea! Will we sign up for next year? I sure hope so!
Side note....
I would also like to thank Red Bull as it gave our captain wings.

Friday, 21 July 2017

1000 Plus Inches of Channel Catfish

Schedules and stars aligned the other day when we made it up to the Red River at Lockport. Parts of the previous day had been spent catching fresh bait to maximize our time on the river the next day and boy were our efforts rewarded. We were on the water and fishing by 8 a.m. and it didn't take long to get a bite. The first channel catfish I landed measured out at 34 inches and was followed by another that measured the same. Jay followed that with a freshwater drum and Frodo with a nice greenback walleye. It was a good start as within the first hour we landed five fish and missed many more bites. As the bite tapered off we decided to stick to the plan of making small moves as needed and having faith in our bait.

At this point there were about a dozen boats within site and not many of them were hooking up with catfish. We dropped anchor upstream of a 15 foot hole that had treated us well in the past and got our bait back in the water. Less than two minutes had passed before I hooked up to another catfish and this one felt heavier than the first two. It hit like a freight train and went peeling downstream, all I could do was hold on and have faith in my gear. After a few seconds of running with the current, it turned on a dime and barreled upstream towards the boat. I burned the line in as quick as I could keeping the rod bent and after a few minutes of tug of war near the surface and under the boat, the beast was in the net. It measured out right at three feet in length and weighed 25 pounds on the dot. Not my personal best but one hell of a nice fish and another great start on a fresh spot.

We landed a few more catfish within the next hour however the bite had slowed down again so another move was in order. This scenario repeated itself throughout the day right up to our agreed upon departure around 3:45 p.m. We spent just over 7.5 hours on the water and during that time caught 31 channel catfish totaling just over 1000 inches in length. 17 of which were over 34 inches with the longest at 36.75. A few double headers made for added excitement and the last fish of the day landed by Frodo was tagged. It turns out the tagging of this fish took place 5 days earlier and it had already been caught, released and reported twice.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Hook in my Hand...OUCH

After a very successful morning of fishing I was unhooking my Berkley Flicker Shad from the mouth of another fish. Before I could finish the process the fish gave a quick head shake and the free treble of the lure quickly made its way into my thumb. It was a sharp de-barbed treble hook and it didn't really hurt when it punctured me however trying to extract it caused a fair amount of pain.

It became clear that a trip to the local ER for some lydocaine would be needed in order to get the damn hook out so we headed to the launch, loaded up the boat and headed home. It being a holiday Monday the local walk in clinics were closed, leading to a bit of added strain on the ER. Ironically there was another man in the waiting room with a hook in his hand , although his was not debarbed.

After a four and a half hour wait I finally had the pleasure of getting the hook out of my hand and the needle administering the freezing was the most painful part. The whole process took less than 5 minutes but I did note the fellow with the barbed hook was in there for over 90 minutes and came out with quite the bandaged hand. Two days have since passed and the wound has healed, swelling is gone and my thumb has regained its movement.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Some Heavy Manitoba Common Carp

Pictured below are 3 of the more impressive common carp I have caught so far this season. Each one surpassed 33 inches in length and they each weighed over 30 pounds!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

First Mirror Carp

I spend a handful of sessions on the waters edge targeting common carp each year as the quest for a personal best is always on my mind be it weight or length. Even deeper in my fishing obsessed brain is the desire to catch a mirror carp and to say they are rare around these parts might be an understatement. A unique semi scaleless pattern on each fish is due to a genetic mutation and some can be almost completely void of scales. Luck was on my side the other day when I finally landed my first mirror carp and while it was not huge, it was definitely a fish I will remember for quite a while.