Thursday, 17 September 2015

Surprise on a Cat Trip

The nights are cooling off and fall is on its way, the days of warm and comfortable fishing have almost passed. The weekend was looking warm and we knew the catfish were still biting so we decided to head out bright and early to claim a spot and see what we could catch. We made it to the shore of the Red River just as the sun was breaking the horizon. Mist covered at least half of the river and there were surface breaches all over the place. We couldn't get our lines in the water fast enough.

This first spot has a bit of a honey hole downstream within casting distance from shore, so typically whoever is on the left is going to have the best luck. My wife seemed to unknowingly claim that spot and cast out a chunk of fresh cut bait and waited for a bite. I tossed a frog out into the main channel, while Frodo used a chunk of frozen goldeye. There was a chill in the morning air and bite detection was initially a problem for my wife. Within twenty minutes she had missed a few good bites and takes so after reeling in and checking bait she wanted 10 minutes to warm up. I hadn't a nibble on the frog so I reeled up and cast her bait out, in under a minute I had a solid slam and set the hook. 
The fish at the end of the line felt good and right off the hop went on a drag peeling run before changing direction and heading towards shore. Frantically reeling in the slack line I felt the weight again and the give and take continued. Once near shore Frodo was ready with the net and in one scoop it was landed. The 7/0 Gamakatsu octopus hook came out of the side of its mouth with ease and the fish measured out at 35 inches on the nose, released with plenty of vigor after a few pictures.

The bite was nothing to write home about with a lot of tentative nibbles on our baits and very few aggressive slams or takes. After about an hour we decided that if nothing exciting happened in the next 30 minutes we would head off to another spot. I was in the middle of reminiscing a previous trip on this stretch of river when I had a tap tap on the end of my line. I slammed the hook home and the fight was on, right off the hop there were some head shakes and a small run downstream. I figured it was a 2 foot cat, so no one was in a hurry to get the net. The closer I got it to shore the more the head shakes continued and once my swivel was visible above the water the thrashing head was clearly a walleye. "Get that in the net!" None of us were expecting a walleye on cat gear and after measuring it I realized it was my personal best at 27 inches. I could only have imagined the fight on medium gear.

We agreed to 30 more minutes at this spot and my wife and I continued targeting catfish while Frodo changed over to lighter gear to see what other species might bite. He ended up pulling in a few goldeye and a freshwater drum while my wife and I missed a few tentative bites. We were averaging 2 fish an hour and decided it was still early enough to try a new spot before most others would be out fishing. After a quick drive, our next spot produced about the same with a 33 inch catfish being the biggest there. (pictured below)
After some talking over the plan for the rest of our available time we decided to prospect a few potential spots. 60 minutes soaking bait at two spots produced good numbers of bullheads and small catfish but we were looking for the bigguns. So off we went to scout some more... In fall you could stake out your favorite spot, build a fire to stay warm and wait it out for the fish to come to you. Some days that is what I like to do, others I like to "run and gun" ice fishing style and seek out "greener pastures". Either way staying warm is a priority and lucky for us by mid afternoon it was quite warm with a good wind from the south.

At our last stop of the day my wife was finally able to hook into a good kitty. We had never fished this area before and it was definitely reassuring. Each spot we tried produced a few different species and some nice early fall Red River scenery. As the cat bite dies down the walleye bite should heat up!!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

September Cats

After a break in fishing for some family time out east I was able to shake the rust off and wet a line for a few hours last weekend and ended up with a few Goldeye that weren't releasable. These would make good bait for catfish so after some frog hunting and catching a few of our secret weapons during the week, we were set to head up to Selkirk where we could launch the boat and attempt to hammer some cats.

We were greeted with morning thundershowers at home and by the time we got to the river it had dissipated significantly, so off we went up river towards Lockport. Along the way we saw many bald and golden eagles as you usually will along with a pair of osprey and a few hundred pelicans and cormorants. Our first spot smelled of laundry detergent, Winnipeg had been drenched with heavy rains twice in a few days and with that I'm sure sewers backed up. We each sent out a different bait to try out and waited for a bite. It was slow going with a few landed over the first hour, so we pulled up the anchor and headed off to scout out potential spots.
Our game plan was run and gun, give an area that looked promising on the depth finder a 30 minute soak and if no bites move on. As it turned out every spot we tried for the rest of the day would produce 4 to 10 cats within 30 - 60 minutes. We landed over 40 catfish with only 3 under 30 inches, and me personally 12 over 34 with the biggest being a new personal best 36.5 inches!

We ended up finding the most productive areas to be downstream of drainage ditches and creeks that were flowing heavily with run off. The cats were on the prowl picking off anything that would wash their way. One of the kitties we caught belched the most foul odor imaginable, another regurgitated some seagull feathers and one was even caught with a circle hook from a previous battle in the side of its mouth. It is clear every time we fish up there that it isn't the cats first rodeo once hooked. On this day many would make it to the surface and death roll, shaking their heads or out right breach the water and slap their tails down like a humpback whale. One of the big ones was successful in shaking the hook but the frustration was minimal as the action was so hot.

Sometimes the cats are stacked up by the locks and other times you need to be mobile and try many areas, I find it more rewarding and a little more scenic finding spots away from the locks. The river is full of history going back long before the fur traders and I often find myself thinking about those times and what the fishing may have been like with the gear and technology of today. Subtle changes in bottom composition can lead to a fury of action and we found a few holes and pockets that showed marks stacked up and proceeded to fish them pulling out a handful of trophies each time.

We ended up off the water at dusk knowing the bite would continue on but the long drive home was ahead of us. I was more than satisfied with the day, my arms and back ached (some of the cats I could barely lift after the fight) and my mind raced, thinking about our future trips later in fall for the greenback run .....