The Mighty Red River! Home of the channel catfish.
Red River of The North
The 885 km long Red River flows north across the old lake bed of ancient glacial Lake Agassiz which drained, about 9,500 years ago. The Red River begins between Wahpeton, North Dakota and Breckenridge, Minnesota slowly but surely meandering north into Manitoba where it eventually drains into Lake Winnipeg.
The mud, silt, clay and sometimes rocky bottom of the Red River is a perfect home for channel cats. To the casual observer the seemingly featureless slow meandering Red does not look too exciting but the unseen structure gives anglers an abundance of opportunities to catch channel cats. Channel edges, holes, flats, and current edges are all great locations to start your search for channel cats.
The River Channel
A simple illustration of how a river channel meanders from bank to bank “A river within a river”
The Red River is a channelized river, meaning there is a deep river channel carved into the softer bottom or “river within a river” hidden from view. When the river bank swings into shore that may or may not mean the river channel follows the same path. The illustration to the right is an exaggerated example of how the main channel will meander or snake from bank to bank within the bigger wider river making it tough to locate without the use of modern sonar technology.
Finding the edge of the channel is a great spot to start fishing for channel cats as they travel up and down the river in relation to these channel edges. Find the edges, experiment with the deep and shallow edges of the channel and you are playing high percentage pool in your search for big ugly!
In-fisherman illustration of a typical riffle-hole-run section of a big river
Holes are deeper sections of river that usually occur in the main river channel just after a section of hard bottom. When you have current flowing over a rocky or hard bottomed section of river, immediately followed by a softer bottom section, the current flow will scour out a deep hole in the soft bottom. This is called a hole and is the home of channel catfish. These holes could be huge or very small in relation to the size of the river but the principal is the same.
This is another high percentage spot to find channel cats and you’ll find that the head of the hole, closest to where the water first comes in, is where the most aggressively feeding fish are positioned.
During inactive periods Channel Catfish will lay back in the deepest part of the hole until they start to feed again. When they get active they will check out what’s around and then get positioned in the prime feeding areas at the head of the hole.
Fast current meeting slow current and creating a huge back eddy. The channel catfish dinner table!
In our system current is king for cats! On the Red River the catfish are drawn to heavy current like bugs to a light bulb until late summer when the current starts to slow and the fish filter back throughout the river. Find fast current then find the current edges created by fast current meeting a slower flow and you will find cats. Extremely fast current and high flood water can force the cats stack up is slightly slower current flows or on the shallow edges near shore where it is easier to fish. Still in fast water, just not the fastest.
In a river the water is always moving so technically there is always current flow but knowing what good current is, or at least good enough to really draw fish in is important. Time on the water is the only way to learn any system and find what produces best.