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Red River Channel Catfishing

The Red River of the North is gaining more notoriety as a true trophy fishing destination for channel catfish. Everybody loves to catch big fish and some of the catfish that roam this border water are indeed big. Against the steady current, these massive river dwellers dig and pull to strain most conventional fishing tackle.  Safe to say that more catfish over fifteen pounds get caught out of the Red River than anywhere else in the Midwest. Anglers have realistic chances of tangling with fish that are as large as twenty pounds or even bigger. That is a big channel cat.  In a part of the world consumed by walleye anglers, this fishery has remained an underground secret with a cult like following but amongst serious catfish fanatics, the Red River is one of the top catfish fisheries in the United States.

The Red River meanders and winds through the fertile Red River Valley peacefully for much of the summer. The water has a rich brown and red complexion from the heavy sediment load that is getting swept downstream. Classic fishing locations include dead falls and current breaks created by large trees that have toppled into the river. Other locations include holes, inside turns and the mouths of tributaries. With moderate current, catfish typically seek the edges or breaks of current seams where the faster current meets slower water. Catfish typically lay in the slower water tight to the bottom and wait as morsels of food get swept by in the current. Anglers can fish from shore or boat and experience success. Within the community of Fargo, there are several boat ramps, parks and public fishing access areas.  

For numbers of fish along with variety, anglers can sometimes expect a lot of action by just bottom fishing with night crawlers for bait. Some anglers experiment with commercially made catfish baits including dip baits or chicken liver. The biggest fish however are usually caught on fresh cut bait. Native river forage like suckers or gold eyes are often cut into steaks and used for bait to catch the trophies.  Anglers targeting big fish  often gear up with much heavier equipment including a heavier line that ranges between twenty and forty pound test. Anglers are encouraged to release the extremely large fish and keep smaller fish for eating purposes as it takes several years for fish to reach true trophy potential. Before fishing, check the North Dakota Game and Fish Department fishing proclamation for rules and regulations regarding fish limits, legal bait and equipment along with protective size limits. Also note that trot lines and jug fishing is not legal in North Dakota.  For bait and tackle along with helpful fishing information, stop by SCHEELS before your next trip. 
Red River guide Josh Burgett and Jason Mitchell with a giant Red River Channel Cat caught while filming an episode of Jason Mitchell Outdoors TV.


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