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Manitoba's Fishing Jewel


If there's a single fishery in western Canada that has both the diversity and quality of fish that Manitoba's Red River boasts, I'm certainly not aware of it. But you don't have to take my word about this prairiewaterway's amazing productivity; a quick read through Travel Manitoba's annual fishing guide, where they publish the results of the province's Master Angler Awards program, will convince you as quickly as it did me. For those not aware, the Master Angler Awards program, now 52 years old, recognizes anglers who catch trophy-sized fish across the province. A minimum qualifying length has been established for each species, with angler participation rate in the program nothing short of staggering at more than 10,000 entries per year. It's hard to beat this data for identifying the best trophy fishing opportunities in the province.

The best trophy fishing opportunities in the province

The best trophy fishing opportunities in the province

So, back to the Red. Consider the following, taken from the 2010 Fishing Guide, which reveals the awards program results from the 2009 season:

- All of the 12 largest channel catfish recorded across the province were taken in the Red, and the provincial record is from these same waters.


- Seven of the largest 17 walleye were caught there, and the provincial record, a 39-inch leviathan, was also plucked from the Red river.


- If your idea of a prime target species is carp, then you should know that three of the top 12 were taken in the Red, as was the provincial record fish.


- Sturgeon play these waters too, and the 78.5" provincial record was landed in the Red in 1996.


- Manitoba is famous for its smoked goldeye, and the Red is as good as any located for finding these delicacies, surrendering 3 of the top 12 in 2009.


- The largest white bass entered in the program came from the Red river.


- If you're a sauger fan, the Red's for you, where 3 of the largest 12 from across the province were hooked


- Rock bass? The fifth largest of 2009 was a Red River fish.


- The Red's black crappies couldn't quite crack the top 12, but one was knocking on the door at 13 pounds.


- The top two freshwater drum taken that year were caught in the Red.


- Though targeted by few anglers, the Red was a prolific producer of awards program qualifying bullhead.


- Even fewer fishermen actively seek suckers, but one of the Red's cracked the top 12 list.


- And while seldom thought of as a trophy pike fishery, every year the Red gives up a few that meet the 41-inch program minimum standard.


Caught on the fly

Caught on the fly

That's 13 different species of fish from the Red that qualify for, and at times dominate, the provincial-wide annual awards program. Clearly, there's no telling what you might pull up when you toss your line into the Red.

There's no telling what you might pull up when you toss your line into the Red

There's no telling what you might pull up when you toss your line into the Red

Forgiving her propensity to spring flood on occasion, the Red is a rather innocuous river. It runs north, crossing the 49th parallel near the junction of Manitoba's border with those of North Dakota and Minnesota. It meanders muddy and slowly through much of its course, winding its way drunkenly through the rich soils of the province's southern farmland. Sliding slowly into Winnipeg, it neatly bisects the capital city, gaining volume as it leaves, having taken on the load of the Assiniboine River. Just north of Winnipeg the Red meets its only major obstruction, a dam that crosses at the town of Lockport. Below the dam, river waters continue north for another 25 miles or so before bleeding out into the southern bay of Lake Winnipeg.

The Red is a rather innocuous river

The Red is a rather innocuous river

Notwithstanding its piscatorial diversity, the Red is best known for two distinctly different species, channel catfish and walleye. Cats can be caught through any stretch; I've landed them myself everywhere from Letellier, near the U.S. border, to just above the mouth at Lake Winnipeg, and in many stretches in between. But it's a section from just south of Lockport north to the City of Selkirk, only a handful of river miles, that has earned the reputation of producing the largest and most catfish. Hot, early summer weekends will see hundreds of anglers below the Lockport dam, some in boats but most fishing from shore. And virtually all have big cats in mind. Seldom will you see less than two or three dozen anglers there on a midweek summer's evening, and the flickering glare of small fires tells you that a handful of diehards are prepared to stick it out well into the night. But don't let angler numbers scare you; there's plenty of shoreline and no shortage of fish to go around.

The Red is best known for channel catfish and walleye

The Red is best known for channel catfish and walleye

These cats will never win a beauty contest, but they have few peers when it comes to determination. This is brawling, bare-knuckled scrapping at its finest, with fish averaging 15 plus pounds and a few taken annually that approach the forty-pound class. Tactics are relatively straightforward, with the time-honoured presentation astationary bait looking to attract cruising fish. This presentation has many forms, but most popular is by using a three-way swivel with a one- to three-ounce pyramid weight and a 2/0 or 3/0 hook on a three-foot leader. Sliding weights, such as Lindy-style rigs, can also be effective. In recent years, many anglers have found success with large slip bobbers drifted through mainstream channels or along structure. Baits are a matter of personal preference, though popular choices include nightcrawlers, minnows, cut goldeye, frogs, frozen shrimp and chicken livers.

The largest channel catfish recorded across the province were taken in the Red

The largest channel catfish recorded across the province were taken in the Red

While the cats are largely a summer target on the Red, walleye are the focus in fall and through the winter. If you're a "pickerel" aficionado, you've no doubt heard of the Red's infamous fall "greenback" run, when vast numbers of walleye push south out of Lake Winnipeg and move into the Red. With October the most popular month, this is your best bet for trophy, open-water walleye, with many fish exceeding ten pounds landed annually. Again, the most popular stretches are found between Lockport and Selkirk. Those fishing from boats prefer heavy jigs sweetened with minnows, or trolling crankbaits against the current. From shore, baited Lindy rigs or pickerel rigs are favoured. And if you don't pick up a personal best eye in the open water, you can always wait until freeze-up and join the legion of fishermen who prefer the hardwater season. The best fishing waters are not always those remote and pristine lakes and rivers that require several days and more dollars to reach. Manitoba's Red River is a shining example of how an ordinary river can produce extraordinary results.

The best fishing waters are not always those remote and pristine lakes

The best fishing waters are not always those remote and pristine lakes

Previous Fishing Articles

(1) All I Want for Christmas – Neil Waugh's Yule Tide Fishing Gifts Wish List

(2) Muskies - The Ultimate Predator

(3) What to expect when fishing the West Coast

(4) Tips & Tricks for Fall Fly Fishing

(5) There’s No Place Like Home

(6) A Golden Opportunity

(7) The Observational Trout Fisherman

(8) Un-matching the Hatch

(9) Alberta Super Bugs

(10) Glass is Back

(11) The Bull Trout of the Athabasca

(12) Speed Kills

(13) Entering the Twilight Zone

(14) Old Man River

(15) The Pink Salmon of the Squamish River

(16) Small stream BT fishing

(17) Fly fishing beyond Trout: getting started

(18) In The Walleye Zone

(19) Zoo Trout

(20) Fly Selection for Beginners

(21) Fly Fisher's Christmas

(22) New Waters

(23) Big Bad Burbot

(24) Looking Back

(25) Out of Africa

(26) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams

(27) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish

(28) The Browns of Autumn

(29) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons

(30) Walleye Town

(31) River Fun - One Bite At A Time

(32) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers

(33) Going With The Flow

(34) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman

(35) Swinging The Fences

(36) A View From The Aerie

(37) Dixieland Delight

(38) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts

(39) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon

(40) Montana's Cool Missouri

(41) Pretty Is As Pretty Does

(42) Toothy Critters

(43) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake

(44) Top Ten Flies

(45) Northern Exposure

(46) Home Water Lessons

(47) Chicken Of The Sea

(48) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish

(49) Deep In The Heart Of Texas

(50) Keep It Up!

(51) River Fishing for Fall Walleye

(52) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the flood

(53) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity

(54) Hawg Holes

(55) Saltwater Salmon

(56) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing

(57) Down a Lazy River –
A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan

(58) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead



(61) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver

(62) Canada's "Other" Salmon

(63) Fall Walleye

(64) Wet Flies

(65) Versatility the Key to Success

(66) Grayling of the Boreal

(67) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish

(68) Size Matters

(69) Fly Fishing Small Streams

(70) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time

(71) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel

(72) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas

(73) The Point Of It All

(74) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day

(75) Fall Fly Fishing

(76) Personal Pontoon Boats 101

(77) Big River, Big Fish

(78) Bottom Bonanza

(79) Fishing Small Flies

(80) So Many Choices, So Little Time

(81) Four Seasons of the Bow

(82) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot


(84) Trout Hunting - New Zealand-style

(85) Don’t Leave Home Without Them –
10 Lures That Should Be In Everyone’s Tackle Box

(86) Edge Walleye


(88) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge

(89) Four Corners – Four Waters

(90) Chasing Pothole Trout

(91) Springtime Stoneflies

(92) The Torrents of Spring

(93) Drift Boat Fly Fishing

(94) Bust Them With Bait

(95) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book

(96) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months

(97) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout

(98) Terrestrials

(99) Fly In For Fishing Fun

(100) Rocky Mountain High

(101) Reading the clues

(102) Where the Trout Are
The art of locating feeding trout
in rivers and streams.

(103) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin

(104) Fly Fishing 101

(105) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod

(106) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay

(107) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder

(108) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead

(109) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital

(110) Eliminating the Spook Factor

(111) Trust Your Electronics

(112) The Most Important Hatch of the Year

(113) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout

(114) Finding Success for Ice Trout

(115) Walleye can be Humbling

(116) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed

(117) Winter Flyfishing

(118) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Gem

(119) Hot Fall Pike Action

(120) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down

(121) Reading Trout Stream Waters

(122) Frequently Asked Questions

(123) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout

(124) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice

(125) Deep Water Perch

(126) Post Spawn Brookies

(127) A Fisher's Life

(128) The River's Last Stand

(129) The Big Ones Come out at Night

(130) Coho on the Coast

(131) Chasing and Catching Halibut

(132) Summer in the Mountains

(133) Peak Walleye Season

(134) Slow and Steady Wins the Race

(135) Last Ice Rainbows

(136) The Burbot Event

(137) Tackle Matching

(138) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light

(139) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location

(140) The Lure of Brook Trout

(141) The Shallow Water Hunt is On

(142) Hot Backswimmer Action Happening Right Now

(143) Fishing Among Giants-Pursuing Lake Sturgeon on the Prairies

(144) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan

(145) The Vesatile Plug

(146) Bead Head Flies, Plugs and Shot and other Spring Favorites for Pothole Trout

(147) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures

(148) Good Fishing at Last Ice

(149) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations

(150) Daily Fish Migrations

(151) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn

(152) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star

(153) Pick Your Favorite Brook Trout Lake...and Go Fishing

(154) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing

(155) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser

(156) The Fun in Ultra Light

(157) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines

(158) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure

(159) Never Stop Learning

(160) Ice Fishing is Getting Hot

(161) Jigging through the Ice

(162) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline

(163) Rainbows on Ice

(164) The Season of Ice Begins

(165) Red Hot Fall Pike Action

(166) Hitting it Right with Water Boatman

(167) Facts On Cats

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(169) June Walleye Frenzy

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(175) Man Overboard