Meet Your Species: Channel Catfish

Whether the channel catfish is the ugliest fish to inhabit Manitoba waters is certainly a topic of debate. What isn’t up for discussion is their ability to deliver fantastic fishing action, no matter if they are big or small. Let’s take a closer look at these toothless fighters.

Lockport Reigns Supreme: You can catch channel catfish in lots of places of Manitoba including Lake Winnipeg, Lake Manitoba, Delta Marsh, Netley Marsh and countless rivers. But if there’s one place that offers increased odds, it’s Lockport on the Red River. Anglers will speculate until the sun goes down on why this stretch of the mighty Red continues to yield excellent results year after year. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you can catch big cats—usually more than one—at Lockport and all the way north to Selkirk.

My fish has whiskers! Technically, they’re not whiskers but barbels, tactile organs near the mouth that house taste buds. Channels catfish have four pairs of them and each barbel contains about 25 taste buds per square millimeter. These fish also have taste buds located everywhere else on their bodies. That means that can taste and smell potential snacks in muddy, murky or dark water.

Tackling the catching question. The popular consensus is that catfish are bottom feeders. That’s true. But it doesn’t mean they feed exclusively on the bottom. In fact, they’ll sniff through the entire vertical water column in search of food. And that means you might entice one just a couple of feet below the surface. These tend to be the smaller cats and you should have some luck with a medium-sized spinner like a Mepp’s Aglia #4. For the big ones, set up a sliding sinker rig. Your weight will rest on the bottom, letting your hook float just a few inches above it. This will also help to avoid snags (which are common along the Lockport stretch). When it comes to bait, the bigger and stinkier the better. Use smelts, shrimp, a ball of worms or frogs.