HuntFishMB Contributor – Chris Chorney
The Portage Diversion, located 45 minutes west of Winnipeg on the Assiniboine river presents itself as a world-class fishery. The water control station, built for flood mitigation to protect the Red River Valley, also supplies flourishing habitat for a wide range of aquatic life including massive catfish. Situated only a few miles south of Portage La Prairie off Highway #1, this often-overlooked runnel features an incredible experience for those who enjoy fishing from shore. Convenient public access points and parking are available along both north and south shorelines east of the Diversion.
Walking the river banks is a great way to find potential areas that hold active fish. Through personal experiences outside river bends, funnels or areas where a significant change in water movement is noticeable have contributed to my many Master Angler kitties on the Assiniboine. Locations such as these tend to be deeper and are easily identified from shore due to normally low water levels at this time of year. Weather can also play an important role, the months of September, October and November have their fair share of gloomy days, which are ideal when pursuing gargantuan cats. Overcast skies and light transitions such as morning and evening are preferred conditions that can send these light sensitive predators into a furious feeding frenzy. Some catfish enthusiasts prefer to angle at night, when these bottom dwellers move from deep water pools into the shallows. Shorelines supply refuge for minnows during the hours of darkness while offering small insects and parasites for them to feed on.
Thriving off a protein rich diet, these powerhouse fish gorge heavily during the fall, putting on the pounds before winter. Leopard frogs inhabit the river banks and can be caught sunning themselves along grassy edges near the water during the warmest periods of the day. Their keen senses complement their ninja like reflexes making them tough to catch but are a delicacy among our whisked friends. Using a small mesh net along with a stealthy approach will increase your odds. Another excellent bait is the goldeye commonly found patrolling just beneath the water surface throughout the river in large schools. These shiny silver fish offer a tasty snack and can be easily caught by anglers, using a split-shot and small hook tipped with a tiny piece of night crawler dangling a foot or two below a bobber. This has been proven to be effective when targeting this feisty species. Once caught, cut the fish into 1”-1.5” pieces then attach to your hook making sure to penetrate the scales for added holding strength.
Pre-made catfish rigs are convenient and can be purchased at most local tackle shops. If you’re the ‘do it yourself’ type manufacturing your own is also an option. Weights available in multiple sizes offer anglers the ability to fish varying conditions. For example, in strong current or on extremely windy days a heavier weight may be needed. The more the weight bounces along bottom the better chance of losing your bait or whole rig due to underlying debris such as trees and rocks etc. Catfish prefer no movement and zero resistance, putting a rod in a secure holder while allowing line to be easily pulled from the reel will increase your chances of a successful hook up. Once caught, these gigantic river monsters put up an intense bout of tug-a-war consisting of wild head shakes and drag peeling runs. Bring along a strong long-handled net, which will save you from getting wet feet or possibly worse injuring yourself on slippery banks or jagged rocks. A good bump board is also recommended for these pure muscle fish that are best measured laying flat on there undersides.
So the next time you’re looking for that action-packed off the shore fishing experience that’ll send you home with sore arms and great memories, check out the Portage Diversion and don’t forget your camera!
For more information, visit our Channel Catfish page.