Sunday excursion yields two tagged Manitoba catfish

I was enjoying a pleasantly unproductive Sunday morning over a cup of coffee when I got a text from Brad Durick.

“Let’s go cattin’,” he said.

Brad Durick holds the 38-inch catfish caught Sunday afternoon near Grand Forks. The catfish was tagged Aug. 8, 2012, below the Lockport Dam in Manitoba, some 275 river miles away, as part of a tagging study underway in Manitoba. It was the second tagged Manitoba catfish to find its way into Durick’s boat Sunday afternoon. The tag is visible near the dorsal fin. (Brad Dokken photo)

A longtime friend and fishing partner, Durick had gotten a tip that big cats were biting on the Red River near Grand Forks. He spends a majority of his summer days on the river guiding for catfish and had planned to enjoy a day off, but the report was too good to resist.

So, he readied his 4-year-old son, Braden, for a few hours on the river and hooked up the boat. They were waiting at the boat ramp when I pulled up shortly after noon.

Spur-of-the-moment excursions often are the best ones, and that certainly proved to be the case Sunday afternoon. We landed six kitties in about three hours on the water, including a couple that weighed more than 20 pounds.

Best of all, though, two of those cats sported tags from a study that’s been underway in Manitoba the past two years.

There were a handful of tagged Manitoba catfish caught during the recent Cats Incredible catfish tournament, but these were the first either Durick or I had seen. Catching one is unusual enough, but catching two in just a couple of hours mere yards from each other is a rare occurrence indeed.

Despite the hours he logs on the water, Durick hadn’t seen a tagged catfish before Sunday afternoon.

The first tagged catfish measured 27 inches and looked to be in excellent shape, despite its cross-border journey. It was dwarfed, though, by the 38-inch, 22.6-pound behemoth we landed a short time later.

Anyone who’s ever fished the Red River below the Lockport Dam in Manitoba knows the catfish on that lower stretch of river before Lake Winnipeg run larger than they do anywhere else.

This fish definitely had the “look” of a Lockport cat.

I recently reported on the Manitoba catfish study so I emailed Stephen Siddons, the Nebraska graduate student in charge of the fieldwork, to report the tag numbers of the two fish.

He got back to me a short time later, suggesting we should buy lottery tickets after catching two tagged fish in the same day — especially when one of those fish measured 38 inches.

As it turns out, the smaller of the two fish was tagged June 17 in north Winnipeg while the larger cat was tagged Aug. 8, 2012. That fish — just as we suspected — was tagged below the Lockport Dam. That’s about 275 river miles from Grand Forks.

This summer’s high water, apparently, was just the excuse the catfish needed to head upstream and make a run for the border.

If our encounter was any indication, there are plenty of other Manitoba-tagged catfish in the Grand Forks area right now, and anyone who catches one of the fish — the orange-colored tag is inserted next to the dorsal fin and is hard to miss — should write down the tag number and call the phone number listed on the tag.

We’ve long suspected that Manitoba catfish make big upstream runs during high water, and Sunday’s encounter proves it.

NDGF PLOTS Guide now available online

For those of you like me who are counting the days until fall, a sure sign that hunting seasons are just around the corner now is online:

The PLOTS guide will feature about 735,000 acres of walk-in access land enrolled in the program. (N.D. Game and Fish Department photo)

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s 2014 Private Land Open to Sportsmen Guide.

One of the most useful tools North Dakota hunters have at their  disposal, the PLOTS guide will feature about 735,000 acres of walk-in access land enrolled in the program. The guide is available on the Game and Fish website by clicking here.

Hard copies of the guide will be available at most license vendors throughout the state in early September.

Because the guide is printed in mid-August, some PLOTS tracts highlighted in the guide may have been removed from the program since the time of printing. On the downside — and unfortunately, a sign of things to come — there also will be some PLOTS tracts where the habitat and condition of the land has changed significantly. At the same time, Game and Fish may have added new tracts to the program after the guide went to press.

To minimize possible confusion, Game and Fish will update PLOTS map sheets weekly on its website.

The PLOTS Guide features maps highlighting these walk-in areas, identified in the field by inverted triangular yellow signs, as well as other public lands.

The guides are free, and will be available in early September at county auditor offices and license vendors in the state; by walk-in at the Game and Fish Department’s Bismarck office; and at district offices in Riverdale, Harvey (Lonetree), Williston, Dickinson, Jamestown and Devils Lake.

The guides are not available to mail, so hunters will have to pick one up at a local vendor, or print individual maps from the website.


Crookston angler wins Drayton catfish tourney

Mike Kostrzewski of Crookston weighed in a 36-inch, 22½-pound catfish to land first place in the Whopper category in the Rod & Reel Rally catfishing tournament held Saturday on the Red River in Drayton, N.D. Kostrzewski landed a $1,600 cash prize for his winning fish.

Mike Kostrzewski of Crookston landed this 22.5-pound catfish to win the Drayton Rod & Reel Rally catfishing tournament Saturday on the Red River near Drayton, N.D.

Complete tournament results in the Whopper, Slot and Weenie categories are as follows:

Second: Tom Engelmann, Hoople, N.D., 20.4 pounds, 34 inches, $750.
Third: Darrell Severson, Grafton, N.D., 19.3 pounds, 35½ inches, $400.
Fourth: Colin Schuster, Drayton, 18.4 pounds, 35 inches, $250.
Fifth: Rick Engelmann, Hoople, 18.2 pounds, 34 inches, $175.
Sixth: Brandon Oby, St. Thomas, N.D., 16.8 pounds, 34 inches, $125.
Seventh: Jackson Rud, Stephen, Minn., 16.5 pounds, 33 inches, $125.
Eighth: Frank Dolney, Grafton, N.D., 16.4 pounds, 33 inches, $125.

First: Corey Stejskol, no town of residence listed, 5.95 pounds, 23 inches, $200.
Second: Tyler Parkman, Hope, N.D., 5.75 pounds, 22½ inches $100.
Third: Jennifer Nelson, no town listed, 5.2 pounds, 23 inches, $100.

Jeremy Pollestad, Drayton, 0.07 pounds, 5½ inches, $50.