I had a chance to spend a few hours on the Red River near Selkirk, Man., on Monday afternoon with Mark Pegg, a fish ecologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who is faculty adviser for a channel catfish study underway on the Canadian portion of Red River.
Manitoba and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are coordinating the study in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
Pegg, who is spending the summer in Manitoba helping to tag channel catfish for the study, tied up to our boat Monday afternoon while a couple of friends and I were fishing. Despite the sweltering heat, the catfish were surprisingly cooperative, and 15 catfish now sport the orange-colored tags behind the dorsal fins as a result of our time with Pegg.
He even let Grand Forks catfish guide Brad Durick, who joined me on the trek north, tag several cats. Durick has documented nearly a dozen of the catfish tagged in Manitoba after catching the fish here in Grand Forks. That means the catfish have traveled upwards of 300 river miles from where they were tagged.
Durick and Pegg had corresponded by email about the study and our planned trip north, so the meeting wasn’t coincidental. Durick also caught one of the tagged Manitoba fish while we visited with Pegg. He probably should have bought a lottery ticket that day.
Since launching the study in 2012, Pegg says he and a handful of Nebraska students working on the project have tagged some 13,000 channel catfish along the Manitoba portion of the Red from the mouth near Lake Winnipeg to the border at Emerson, Man. DNR fisheries crews also tagged about 500 catfish on the U.S. portion of the Red this summer as part of the same study Pegg is advising.
An Iowa native, Pegg says the size and quality of the Red River’s channel cats has spoiled him for fishing catfish anywhere else.
Pegg says plans also are in the works to install transmitters in a small sample of the Canadian catfish — perhaps 12 to 15 to start with — in an effort to learn even more about where they travel. The Minnesota DNR coordinated a similar catfish telemetry study in the late 1990s, but this will be the first project since then looking at movements of fish in the lower Red River.
I’ll have an update on the tagging study and our time on the water with Pegg in Sunday’s Northland Outdoors section.