Balmy weather offers ‘bonus days’ fishing greenback walleyes on the Manitoba side of the Red

With temperatures forecast to rise into the 50s this past weekend, I couldn’t resist the invitation a Canadian friend dangled last week to join him for a couple of days to fish “greenback” walleyes on the Manitoba side of the Red River near Lake Winnipeg.

Few places within easy driving distance offer a better shot at a big walleye.

Set the hook and reel me in.

Regardless of the fishing, the opportunity to fish walleyes in a boat in mid-November is a bonus, and we enjoyed two fine “bonus days” of fishing for greenbacks, so-called for the iridescent bluish-green color unique to walleyes in Lake Winnipeg and the lower Red River.

Saturday was about as perfect of a November day as you could ask for, and the muddy parking lot at the End of Main boat access on Netley Creek north of Selkirk, Man., was filled with vehicle-trailer rigs when we launched shortly after 10 a.m.

The first walleye of the day — which also proved to be the largest of the weekend — was putting a bend in my new Jason Mitchell spinning rod barely half an hour after we dropped anchor in about 13 feet of water a couple of miles downstream from the landing.

The greenish beauty was robust, in the way Lake Winnipeg walleyes always are, and measured 27½ inches. I set the fish free after a couple of quick photos and resumed jigging.

I couldn’t have scripted a better way to begin a bonus day.

Days without wind have been rare occurrences this fall, but Saturday passed with barely a breeze, and the surface of the river showed only the slightest ripple. That made the balmy temperature even more enjoyable, and at times, the warmth bordered on hot.

Neither of us were complaining, though.

We encountered a phenomenon Saturday that was made even more obvious by the lack of wind. Normally, as everyone knows, the Red River flows north, but on Saturday, the current along the stretch of river we fished near the mouth actually flowed the opposite direction.

The current wasn’t strong, and with no wind, I easily could feel bottom with a ¼-ounce Northland Tackle Whistler Jig — quite a change from the 6 to 8 ounces of lead we often have to use to keep our bait on the bottom in the summer when catfishing in Manitoba.

The only explanation we could muster for the reversal in flow was that several days of north wind earlier in the week had pushed water from massive Lake Winnipeg into the Red River so vigorously that it actually caused a temporary change in the direction of the current.

At any rate, the fish didn’t seem to mind.

Fishing wasn’t fast, by any means, but it was steady enough to keep us interested. Typical of fish in cooler water — the surface temp was 36.9 degrees — the bite was light. On several occasions, all we could feel was a “presence” — for lack of a better description — at the end of the line when a fish mouthed the bait. Whether the fish was a small sauger or a big walleye, we often couldn’t tell until we set the hook.

We fed our fair share of fish throughout the day and on numerous occasions were serenaded by coyotes howling and yipping nearby. That seemed odd, as coyotes typically are loudest after dark, but these coyotes apparently weren’t listening.

Sunday’s temperature also lived up to predictions, but an east-southeast wind blew just hard enough throughout the day to keep us bundled up. The current also was back to normal, flowing north toward the lake.

Fishing was similar to the previous day. The biggest walleye Sunday measured 24 inches, and my fishing partner made the save of the year when he managed to scoop the greenback into the landing net after it shook my jig nearly 5 feet from the boat.

I also lost a walleye late in the afternoon that felt considerably heavier and left me wondering what might have been.  Losing fish is part of the game, though, and as my fishing partner said, it’s what keeps us coming back.

Judging by the weather forecast, which calls for high temperatures to fall into the low 30s to high 20s by Friday, our days of boat fishing probably are done for the fall.

After two bonus days like we experienced Saturday and Sunday, it’s hard to complain.

Here are a few photos from the weekend:

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Brad Dokken started the day Saturday by landing this 27½-inch walleye on the Manitoba side of the Red River near Lake Winnipeg.

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With a cloudy sky in the background, the east side of the Red River near Lake Winnipeg appeared to glow Saturday afternoon, illuminated by the setting sun. (Brad Dokken photo)

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The sun dips toward the horizon Saturday afternoon on the Manitoba side of the Red River near Lake Winnipeg, marking the end of a day that passed much too quickly. (Brad Dokken photo)

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The boat ramp at End of Main north of Selkirk, Man., was a busy place both Saturday and Sunday morning as anglers converged on the Manitoba side of the Red River to take advantage of the balmy November weather. (Brad Dokken photo)

The mystery of the catfish puncture wounds

Catfish action is winding down for the season with the onset of cooler weather and falling water temperatures, but there still may be a few more days to do battle with the whiskered brutes that roam the Red River — especially with weekend forecasts that call for highs in the 70s.

Puncture wounds cover the side of a catfish caught recently on the Red River near Grand Forks. Could it be the work of a large northern pike?

Puncture wounds cover the side of a catfish caught recently on the Red River near Grand Forks. Could it be the work of a large northern pike?

Kent Hollands of Grand Forks shared a photo of a catfish he caught the other day on the Red near Grand Forks. The side of the fish shown in the photo is peppered with small puncture holes and a larger wound near the tail that obviously is bleeding.

Hollands speculates a big pike attacked the catfish, and that’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility. Big northerns definitely inhabit the Red, and I’ve heard of the fish swallowing prey as large as adult ducks.

I’m at a loss to explain what else would have inflicted so many puncture wounds on the side of the catfish, but it obviously survived the ordeal well enough to take the bait Hollands put in front of it.

One things for sure, it’s a cruel world down there in the Red’s murky depths.

Drayton girl wins local catfish tournament

A 10-year-old girl took first place in the Whopper category Saturday during the annual Rod and Reel Rally Catfishing Tournament in Drayton, N.D.

Kiara Aasand, 10, Drayton, N.D., landed a 19.2-pound catfish Saturday to win the Drayton Rod and Reel Rally Catfishing Tournament. The man helping her hold the fish isn't identified.

Kiara Aasand, 10, Drayton, N.D., landed a 19.2-pound catfish Saturday to win the Drayton Rod and Reel Rally Catfishing Tournament. Helping her hold the fish is tournament weigh-in official Pete Marciniak. (Drayton Community Chamber of Commerce photo)

Kiara Aasand, 10, of Drayton, landed a 35.75-inch, 19.9-pound catfish to land big fish honors and a check for $1,600. According to a news release from the Drayton Community Chamber of Commerce, she beat out 104 other anglers in 41 boats to win the tournament.

Other anglers finishing in the money were:

Second: Ronald Line, Park River, N.D., 34.25 inches, 17.2 pounds, $750.

Third: Bill Murray, East Grand Forks, 35.25 inches, 17.2 pounds, $400.

Fourth: Michael Peterson, Grand Forks, 34.5 inches, 16.2 pounds, $250.

Fifth: Tanner Anderson, Drayton, 33 inches, 16.1 pounds, $175.

Sixth: Brooks Pederson, West Fargo, N.D., 34.5 inches, 16.1 pounds, $125.

In the “Slot” category, for catfish smaller than 24 inches, Matt Nelson of Webster, N.D., landed a 23.75-inch, 4.9-pound fish to win $200. Mike Andrews of Grafton, N.D., landed the second-biggest slot with a 23.5-inch, 4.8-pound catfish to win $100.

Gabe Pederson of West Fargo, N.D., took the “Weenie” category with a 7-inch catfish that earned him $60.