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Destination Spotlight: Red River Channel Cats

Try your luck at trophy cats on this excellent border water.

Destination Spotlight: Red River Channel Cats

Captain Brad Durick with a 25-pound-class channel cat. (Photo by Dr. Jason Halfen)

Late summer is feeding time for whiskered denizens of the Red River of the North, which establishes much of the border between North Dakota and Minnesota.

Although it flows through several large cities, most of its length cuts majestic, serpentine bends through the quiet, northern reaches of the nation’s agricultural belt. As it does so, it hosts some of the best channel catfishing found anywhere, and late summer is a terrific time to chase them.

Captain Brad Durick (701-739-5808; operates the premier channel cat guiding service on the Red River. In late-summer, Durick and his clients adapt to changing water conditions as they chase oversized cats. When summer rains fill the Red, catfish transition to shoreline current seams and often slide into smaller tributaries to avoid the strongest flows.

As water levels subside, cats slip into traditional woody cover—like log jams—and eventually set up shop in mid-river holes.

How to Rig

Durick recommends anchoring above expected cat locations and presenting natural baits upstream of cover to draw fish out of snags. Build a catfish rig around a no-roll sinker, which lies flat on the bottom and resists being swept downstream by current.

Pass stout (50- to 80-pound) braided line through the no-roll sinker, thread on a bead to protect your knot and tie in a high-quality swivel to help minimize line twist. Next, add a short leader of 40- to 50-pound-test 100-percent fluorocarbon to provide some abrasion resistance. Finish the rig with a 5/0 to 8/0 circle hook. Cats and other whiskered fish are not line shy, so don’t worry about having the hook too close to the no-roll sinker.

Preferred baits are those that give off a potent scent trail. Fresh-cut sucker, frozen sucker chunks and frogs are staples. Anglers here can fish two lines at a time, so try a different bait on each until the daily favorite has been found. Protective harvest regulations are in place on the Red to ensure sustainability of this unique channel catfishing resource.

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