the Red River catfish

Fishing Spot Review: The Red River

Ah the Red River. I grew up seeing this River almost every day, but never really appreciated it until recently. Fishing the Red River is an extremely common pastime here. Despite the large angling pressure it receives throughout the year, however, it still provides a productive and accessible fishing experience.

What is the Red River?

A big river with some areas as wide as 1000 ft, it originates at the confluence of the Bois de Sioux and Otter Tail rivers. It flows northward between the U.S. states of Minnesota and North Dakota . Winding its way through southern Manitoba, it joins up with the Assiniboine in Winnipeg and eventually drains into Lake Winnipeg.

CC BY-SA 2.5, Wikipedia

The Red River has a false reputation of being very dirty and even dangerously toxic. This is due to its heavy sediment content making it look a dirty brown color. Winnipeg’s sewage system occasionally dumping into the river doesn’t help with that image either. A majority of people, when asked, will not eat fish from it, or even swim in it. This is a real shame.

Testing has shown that although not perfect the Red River is not dangerous, or as filthy as many people believe. The water is considered ‘generally safe’ with no hazardous levels of contaminants. Ingesting a little of it while swimming, or eating fish from it is absolutely fine. If you can get past the misconception of it being ‘dirty’, there are so many places one can chuck a lure into this River and bring home supper.

Red River fishing

Fishing on the Red River

 If you’re looking for an easy way to introduce someone to fishing without worrying about getting skunked, the Red River is a good choice. Don’t have a boat? No problem, there is plenty of places to set up a lawn chair and throw a line from shore. Other than people’s personal property on the east bank of the river, you can pretty much fish from shore anywhere around Selkirk, Lockport, and even many areas in Winnipeg. That’s just the spots I fish from and I know there are many other places to set up outside of the towns and city.

red river fishing for greenbacks
The Red River is best known for its fall Greenbacks

When you do have a boat, all the better. There are so many good spots on the river that one can easily find, even as a beginner. Canoes and Kayaks are doable, but the river does have a strong current in some locations, so caution is advised. The Red River unfortunately is contaminated with invasive Zebra Mussels, so you will have to clean your boat if you plan on heading to another water body. Click here for more information on Zebra Mussels.

Year Round Production

Ice fishing is another method widely used on this water system. So many people set up shacks on this river that it often looks like little towns on the ice. Yet even with this pressure, you still have a good chance to land a few walleye and sauger on most winter days.

the red river
Ice fishing on the Red River

The Red River holds a great variety of fish. During the summer you can catch an impressive list of species:

  • Channel Catfish
  • Brown Bullhead
  • Common Carp
  • Goldeye
  • Walleye
  • Sauger
  • Freshwater Drum
  • Burbot
  • Pike
  • Perch
  • Lake Sturgeon

Selkirk is known for large Catfish and is even called the Catfish Capital of the World and I can see why. I only started fishing for them two years ago and every time I headed out, I have caught a Master Angler!  The baits I have used have been Goldeye, liver, and shrimp. Shrimp is the bait I have had the most success with by far. Most everything else in the Red River can be caught on a simple jig and minnow or a piece of worm. The key take away from this should be that when you are fishing in this river you need to use some sort of natural, smelly bait due to the lack of visibility. Some people have success with plastics or crank baits, but in my experience a catch on those is rare.

Brown Bullheads are fun to catch, plentiful, and most surprisingly, tasty!

Final Thoughts

I really like going to this river if I need to break an unlucky streak, and just catch something. The Freshwater Drum can feel like they get in the way of catching Walleye or Catfish since there are so many, but they still put up a good fight and are fun to catch.

The water may have an undeserved dirty reputation, and the shores are not the most scenic area to fish. The fishing, however is always very good. The proximity to civilization makes it easy to get up early and just go have fun catching fish all day and be back in your own bed at night. While not your typical remote wilderness travel destination, if you have a chance to head here for either world class catfish or winter greenbacks, you will definitely want to try it out!

Authored by Colin Wiebe and Adam Zacharias

1 Comment

  • hans August 14, 2020 at 8:59 pm

    wow i thought there was just catfish but there’s a whole lot in there

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