The northern waterway marks the border of Minnesota and North Dakota. It's 545 miles long, running from the Red River Valley into Manitoba, Canada and on to Lake Winnipeg. This is country with cold winters, so the presence of 'cats' may surprise those who thought of them as warm-water fish.
Dedicated fishermen of this far northern region declare that they can offer visitors the 'best catfishing on the planet'. They say that the channel cats are big and numerous, so an excursion on the water can mean hauling in twenty-pounders all day long. There are some great photos online to show that it's not all brag.
Professional guide services take visitors by boat to the places where these massive channel cats lurk. They say that there are so many huge cats that twenty-pound fish can be hauled in all day long. All visitors need to bring is a license and their lunch. Private groups can engage a local guide familiar with the best fishing spots for half-day or full-day trips.
Then there is the Red-River-of-the-South, which originates in the Texas Panhandle as two more or less parallel forks. This long waterway (1360 miles) meanders along part of the Texas and Oklahoma border and on into Arkansas and Louisiana. It's home to several species of cats, including channel cats, blues, and flatheads. There are rumors that a new species has been identified at the end of the river-course.
Down here they also have huge channel cats. The record is 58 pounds, but anything over twenty pounds is more than an armful. The flathead record is over 100 pounds, while the blues can get even bigger than that. To catch them, you can use a rod and reel baited with worms or minnows or chicken livers. A more adventurous way is 'noodling', which means feeling around in the murky depths with your bare hands, using your fingers for hooks.
If you prefer to take things as easy as possible, you can go jug-fishing, which means suspending baited lines from plastic jugs. Those interested more in filling the freezer than confrontation can use slat-traps, which entice fish in with bait but won't let them out again. There are two other legal ways to fish for cats: trot-lining and snagging. Go online for more information on these methods.
The history of these rivers, both targets of expeditions sent out by Thomas Jefferson to learn more about the Louisiana Purchase, is very different, but both stories are fascinating. The lure for many will be the great fish that move along the bottom, but others will like knowing that these rivers have played important roles in US history.
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