If we’d listened to the weather forecast, two friends and I might have canceled what turned out to be a fantastic fishing trip last weekend on the Red River near Selkirk, Manitoba.
Rain, thunder, lightning and wind, the forecast predicted — sometimes all at once.
Sometimes, though, you have to play the cards you’re dealt and make the best of it when it comes to outdoors excursions. Whether it’s hunting, fishing or any other outdoor activity, Mother Nature calls the shots.
It’s either roll the dice and hope for the best or stay home.
We decided to roll the dice and hope for the best.
This time, we won.
The boat ramp at Selkirk Park was a quiet place last Sunday morning, Aug. 25, when we launched my Canadian friend’s Lund and headed upstream toward some favorite catfish haunts. He lives just minutes from the boat ramp, so if the weather took a turn, we wouldn’t have a long run back to drier surroundings.
Everyone else, it seemed, had made other plans after hearing the gloomy forecast.
Low-hanging clouds hinted at rain, and there was a definite fall bite in the air, but the radar didn’t show anything particularly ominous, aside from some showers moving in from the west that would arrive later that afternoon.
We’d keep an eye on the weather and plan accordingly.
Within minutes, we were anchored in a favorite midriver fishing spot dunking frogs on the bottom of the river in about 14 feet of water. The wait for a bite was short, and the first catfish of the morning was in the boat barely 5 minutes into the day.
Then another. And another. And another. …
The Red near Selkirk is about as low as I’ve ever seen it, and the low river levels and lack of flow have combined to produce water that’s unusually clear by Red River standards. Normally, it’s impossible to see even a 20-pound catfish until it breaks the surface of the turbid water.
Last weekend, the catfish were clearly visible perhaps 3 feet below the surface, providing the rare opportunity to watch them battle as they gave us sore arms and gave our heavy-duty fishing gear everything it could handle.
The rain we’d seen on the radar rolled in mid-afternoon right on schedule. It lasted about an hour, but it wasn’t anything our raingear couldn’t handle.
There was no thunder or lightning so we kept fishing.
We kept count, and by the time we pulled the plug about 4 p.m., we’d landed and released 40 catfish up to 37½ inches long. We weighed some of the biggest fish while they still were in the net; the biggest of them tipped the scales at 26 pounds after deducting the weight of the net.
All but a couple of the catfish we caught came from two spots about 5 river miles apart. We didn’t see more than two or three boats on the river the entire day.
Heavy rain, this time with thunder and lightning, rolled in about suppertime but by then we were back at my friend's place, recounting the highlights of the day on the porch and enjoying a favorite beverage or two.
The next day was a repeat of the first, except the fishing was even better. A midday shower that sent us scrambling for our raingear lasted about 15 minutes, but that was the only setback in a day of mostly uneventful weather.
The wind picked up and switched to the north late in the afternoon, but not until we were ready to head home anyway.
By the time we ran out of frogs and called it a day, we’d landed a whopping 59 catfish — 41 of which came from a single spot.
The spectacular catfish action we enjoyed wasn’t the only highlight of a fishing trip that was memorable for all the right reasons. Late that second afternoon, we watched a bald eagle struggle with something on the surface of the river along the far shore about 200 yards from where we were anchored.
The struggle went on for a few minutes before the eagle dragged whatever it grasped in its talons up on shore and began picking at it.
Before long, several other eagles descended in hopes of getting in on the fishy feast.
We pulled anchor and decided to have a closer look before heading back to the boat ramp. The eagles flew off as we approached, but there on shore, was a northern pike weighing perhaps 5 or 6 pounds.
The eagle obviously had spotted the pike in the unusually clear water but found it too heavy to carry on the wing.
The encounter reminded me of the video that went viral a couple of weeks back of the eagle that caught and dragged a sizable muskie to shore along the St. Croix River.
If we’d listened to the weather forecast, we would have missed seeing a similar encounter firsthand.
Along with some of the best catfish action any of us had experienced in quite some time.