One type of fish I don’t get to chase after at home in northwestern Ontario is catfish. But whenever I’m visiting southern Ontario in the spring I make a point to try and get out for cats on the Grand River.
This fishery has exploded with popularity in the last decade, and for good reason. It provides easy access for world-class channel cat fishing. The town of Dunnville serves as a starting point for fishing the 9-kilometer stretch of the lower Grand between the damn and the river’s mouth at Lake Erie.
The best fishing happens in April and May. Chasing cats is a great way to satisfy your angling appetite while waiting for other seasons to open.
I was lucky to learn the tricks of the trade from one of the rivers top guides, Steve Piggott, of Angler’s Way Guide Service.
One of the biggest keys to success is using fresh bait. Suckers are the top choice and should ideally be alive just before going on the hook. Slice the sucker crosswise into quarter-inch thick pieces then slide the thick skin onto a number 2 circle hook.
Equipment doesn’t have to be fancy, but needs to be able to handle fish up to 20-pounds. Downrigger rods or pike gear can be modified to handle catfish.
Use one-ounce egg sinkers above a swivel to keep your bait anchored on bottom. Keeping your bait motionless on bottom is important as it lets the catfish key in on your bait in the murky river water. Using two anchors (one at the front and one at the stern) helps keep your boat still.
Look for fish cruising along drop-offs and in holes along the river channel. Move often if you’re not getting bit.
Catfish provide an excellent change of pace for anglers while waiting for other seasons to open and the Grand River sets the stage for world-class catfish action. This spring try tangling with a Grand River cat. It’s an experience that will make this trip an annual event.
Ben Beattie is an outdoor writer and full-time fishing guide based in Sioux Lookout, ON. For more information, visit Ben’s website at www.benbeattieoutdoors.com