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North Dakota

I must admit that I found Brad Durick ( while searching for Red River guides for my Texas and Oklahoma trips. His website pictures are incredible and, when I went to ascertain in which of those two states he fished, I was quite surprised to see North Dakota listed, as I had never heard of the Red River of the North. I had intended to fish Devils Lake for my North Dakota trip, but seeing pictures of Brad’s massive channel catfish convinced me otherwise. As an added bonus, I was able to stop by Fargo and buy some souvenirs, though sadly not the “I Survived Fargo, North Dakota” shirts that I thought were so funny in 1996 (and still do).

Brad and I fished the Red River of the North within about 40 miles of the Canadian line. Rather than empty into the Mississippi, this river flows north into Lake Winnipeg. It is a pristine river with virtually no development along the parts that we fished. We also had the river entirely to ourselves. Brad theorized that this was partially because of the heat, which made me smile because it was 85 degrees, a full 15 degrees cooler than it was back in Virginia that day, and without any of the Virginia humidity.

This was one of those dream trips where everything goes right. I obviously have Brad to thank for that because knowing the catfish holes and having all of the equipment ready does not happen by luck. Brad also knew how to pick the timing, as the channel catfish were just coming off the spawn and were very hungry. I caught 31 channel catfish, of which an unbelievable 18 exceeded the 30-inch minimum needed for a North Dakota trophy fish award. The heaviest one, and still my personal best by weight, was a 35-inch, 19.2-pound beauty, and the second heaviest was a 34-inch, 18.75 pounder. The longest one was 37.5 inches and 16.5 pounds. At least a few of these trophies would have topped 20 pounds had the fish been eating instead of guarding the nest in the previous week or two. I had four doubles and one triple; of these 11 fish, nine were trophies. It was truly amazing. I also caught a 23.5-inch freshwater drum, which possibly could have been a trophy too had I thought to weigh him. (North Dakota does drum trophy awards by weight, not length, which I did not know at the time.)

I have never had trophy fishing success like this on a single trip. Even though North Dakota would only let me submit my five best fish for awards, I will always think of this as an 18-trophy day and once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Brad has since written a book, “Cracking the Channel Catfish Code,” which I recommend to any serious fisherman looking for trophy channel catfish. If there were ever an authority on the matter, I would have to say it is the man who can put someone on 18 trophy catfish in one afternoon.

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