Fishing in Winnipeg
The Red and Assiniboine rivers in Winnipeg can provide some of the best recreational angling fishing in Manitoba, as well as a close and convenient place to spend a quiet, relaxing summer evening. To fish in Winnipeg, you must have a valid Recreational Angling License which can be obtained from any local tackle shop or Manitoba Water Stewardship: 200 Saulteaux Crescent, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3J 3W3. For information on fees check out Manitoba Fisheries Branch. Recreational angling regulations are located in the Manitoba Anglers’ Guide, available free wherever you buy your licence.
Where to Fish in Winnipeg
Fish can be caught nearly everywhere in the Red and Assiniboine rivers. The map on the inside shows popular shoreline spots, public docks, and boat launches.
Where to cast your line? Look for habitat that attracts fish. Fish like cover, so bridge pilings, docks, fallen trees, log jams along the shore and rock rip-rap that extends into the water are likely to be more productive than open, uniform shorelines. Drop-off areas near shore, deep holes (often found in sharp bends in a river), back eddies, and mouths of rivers also attract fish. Channel catfish, saugers and redhorse suckers prefer faster water, while freshwater drum, carp, and bullheads like quiet water.
When in doubt, watch where other people are fishing. Good spots always attract anglers.
Fishing Gear and Methods
You don’t need expensive equipment to have a successful fishing trip on Winnipeg’s rivers. An inexpensive rod and appropriate reel are good enough to land any fish from these rivers (although skill, patience and a good deal of time will be needed to land “the big one”). You can get more advice on the type of equipment best suited to your needs from your local tackle shop.
Note: In Manitoba, anglers must use barbless hooks! A barbless hook is a hook with no barbs or barbs that have been compressed to be in complete contact with the shaft of the hook.
Most fishing in the rivers is done with natural baits such as worms, dead or live minnows, and leeches, fished on or near the bottom.
Pickerel rigs are comprised of two hooks (shown here) and can be bought packaged and ready to use. They keep the bait just above the river bottom. The slider sinking rig (shown here), which keeps the bait even closer to the bottom, works especially well for channel catfish, carp and freshwater drum.
Remember, if you are fishing the bottom, you will need a heavy weight to hold the bait in the current.
However, to catch fish that like surface or midwater areas, you will need to use a float or bobber. The sliding float rig (shown here) allows you to set the depth of your bait and change it easily. This rig is good for goldeye, mooneye, carp (when they are feeding in shallow water), walleye and channel catfish (when they are feeding on fish near the surface).
There are also many types of artificial lures or combinations of lures and natural baits that can be used. A spinner bait can be used as is, with a jig tail, or baited with a dead minnow or worm. All are good for walleye, sauger, and pike. The smaller sizes work better for goldeye and mooneye, which have small mouths. Jigs can be used with minnows and worms, or with any color pattern of jig tail. Especially effective for walleye and sauger, jigs can be cast and retrieved or fished near the bottom. Spoons and crank baits are also effective bait for pike, walleye and sauger.
Some Species of Fish to Catch
Bullheads are medium-sized catfish and are abundant in slower moving water. Bullheads are easily caught on worms or minnows fished on or near the bottom using a sliding sinker or pickerel rig. The best time to catch bullheads during the year is between early June and late August. When handling bullheads, be careful not to cut yourself on the sharp spines on the front of the dorsal fin and each pectoral fin. The sensory barbels or whiskers around the mouth are soft and harmless.
Channel catfish like current and prefer deeper water, especially during the day. They can grow to over 12 kg in size! Smaller “cats” can be caught on worm or minnows, fished on or near the bottom. A piece of fish (goldeye, sucker or tullibee), chicken liver or shrimp tail are good bait for larger fish. When fishing for catfish, use a sliding sinker rig, making sure to choose the appropriate hook size. Big “cats” are likely to break smaller hooks if caught. Channel catfish are strong fighters, and the large ones may take nearly an hour to land. Your best chance to catch one of these “monsters” is between late May and early October. Like the bullheads, catfish have dorsal and pectoral spines to watch out for when handling these fish.
Goldeye and mooneye are found in Winnipeg’s rivers. They are surface feeders with large eyes and an upturned mouth and can be caught using a sliding float rig, a small hook, and a worm or minnow. They can be caught in significant numbers if a school passes by, usually between late May and early September. Mooneye seem to prefer the waters of the Red over the Assiniboine. Both species of fish are known for their excellent taste, especially when smoked.
Sauger and walleye live in the rivers and spawn during late April and early May. Sauger outnumber walleye in the Red River. Both prefer deep water with a rocky bottom, shoreline, bridge pilings or similar forms of cover. To catch them, fish on or near the bottom using a pickerel rig baited with minnows or worms, a jig with a jig tail or natural bait, spinner baits, spoons, or deep-running crank baits. Most anglers catch the majority of their fish from early May to early June, late August to freeze up and during the winter ice fishing season.
Freshwater drum stay in the rivers throughout the year. They feed on small fish, crayfish and small clams, and are best caught by fishing on the bottom with a pickerel rig or a sliding sinker rig baited with a minnow or worm between mid-May and early October. These fish are one of the most numerous species that are caught in the river. Another common name for this species is silver bass.
Carp are abundant everywhere in the rivers and run into the lower reaches of smaller streams during late May to spawn. Carp are bottom feeders and can grow to very large sizes. Canned or sweet corn, bread kneaded into a tough dough, or worms are the best baits. In shallow water, a sliding float rig, set deep enough so that the bait will lie on the bottom, is a good choice. In deeper water, use a sliding sinker rig instead. Getting carp to bite requires a lot of patience but they put on a memorable battle when hooked. The best chance to catch one of these fish is during the summer months of June, July and August.
Many other fish species can be found in Winnipeg’s rivers, including northern pike, suckers, burbot, and black crappies.