There was a big discussion in this column last year about the origin of catfish in the Red River of the North. Some said individuals put the first ones there; others said they just showed up there a long time ago.
Well, here are three more emails about this subject.
Karry Kyllo, East Grand Forks, Minn., writes, “I believe the origin of channel catfish in the Red River goes all the way back to the time of Lake Agassiz.
“If I understand it correctly, high water levels at the time allowed channel catfish to migrate north from the Missouri and Sheyenne River drainage systems.”
Steve Hoffman, St. Michael, Minn., who is outdoors editor for Forum Communications Co., writes, “I don’t know whether or not the person cited in an earlier column ever stocked catfish in the river. I do know, though, that it wouldn’t have been necessary.
“Channel catfish are native to the Red River watershed and early distribution maps show them inhabiting the southern half of Lake Winnipeg.
“The definitive sources on this include ‘Freshwater Fishes of Canada’ by Scott and Crossman, the ‘North American Atlas of Freshwater Fishes’ by Gilbert et al and the U.S. Geological Survey.
“Fish species thrive and decline as water quality changes, and the catfish might have been difficult to detect in the area even though they were present.
“It’s likely they were not as abundant as they are today. But it’s also likely that the stocking described in your column had little impact on the population.”
Finally, Jay Leitch, North Dakota State University emeritus dean, writes, “I wrote a book about Red River catfishing in 2014 as a fundraiser for River Keepers: ‘Relaxed Anglers Guide to Catfishing on the Red River of the North.’
“At the time, I assumed they were native to the Red River.
“I did some checking and found that channel catfish were reported (in a Manitoba Fisheries and Oceans report) in the Red River (at least Lake Winnipeg) as early as 1885.
“So it looks like channel catfish are as native to the Red River as any other native species.
“I suspect the diaries of Randolph Probstfield would also include references to channel catfish.”
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