Over the years I’ve heard a lot about the great catfish fishery on the Grand River out of Dunnville, Ontario. As a result, I’ve had this experience on my bucket list for quite some time. If you’ve ever been to the Dunnville area, you’ve likely spotted the massive 50-foot catfish statue known as ‘Muddy the Mudcat’ located on the corner of Robinson Road and Main Street West. After visiting this area in the fall for smallmouth bass and walleye out on Lake Erie, I was excited to recently visit again for a spring adventure. And of course, we had to pursue some of the area’s remarkable catfish that so many anglers talk about! I have partnered with Ontario’s Southwest and Haldimand County for this adventure.
Please note: It is recommended to plan ahead before traveling by connecting with local operators and businesses to determine any new public health measures and procedures put in place.
The Grand River
The Grand River stretches 280 kilometers in length and is the largest river found entirely within the boundaries of Southern Ontario. The Conestogo, Speed, Eramosa, Irvine, and Nith rivers all drain into the Grand. The Grand River begins near Wareham, flowing through Grand Valley, Fergus, Elora, Waterloo, Kitchener, Cambridge, Paris, Brantford, Caledonia, Cayuga, and then empties into the north shore of Lake Erie at Port Maitland. The Grand is known for a diversity of fish species including: largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleye, northern pike, bullhead, channel catfish, common carp, freshwater drum, rainbow trout, brown trout, crappie, perch, bluegill, and many more. During the spring, the mouth of the river up to the dam at Dunnville is a popular destination for channel catfish and bullheads. These species move up into the river from Lake Erie and stack up in the warmer waters found below the dam where they eventually spawn, usually late spring or early summer.
Our Channel Catfish Adventure
We had a fantastic experience during our fall trip with James Houtby at Grand Sportfishing just last year, so I got in touch with him to book this spring outing as well. We lucked out with a nice sunny day, although it felt a little cool with the wind. My partner, Eric, was also joining me on this trip. We layered up a bit, and met up with James at around 9am to set out for what became a very action-packed day on the water!
James brought us to a few different locations on the river using his electronics and knowledge of the area to locate concentrations of fish. He anchored the boat down at each location as we would be fishing static bottom baits the duration of our outing. James runs baitrunner style spinning set-ups, 3-ounce pyramid-style sinkers with a leader down to a circle hook that had a big chunk of sucker meat cut bait. We’d wait while these rigs sat on bottom, but it didn’t take very long before the cats were mowing down our offerings!
The second channel cat of the day quickly became a double header!
In addition to the channel catfish, we also landed a few other species including: a number of bullheads, 2 bowfin, a freshwater drum, and a pumpkinseed. James mentioned that it’s very common to pick up a few other species during these trips and it was fun to see such a variety, as well as channel cats of various sizes.
Check out all the action from these strong fish (that definitely gave me sore arms) in the video below:
James Hall at Hall’em In Sport Fishing is also another local guide in the area who offers catfish trips.
Accommodations & Dining
If you’re looking for accommodation and dining options while in the area, Haldimand has a great resource on their website for trip planning: https://tourismhaldimand.ca/plan-a-trip/
Ontario’s Southwest also has a helpful planning tool including various accommodation types throughout the region: https://www.ontariossouthwest.com/accommodations
I’ve had the chance to sample some of the local dining options in Dunnville area and fell in love with the Shawarma Poutine at Country Chip Wagon last fall! Leading up to this trip, we were sure to plan another stop here. Eric is a huge fan of this poutine as well, so we each ordered our one along with a milkshake following our fishing adventure.
Our trip came to an end on a high note with big smiles and full bellies after another fun fishing adventure in Haldimand County! I hope we’ll be back very soon!