With the cold Thanksgiving week, anglers are gearing up for their first
Devils Lake perch forays of the season. The back bays and even some major
portions of this sprawling North Dakota lake have frozen, however local
authorities are in the “warning mode,” and urging first-icers to use the
Perch have always been a Devils Lake favorite, and since surveys began, area
fisheries researchers show populations of large perch at record levels.
Biologist Todd Caspers said, “Since our surveys began in 1992, we now have a
record level of 12-inch and larger perch in the system, with most of those
being right at a foot long or slightly bigger. I expect ice fishermen will
have good luck with perch in the winter months.”
To put the “record level” in perspective, Caspers said, “The numbers of
12-inch plus perch that we encountered in our survey this year are at the
highest level that we have documented since our surveys began in 1992.” The
actual numbers show the current level of 12-inch plus perch to be three
times the average.
Ice fishermen will also encounter amazing numbers of walleyes and northern
pike, along with some white bass. Looking at the early fishing with the
help of a 25-year Devils Lake regular and Perch Patrol guide Dave Randash
could help narrow the search. “Wait for 4 to 5 inches of ice before walking
out,” he advised. “And, plan the day so early morning and late afternoon
become your walleye-times. Target perch in mid-day.”
His perch advice is to start with the hot “early” areas from last year: the
east side of Creel Bay (across from Woodland Resort) and the “dome” house
area on Creel. The region referred to as “Doc Hagens” was also a top
producer. He will also be checking the Pelican and Minnewaukan Flats.
“Early perch for me means fishing water from 35 to 54 feet deep,” he said.
Favorite perch tactics include a small Northland Buckshot spoon tipped with
a minnow head or a wax worm. Randash also has a second rod with a heavy
dropper to get his tiny jigs with waxxies down immediately after catching a
perch. “The school doesn’t remain long; make hay while you can,” he said.
“Often, a third rod with a bobber and a tail-hooked minnow works best.”
Anglers may use up to four rods while ice fishing.
Devils Lake fisherman Clint Devier feels the good late summer and fall bite
will carry over into winter. “This summer, we’ve been catching the nice 12
to 13 inchers, some just a bit smaller and then bunches of 8 and 9 inch
fish. This winter will be like the good old days,” he said.
Walleyes were as hot as perch all summer and fall, and that action should
also continue under the ice. Randash fishes shallow water (10 feet or less)
early and late in the day, but has found that many large walleyes roam the
deep basins, where he catches quite a few with perch tackle. His top two
walleye presentations are spoons and Jigging Raps. “The past two years, I
figure at least two-thirds of my walleyes came in the evening while fishing
rock piles with brush and/or trees,” he said. Best spots to try include
Pelican, Dry Lake, Lake Irwin, the western flats, near the Casino, and he
recommends anglers keep moving, drilling and watching their Vexilars.
Randash tip: “In deep water, use a nine degree transducer for less
interference from nearby buddies.”
He likes to take kids northern pike fishing. His favorite spots are the
north end of Six Mile Bay and anywhere on Pelican. “Set tip-ups with a
treble hook and half a smelt or cisco, and watch them run for the flags;
it’s a ball with all the quality pike in the system,” Randash said. The
pike and walleye limits are five per angler per day and 10 in possession.
The perch limits are 20 daily and 80 in possession.
A map of the nine convenient public drive-on accesses is featured on
devilslakend.com. A modern fish-cleaning station is located south of Ed’s
Bait Shop on Hwy 20 (south of the City of Devils Lake). The 20 x 32 station
can handle 15 anglers at once, and like the Devils Lake fishing season is
open 12 months of the year. It is free, heated, has two grinders, a
clean-up sink, regular and handicapped bathrooms.
Devils Lake fishing guides target perch, walleyes, white bass and pike. To
contact guides and for the latest lake and ice conditions, fishing reports,
lodging, activities, restaurants, tournament news and resorts, check
www.devilslakend.com, or call 701-662-4903.