Devils Lake Pike Fishing: Better than Canadian Fly-in Fishing Camps
by Mort Bank
If you’re looking for spectacular fishing for walleye or perch look no further than Devil’s Lake. And while the main focus for most fishermen is for those two species, Devil’s Lake is often overlooked as a World Class Fishery for northern pike. Very few fishermen target pike but those that do have some of the best pike fishing found anywhere in the world.
That even includes Canadian fly-in camps that charge up to $4,000 for a 4 day trip to fish for trophy pike. Those camps brag about the chance of catching a 20 pound pike. But Devil’s Lake has plenty of 20 pound pike and even some that top 30 pounds. Just ask local Nate LaFleur. He landed a 51.5 inch monster on a fly rod. That fish might have been a new state record (37lbs, 8 ounces) but LaFleur released it so someone else might have a chance to catch it.
Northern pike are my favorite fish to catch for a number of reasons.
1) Pike grow to be big, very big.
2) Pike are relatively easy to catch.
3) Pike also seem to be in a good mood – ready to bite.
4) Pike will readily strike about any lure thrown at them.
5) Once hooked, they put up a strong fight.
While Devil’s Lake is a huge body of water, locating pike is relatively easy. They love to hide and then ambush their prey. That’s why it’s crucial to look for areas that have weeds, submerged trees and rocky bottoms. Once I find these spots I know pike are close by.
After ice out pike will be in shallow water bays getting ready to spawn. The best bays have a soft bottom, weed growth and water depths of less than eight feet. Finding these bays is a lot easier if you have a paper contour map to study before you get to a lake.
Dakota Fishing Maps, 1-701-258-3475, has waterproof maps of most North and South Dakota lakes including Devil’s Lake.
These shallow water pike spook easy so a quiet approach is a must. I’ll start by positioning my boat in 8 feet of water and gradually move shallower using my bow mount electric trolling motor. Don’t be surprised to find the majority of fish in just a couple feet of water or even less.
To avoid spooking fish this shallow, long casts are a must. If I’m casting small lures I prefer to use a 7 1/2 foot, medium action rod. My line choice would be 12 pound braided line. For pike braided line works perfectly because it has no stretch. This insures a solid hook set.
For casting larger lures a baitcast reel is my first choice loaded with 20 pound braid. I’ll pair it with a 7’11” heavy action rod.
My lure choices are Mepps Spinners, Terminator spinnerbaits, Arashi Cover Pop, Chatterbait Jack Hammer, Rapala Original Floating Minnow, Heddon Zara Spook and Rapala Shadow Rap.
Soft plastics can be a real killer for these shallow water pike as well.
No matter which lure you decide to use, a steel leader is a must. Pike have sharp teeth and without a steel leader you’ll end up with a lot of missed fish and a much lighter tackle box. Due to their poor quality I no longer use store-bought leaders but make my own. They’re easy to make using a product called Tuf-Leader. It’s a flexible wire that ties like monofilament. Best of all, it requires no crimping.
By mid-June pike will exit their spawning bays and head for main lake structures. Points, submerged trees, deep flats, islands and rocky shorelines are all areas I target. Most of the best pike fishing will be in 6-to 12-feet of water. All of the lures I previously mentioned will work at these depths as well.
Some fishermen don’t like to eat northern pike due to their numerous Y bones. But with a little practice, cleaning a pike so the fillets are boneless is really easy. YouTube has numerous videos on how to clean pike.
So if you’re looking to battle with a fish that’s big, fights hard, jumps out of the water and is fun to catch, well, look no further than North Dakota’s northern pike. The perfect lake to catch pike? That’s an easy question to answer… Devil’s Lake! •