Open Water Perch Fishing on Devils Lake, ND
Devils Lake is probably best known for its jumbo perch. People come from all over the country in the winter to pursue the most popular sport fish in the Midwest. The reality is that not many people actively target perch in the summer on Devils Lake. Most target walleye and pike. There is usually a good walleye bite going on and it is difficult for many anglers to switch gears and go after perch. When you can get on them, perch fishing during the summer on Devils Lake can be outstanding!
Some of my personal best experiences on perch occurred even before my guiding days on Devils Lake. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s there was a lot of newly flooded timber in Devils Lake. My buddy and I had an old beat up 16 foot Lund that we called the “Green Hornet” with a 5hp Johnson on the back. Needless to say we were a bit limited as we didn’t have all the fancy gadgets, boat size and horsepower that so many boats today have.
We were limited so we specialized in fishing the trees. We would tie up to trees and give the fish 15-20 minutes and move if there was no action. We would continue this process until we found the “hot tree”. Our presentation was primarily vertical jigging with minnows, crawlers, and leeches. We would usually catch many more walleyes than perch, but I recall easily catching 15-30 perch a day in the timber. The trees were a perfect place for fish to live with all the cover and bait that they would need. We really thought nothing of it and usually just tossed them back as we were after walleyes.
In 2017, there aren’t nearly as many flooded trees that are still standing as there was back in the late 90’s. I don’t do as much tying up in the trees as I use to do. Probably because I have a boat now that allows me to cover more water and I am also able to do more presentations. I do not personally catch perch on a consistent basis in the summer. In fact, when I do catch a few in a row I am constantly trying to figure out a way to pattern them, which can be difficult to figure out. Often times when we do run into perch it is later in the summer (July/August) and it is in deeper water 25-35 feet.
Without a doubt the best way to catch perch in numbers is to be on top of them. Meaning, your boat stays wherever the bite is occurring. This can be tricky in the summer with waves and wind. However, perch tend to feed in tight pockets and if you are a few feet off, it can be the difference in constant action or nothing. It is also very important to down size lures. When I think back to jigging in the trees, I rarely had anything larger than a 1/4oz jig on. In fact, I would often have a 1/8 or 1/16 oz jig on. We were tied up to trees so our boat control was perfect. In the winter we are constantly usually smaller lures and 2-4 pound test line. It is much easier to stay on top of fish in the winter as you’re on ice and you don’t have to worry about waves moving you around.
Another factor that makes catching perch in the summer trickier is that many of these fish might be out deeper feeding on shrimp and hatches off the bottom. This is not to say that perch won’t be in shallow as well, it’s just that there are a lot of things going on in the shallows. Pike and walleyes are feeding in there also and it’s easier to chase perch out. When fish are out in the deeper areas (25 ft or more), it’s much trickier to anchor up right on top of the school. Spot-Lock will do the trick if you have it. Using your GPS and way pointing the school of perch and using your trolling motor might work as well. Again, staying where that bite is occurring is crucial to success.
So if you are up for a challenge and you want to catch jumbo perch in the summer, here are few more pointers.
Downsize your Lures Don’t be afraid to use a heavier spoon to get down with a smaller dropper rig below. If you are using traditional jigs, remember to go as light as you can. And try a lighter line. Something like 2-4 pound braided line is what I’d suggest.
Boat Control Anchor, spot lock, tying up in the trees. Whatever it takes to keep your boat on top of the bite. If you winter fish Devils Lake, work the areas that you left them this winter. If they aren’t there, work areas that have structure that are shallower that are adjacent and or close to your winter honey holes. Rocks, trees, humps, etc.
Watch your Electronics Perch are often in schools. Look for schools of fish and once you find them try different presentations and smaller baits to see if you can coax some biters. I’m sure that perch can be caught during May and June. It’s just that I have caught the majority of my perch during July, August, and September. Slip bobbers can be a deadly tactic as well. Often times perch do not want a lot of movement with your bait, so bobbers can have a time and place. Understand that perch are finicky creatures to say the least. This may take some failures before you establish a pattern. Once you get a bite going, get back down there and try to keep the frenzy going. It is also very important to down size lures.
Bring out your Flasher It can be a big help to watch your lure and see when fish come in. Set it along the side of your boat and drop your jig below it.
It can be difficult to chase a bite that can be tricky or tougher to pattern, especially when walleyes and pike are biting well. However, anyone that has had a flurry of jumbo perch below them knows how addicting and fun it can be. If you’re looking for a change or challenge, perch fishing on Devils Lake could be something that you may want to pursue.
Mark Bry is owner of The Fish Rehab located in Devils Lake and can be contacted by phone at (701) 739-0161 or visit him online at (www.brysguideservice.com)