Plenty of Ice Fishing Options on Devils Lake
Plenty of options in Devils Lake, North Dakota…
by Mark Bry
One of the reasons that Devils Lake is such a destination for so many anglers is the fact that there are so many options. Perch, walleye, and pike are very common on this giant lake located in the central prairie of North Dakota. If the stars align, you might just catch a 14 inch jumbo perch, a northern pike that stretches to 40 inches, or maybe even a 30 inch walleye. There is always a chance when you are fishing on Devils Lake. A bit of variety in life can be refreshing. Here are some tips that will help you on your next trip to Devils Lake.
Some keys to catching walleyes on Devils Lake…think shallow. It’s important to get out of your comfort zone of fishing shallow and go even shallower. We have caught fish as shallow as 2 feet and consistently catch them in 4-7 feet all winter. Of course not everyday is lights out but there is definitely a pattern in the shallow waters of Devils Lake.
Walleyes are predators and they are looking for places that hold food. Shallow water areas that seem to hold the most fish are weed lines, flooded trees, and rock piles. Traditionally, morning and afternoon bites are the most consistent However, we have had days where the bite can be good all day in the shallows. Aggressive lures such as buck shots and blade baits are the ‘go to’ lures to use in shallow water. Often, walleyes will come in and smack your lure, sometimes so quickly that you don’t even mark them on your electronics. Play around with rattle and colors, as the mood of the walleye can change as far as what they want pertaining noise and color. This is certainly one of the most exciting ways to catch walleyes on Devils Lake.
Prepare for your drag to scream as these aggressive walleyes fight with all they have.
One of the most targeted species of fish pursued by people from the Midwest is the Jumbo Perch. Trying to find or create that next ‘flurry’ is really the name of the game when you are fishing on Devils Lake. Finding a flurry as opposed to creating a flurry.
When you are trying to find a flurry there will more than likely be a lot of holes drilled. There will be a lot of “run and gunning” involved as well. Most of the time I will give a new hole only a few minutes. You are jigging aggressively and you are looking for active fish. Don’t be a afraid to hit the bottom and try to stir things up a bit. Bring your lure up several feet off the bottom as well as you are trying to call fish in. Often fish will come in aggressively and hit. Often, through hard work, you will drop in on the mother load and the flurry is on immediately. Lures are generally spoons of some kind that can get back down quickly and get the fishes attention.
Finding flurries is a lot of work but it is also very rewarding to work hard and get rewarded. My most memorable ice trips that seem to constantly replay in my head are almost when I was trying to find a flurry. Remember, watching your electronics like a hawk to see if there is any sign of life or activity down there is key in determining your next move.
Creating a flurry…this is recommended when you are on fish but they just don’t seem to be interested. So you have found the fish but they just are not cooperating. This is where you need to get creative and try as many options as you can. First, play around with your presentation. See if you can find a rhythm that will entice them to bite. I’ve seen times where I’ve had to totally stop jigging when a fish comes in and let the lure sit right in front of the perches nose for a minute or two before they will hit. Next, change your lure. Often, downsizing is the ticket, but there have been times when going to a larger lure has produced well. There are days when they want a certain color, so adjust as needed. Lastly, wait them out. It is not easy to sit on top of fish that don’t seem to be interested. But, often they will turn on at some point in the day. Waiting them out and getting that first fish or two to bite will often create a bite for you. There are days when you get a few fish an hour all day long and there are others when you get a flurry where they are biting as fast as you can get it down there.
At the end of the day, you need to be where the fish are at to catch them. Location is the name of the game!
PIKE… The toughest and most aggressive fish in Devils Lake. Pike can get big on the lake and they average 4-5 pounds. They are a blast to go after. Tip –ups, angling, and spearing are ways that anglers can go after pike. On Devils Lake, there are plenty of place to look for pike. If you are looking for numbers of pike, look to the shallow waters of the northwest end of the lake. Pike can be found out in deeper water as well, but the majority of them will be caught in ten feet or less.
SPEARING… probably the closest thing to hunting that I’ve experienced. Watching fish under the ice is almost a surreal experience. Some fish come in slow, others circle around your decoy, while others absolutely crush it. The anticipation of what will come in next is just awesome. I’ve seen four pike in the same hole at the same time and I’ve also seen pike that are pushing 20 pounds come through. Once you try spearing more than likely yo will want to do it again as it is addicting.
TIP-UPS… are a great way to cover water to find fish. We will use them off and on during the winter with usually the best results coming later in the winter, as we get closer to spring. Sitting outside and chasing flags is a very enjoyable experience and something that everyone should try at least once. There are many times where tip ups can be useful. Again, we tend to use them more when conditions are favorable for them.
Angling for pike can be very exciting as well. We often will catch pike mixed in with our walleye and perch. There are times when will target pike just like we do for walleyes. Lures such as, buck shots, cicadas, chubby darters, are all very productive in catching fish. We will often put a smaller leader on when we are fishing in areas where we catch numbers of pike as they can be tough on line and losing lures if you don’t. Pike are some of the toughest fighting fish out there and when you hook into one you will have a good fight ahead of you. Pike are also very good to eat and when they are properly cleaned, they should have little to no bones in the meat.
So when you plan your next trip to Devils Lake, make sure to take advantage of all the species the lake has to offer. Also, don’t be afraid to do a little ‘run and gunning’ for perch or some real shallow water for walleyes, maybe even go after pike for a day! They all are very rewarding and can be a lot of fun to go after! •
At Bry’s Guide Service and the Fish Rehab Lodge, we want to give you the experience of a lifetime. Our goal is to help you create a trip unique to your needs and let you see first hand the beauty Devils Lake has to offer. Go to www.brysguideservice.com or call Mark Bry (701) 739-0161