Step aside winter blues, spring fishing is here!
by Mark Bry
After a long winter there is nothing more rejuvenating then spending a little time on the water. Ice fishing is great, but the roll of waves on a lake seems to erase any or all troubles that winter may have brought on. That first cast is something that I cherish each and every spring. The ability to work a lure through the water with the warm sun on my face is better than any therapy out there.
A LOOK BACK
The year is 1999, it is mid April, I am 19 years old and had just gotten home from a long season of playing hockey and my good buddy Paul Murphy and I wanted to go fishing.
We loaded up his 16-foot boat with a 5 horsepower Evinrude motor on the back and we headed for Channel A. I recall it was the middle of the week and there was still ice on much of six mile bay, but the channel had a good flow of water coming into the lake and it was open water for about a half mile from the channel.
We had never fished it before and we were rookies to say the least. I remember backing his boat into the ditch and getting ready to unhook the boat and Paul yelling to “pull it out, the plug isn’t in!”
After our little plug mishap and a few pulls on the Evinrude, we are off and running.
I remember that winter I read every single magazine I could find by In-Fisherman pertaining to walleye fishing. I remember telling Paul that we needed to troll cranks to catch the big walleyes, so we began. I’m sure I had read this somewhere in the magazine and I was committed to trying it.
The bite was slow with only a few pike to show for a few hours of trolling the channel. I remember that we decided we should go up and try the culvert area where the current was stronger. We anchored and gave jigging with live bait a try. I also had a Lindy-rig with a minnow set-up and was fishing two rods.
Within minutes Paul had a dandy walleye. I recall not having enough time to fish two rods because one of us was constantly reeling in a fish. I can’t say for sure how many fish we caught and released that day but it still goes down as one of my best fishing days ever.
Our average fish was in the 5-6 pound range and our largest fish we landed that day was 29 inches long. The walleyes bit hard and fought like bass on steroids. It was just one of those special days that replays in my mind often.
We had one other boat that came in the channel that afternoon with us and I remember they were about 30 yards away, but they didn’t have near the action we did. We hit the “X” that day for sure and of course neither one of us even had a camera with.
A few days later Paul and I went back with my dad, and this time it was busier with people fishing the channel. We caught a bunch of fish again, but this time it was males, which were 15-18 inch fish. It’s amazing how just a few days later the females were already done with their part of the spawn and the males were doing their part. The timing of spring fishing can change quickly and it’s often tricky to predict exactly how it will play out.
Devils Lake is well known for its amazing fishing year around, and spring holds some of the best potential. There are some amazing opportunities for people to fish from shore or boat. You don’t need to have a bunch of fancy equipment to have positive results in the spring. A rod, jigs, plastics, and a five gallon bucket and you are pretty much good to go.
Fish tend to be shallow and near current areas.
Here are some tips to ensure your trip to the Devils Lake basin this spring is a success.
SPRING FISHING TIPS
A jig and a plastic are one of the most versatile presentations you can throw at walleyes and pike during the spring. You can fish them fast or slow, cast them and retrieve them or even vertical jig them. A jig and plastic doesn’t break the bank if you lose one or two to pike.
Think current areas. Channel A gets a lot of publicity in the spring and there are times when it is very good. However, there are other places that can be very good as well. Any area that has moving water has potential. Bridge areas, culverts, creeks, ditches, all can be productive and worth trying.
Don’t be afraid to get off the beaten path. There are areas north of Channel A that are traditionally very good, but you can expect to find people there as well. Sometimes, there may be a lot of people. If you fish with the group please remember to be respectful of peoples space and to show the best fishing etiquette you can. If the crowds not for you, there are other options to try. Cover some miles and look for other areas with moving water entering the Devils Lake basin.
Don’t over-look the Sheyenne River south of Devils Lake as well. There are many areas that can produce fish. Again, bridges, dams, and areas with faster moving water all can produce.
Bridges are always a smart area to start. In the current and or near the current are areas that should be worked. You can fish from shore or often time people will put in smaller boats or even larger boats if landing accesses are open. I prefer to be in a boat when possible for the simple fact that you can cover more water. If the bridges aren’t producing for you, make a move and cover other current areas.
Do your homework before you go out. Look at places like Google Earth. Try to find areas that might have water draining into the lake. Try to find areas with bridges and culverts. Even look for bridges or neck down areas that might concentrate numbers of fish. Study maps and see what roads go through and which roads are flooded. Try to get a game plan started before you head out.
Jigs and plastics are certainly lures to use when spring fishing. Other lures that are productive are crankbaits. I like lures that sink because often you will be fishing in water that might be deeper where you need to get your lure down. Jigs and minnows are very prductive. But, when all else fails, using a Lindy-rig with a minnow will produce bites when nothing else will.
Please remember to leave an area the way you found it. Do not leave trash/garbage behind. Make sure to be respectful when parking vehicles and make sure you have permission on land that is posted.
There is not a size limit on Devils Lake. Many people have mixed thoughts on this especially during this time of the year. Please remember that these fish are often in spawning mode and they should be handled with respect. Often times the fish you catch this time of year are bigger and full of eggs. Again, there is no law that says you have to release any of the fish you catch.
However, something to think about. How hungry for fish are you? How good does a 5-9 pound walleye taste? A picture will last forever. You can show it to your buddies for years to come.
Consider releasing those fish. It is important to our lake and our future.
Lastly, keep an open mind when you are going out. There is no time of year where fishing is so hit and miss. One day the bight might be lights out and the next it might seem like the Dead Sea. If you are struggling to catch fish, make a move and try a different part of the lake. You just never know when new fish might move in and the bite will fire back up.
Have a great 2018 open water fishing season. •