Here's the experts insight on fishing Devils Lake in winter
‘It’s About Time’ Devils Lake Perch Anglers Say
Ice fishing for jumbo perch has been a tradition for generations of Devils Lake anglers. If they could speak collectively about the coming ice season, they would say, “It’s about time. We’re ready to go fishing.” To date, the ice on the main lake is about 4” thick, and anglers are starting to slowly walk out.
With that in mind, area ice fishing guides share secrets that will make the upcoming perch season a success. Most have combined their on-ice action with lodging and resort packages that make a winter trip as simple as “one-call does it all.” The North Dakota Fish and Game surveys ranked this year’s Devils Lake perch populations as the best in the past decade, with test-net catch rates the highest since 2003.
Guide Mark Bry (brysguideservice.com) said, “There’s always a bite going on somewhere. Last winter and this past summer was one of the best bites on jumbos, and this winter looks very promising. Our number one lure is the 1/8th to 1/4th Buckshot or Forage Minnow spoon with a minnow head. Chartreuse is a favorite color, but orange, pink and gold are also good. A flasher is an absolute key. If aggressive doesn’t work, try subtle.”
Kyle Blanchfield of Woodland Resort (woodlandresort.com) said, “Keep it simple and stay mobile. With 25 years working with winter anglers, fish with light easy-to-feel rods, light tackle and a Vexilar. The more you drill, the more perch go in the bucket. Don’t get fooled by crowds. Most of the time, this is where the fish used to be. Work the outer edges of crowds and run parallel depth lines to find where the school has moved.”
Jason Mitchell of the Perch Patrol (perchpatrol.com) said, “Learn to read deep-water perch with the Vexilar in ‘zoom mode.’ Devils Lake perch are attracted to aggressive jigging, but once in close, subtle shakes, slow lifts or no movement at all will entice biters. Move to find fish, and then camp on them to see what makes them bite, or wait until the next feeding window.”
Aaron McQuoid of McQuoid Outdoors & Lodging (mcquoidguides.com) said, “Keep moving, using the Vexilar to find fish. If they’re biting right away, good, if not, mark the spot and return. The 2-pound perch feed like walleyes, and will hit a Buckshot rattle spoon with a full minnow. Other times they feed like the smallest panfish and demand light line (2-pound) and 1/64th ounce jigs with wax worms or PowerBait. Our guides know when to switch.”
Jason Feldner of Perch-Eyes Outfitters & Lodging (percheyes.com) said, “Start where hard bottom meets mud, and work along this transition – it could be a hump or point – using a GPS with a Lakemaster chip. My go-to lure is a 1/8th or 1/4th Lindy Rattle-n-Flyer tipped with a minnow head. Pump the rod a few times; follow with a shimmy-shake. If the lookers don’t bite, downsize to spikes or waxxies on a Lindy toad. A minnow on a plain hook can be unbeatable at times.”
Johnnie Candle (johnniecandle.com) said simply, “Drill more holes. These perch move and rarely hover on structure. They like the basin, so moving to locate an active school is important.”
Clint DeVier of Gonefshn Guide Service said, “After 40 years fishing Devils Lake, it used to be perch schools would spread for miles, but with the lake now at 200,000 acres, 5-times its former size, finding active schools can be a bit more challenging. I’ve found they school on the wide open flats where fresh-water shrimp seem to be the key. With a Lakemaster chip, I locate and concentrate on the shelves (wide spots in otherwise consistent contour lines) that extend from shallow to deep water. These can be from 15 to 50 feet deep. When your group finds perch, it is worth the search!”
Ross Sensiba of Rush Valley Guide Service (rushvalleyguideservice.com) said, “I prefer sunrise or earlier with a live bait, subtle presentation. As morning progresses, I get more aggressive with spoons and wax worms. A dead-stick is always next to me with live bait. At first ice, outer weed edges in 8 to 12 feet are good, moving to 20 feet or more as the sun brightens the day. Lure presentation is an inch or two off bottom, lifting up to one and one-half feet. I like large flats with steep edges and weeds on top. During mid-day, I fish the tops of submerged trees that are in 24-feet or deeper.”
Steve “Zippy” Dahl, owner of the Perch Patrol Guide Service (perchpatrol.com) said, “Concentrate on finding the biters and don’t settle for the sniffers.” His guides use a team-work approach to attacking this 200,000 acre lake and spend a lot of time trying to find the large schools of perch that prove to be 5 to 6 foot thick on the Vexilar. “Nothing beats good old fashion competition, and there is nothing like fishing perch that scream off the bottom to meet your lure. It is important to use small horizontal jigs that fish heavy, small buckshot rattle spoons, or hali’s with dropper chains will all get to the bottom fairly quickly in deep water.”
The new fish-cleaning station located just south of Ed’s Bait Shop on Hwy 20 (south of the City of Devils Lake) will be open at the beginning of 2013. The 20 x 32 building will be able to handle 15 anglers at one time. It has two grinders, a separate clean-up sink, a handicapped bathroom, is heated (A/C for summer), has plenty of parking for trucks and trailers and is well-lit with a coded entry. The code is available at Ed’s Bait Shop between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. The cleaning facility is free to use.
Devils Lake has some of the largest winter ice fishing guide services anywhere, with perch, walleyes and pike the main targets. These experts take the “searching for fish” to a completely new level. They make every first-time angler feel like this is home, and the thousands of anglers who return year after year to fish with the same guides know that’s the case. For information on Devils Lake guides, winter ice conditions and roads, the Jan. 27, 2013 ice fishing tournament, activities, fish-cleaning station (open all year), lodging, resorts and restaurants, check www.devilslakend.com, or call 701-662-4903 for a free fishing packet.