07 2015 (0) comments (Comment)

‘Incredible’ Devils Lake Summer Points to a Great Fall Season


Going from summer to fall on Devils Lake means two things: the fishing only gets better. And, anglers add a layer or two of clothing. After a season that was termed “incredible” by guide and walleye champion Johnnie Candle, he can’t wait to get on the lake each day as the fall season moves forward.

“Fall will be a bonanza once again,” he said. “Bigger fish are showing up already.” Devils Lake, located in north-central North Dakota, offers something for all walleye anglers. Tactics vary from conventional casting crankbaits to jigging to slip-bobbering to pulling bottom bouncers with spinners, to fishing vertical with Jigging Rapalas. There are thousands of acres (estimates put the number at 150,000 to 200,000 acres) of back bays, shorelines, and numerous main-lake sections offering anglers opportunities to seemingly have the entire lake to themselves.

After recent summer netting surveys, area fisheries biologist Todd Caspers said, “Anglers can expect walleye fishing as in past years.” With numerous guide services operating from most resorts, plus the many independent professionals, Devils Lake has experts that will teach, showcase and guide visiting anglers during their initial visits. Many out-of-state anglers hire guides for a day, then venture out on their own with a solid game plan the remainder of their stay.

Touring walleye pro anglers shared their opinions of the lake. Gary Parsons is one of the most respected pro anglers, is in the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, is host and owner of The Next Bite TV, and winner of hundreds of thousands of dollars and many major-league tournaments. After placing in the top 10 in the mid-September Cabela’s National Walleye Tour Championship on Devils Lake, he said, “I’ve fished this lake for 25 years, and in my opinion, it ranks as one of the best fishin’ spots in the US. The walleye fishing is more diverse, and during tournament week, if a spot seemed like it would hold fish, it did.”

Parsons added, “Many of us asked each other ‘How many walleyes live here?’ There are a tremendous number of 14 to 18 inch walleyes in the system, and as my 5-fish 30-pound bag proved, there are plenty of trophies present, also. The lake seems healthier than ever. What a great place for a family to vacation, fish and enjoy the outdoors.”

Hall of Fame pro walleye angler and record holder for the most top 10 place finishes in major competitions (plus many wins) Mike Gofron, also scored another top 10 at the NWT Championship. After a week on Devils Lake, he said, “This place ranks as one of the best tournament waters anywhere. Anyone can catch a limit any day, and most of the year, its one heck of a fishery for big fish.” He added that he loves the challenge because of the many tactics that can be used to catch fish, and that it’s like a new body of water every time he fishes it. “I don’t know of any other lake where I discover new spots to fish almost every day,” he said. “My tip for fall is to use bigger lures to match the hatch as young-of-year have grown.”

Local guide Mark Bry (701-739-0161) advised anglers to look for walleyes near deep rocks and flooded roadbeds this fall. “Work the tops of the roads/rocks and also the ditches and drop-offs nearby,” he said. Tips from Bry: “Use larger cranks while trolling to trigger more bites. Bring Jigging Raps with you and use them! Current areas by bridges are great places to jig. Watch the roadways and when you see frogs moving from marshes to the lake, fish shallow because walleyes love frogs in fall.”

Candle also found rocks to be the key as weeds die off, but he said check for the last remaining green weeds. “There will be walleyes there,” he said. He works vertical gliding baits on deep rock structure (but near shallow feeding areas). His favorite trolling lure this time of year right up to ice is a Number 9 Flicker Shad. His largest Devils Lake walleye came Oct. 13, last year. It weighed an even 11 pounds.

Devils Lake perch draw thousands of fishermen every winter. More anglers are also targeting perch in open water, and based on netting surveys, the news is good. Last year, surveys showed nine perch per net, but this summer each net had 16. “The good news is the big 2013 year-class coming up through the system,” Caspers said. “These fish are now 5 to 8 inches, and last year there were three per net, but a few months ago there were 10 to the net.”

For reference, the 8 to 10 inch perch were about average. The 10 to 12 inch perch (the 2011 year-class) showed up 3.2 per net compared to 1.6 last year. The 12-inch perch were about the same as last year. “Little perch have their work cut out for them with all the predators in the lake,” Caspers said.

In addition to walleyes, northern pike like visiting anglers. They bite all day, every day of the 365-day North Dakota season, and nets showed increased sizes, especially the 28 to 34 inchers. “Don’t be shy about keeping pike for the table,” Caspers said. “They’re fine eating, and here on Devils Lake, we have generous limits.” The biologist said, “Based on our surveys, I would expect fishing should be good again this fall and into winter.”

Devils Lake makes it easy for anglers and hunters (fall is prime duck and goose hunting on the lake and in the region) to gather all the information they need in one convenient and easy-to-use location – This website features the latest details on fishing and hunting, with complete listings of guide services, resort, motel and casino accommodations, current outdoor reports, ramp locations, a lake map, cleaning stations (including the indoor, modern facility south of Ed’s Bait Shop on Hwy 20), plus regional activities for all ages and all interests. The phone is 701-662-4903.

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