Devils Lake ‘Open’ and Ready for Business!
Springtime on Devils Lake, the jewel of central North Dakota, has finally arrived. The open (and rapidly warming) water is a welcome sight after one of the longest winters on record. Most importantly, water levels will not deviate much from last year.
“We dodged a bullet this spring,” said Jeff Frith, manager of the Devils Lake Basin Joint Water Resources board. Original estimates based on the snow pack were for the lake to rise three feet. “We lucked out with the dry conditions last fall, and the ground absorbed much of the melting snow,” he said. After dropping a couple feet last year, Frith said projections are that the lake may come up a foot to 18 inches this spring. Boaters will be able to motor under the bridges and drive from one end of the lake to the other.
Two local guides, Mark Bry and Ross Sensiba, were grateful for the change of scenery and know the warmest water will jump-start the walleye bite and keep it going for many weeks. Bry looks for shallow warm bays, and Sensiba will focus on flowing (incoming) current areas and the north ends of bays. He said, “With ice out May 15, my ideal situation is when the temperature gauge reads 54 to 57 degrees.”
Sensiba continued, “This is strictly a time for cranks and plastic in 4 to 6 feet of water. I stay in about 8 to 10 feet and cast shallow.” He favors an old standby, the Rapala Count Down. “I’ve got boxes of them. They work better than other baits because they cast a mile in wind. I can also reel them slow or twitch them.” His best tip, “Watch for following walleyes; they often hit in the last eight feet of the cast.” After years of springtime Devils Lake walleyes, the guide said, “There will be a peak time of day, usually noon to 2 p.m. When the water temp jumps, be in your favorite spot.”
Staring at the lake, Bry said, “The ice went out and the walleyes were immediately in spawning mode.” He knows from sport shows and talking with clients across the country that Devils Lake is famous for its shallow walleyes. “I like the 3 to 5 foot range the first month after ice-out. With the lake up a bit over last year, there are more fields, trees and marshes for fish to find bugs and food. That’s where the walleyes will be.”
For Bry and his clients, exploring and even launching in ditches with a smaller boat is the key for successful days. “We hunt fish down,” he said. He also keeps a close eye on the temperature, knowing that a one or two degree rise triggers fish. He advised anglers heading to the lake to be ready when the afternoon window opens and walleyes go on the feed.
Casting is the preferred tactic in his boat, but there are times when they follow and don’t hit. “That’s when we rig with live bait. With all the debris on the bottom, jigs and rigs tend to snag, so we go to slips.”
Springtime walleyes are not the only creatures waiting to snap up a Rapala or a Northland Mimic Minnow. Northern pike of all sizes are intent on eating every lure they see. “Pike and walleyes are in the same spots,” Sensiba said. “It’s a fun time to be on this great lake.”
This season anglers will be able to launch at nine convenient public concrete ramps. A map is featured on devilslakend.com. A modern fish-cleaning station is located south of Ed’s Bait Shop on Hwy 20 (south of the City of Devils Lake). The 20 x 32 building with two grinders, a clean-up sink, regular and handicapped bathrooms can handle 15 anglers at one time. It is air-conditioned with plenty of parking space and free-of-charge to anglers.
Devils Lake fishing guides target perch, walleyes, white bass and pike. For Devils Lake guides, conditions, fishing reports, lodging, activities, restaurants, the June 21-22 Chamber walleye tournament, and resorts, check www.devilslakend.com, or call 701-662-4903.