Experts Predict Excellent May Fishing on Devils Lake
For the first time in memory, two dramatic weather occurrences – no incoming water and early ice out – will produce “hot” May fishing in Devils Lake. North Dakota fishing experts and guides felt this historical spring will mean May 1 could start the best month of fishing on record.
Long-time guide Jason Feldner of Perch Eyes Guide Service (percheyes.com) said, “The May bite will be phenomenal.” Usually late May is the peak, but Feldner feels with water temperatures in the 50-degree range, the best bite will be underway by May Day. Guide and walleye champion Johnnie Candle (johnniecandle.com) said, “You never know what you’ll catch – walleyes, white bass, pike – but catch you will. Your arms will be tired at the end of the day, any day in May.”
Jason Mitchell, TV host and owner of Mitchell’s Guide Service (fishdevilslake.net) said, “Everything will be relating to shorelines in every part of the lake. Pick a bay and hit it. Find the warmest water and fish. Devils Lake will be a month ahead of schedule. This is the time.” Zippy Dahl, one of Mitchell’s 12 open water guides said, “This is a first for us with no run-off and the earliest ice-out I can remember. It’s a game-changer, because walleyes will stay home, not running to distant lakes to spawn.”
Dahl said this year the resident fish will be found in the main lake or any of the adjoining waters. The key will be water temperature. Walleyes have spread into all the connecting lakes of Devils Lake as the lake expanded from 40,000 acres 20 years ago to approximately 250,000 acres today. There are countless new bays and shorelines to fish. Dahl likes to fish with slip-bobbers or jigs early. “Get the bait in front of their noses and hang on,” he said.
Feldner said with the ice going out a month ahead of average he will fish with jigs or crankbaits. For jigs, he prefers a Fuzz-E-Grub tipped with a leech. He will be in shallow bays in 3 to 5 feet of water. He also likes to cast Lindy Shadlings on windswept shorelines with rock or sand bottom. He keeps the boat in 6 to 7 feet, and casts shallow, pausing his lures occasionally. He watches for following walleyes, and returns to the area if they’re not hitting on his first pass. “Walleyes and pike will be roaming together. Catch the pike, then come back and catch walleyes. I use a wire leader or pike can eat a lot of baits,” he said.
“The conditions will keep the fish in their normal spots, and all corners of Devils Lake will be good early,” Candle said. “Warming conditions trigger bug activity, which draws minnows, which bring walleyes to the shallows.” He recommends covering water, and moving until contacting fish. “Find a shoreline stretch with fish, and go back,” he said. His two tactics involve casting either lures or jigs. He has many Husky Jerks, Rapala X-Raps and shallow Shad Raps ready for action. When jigging, the number one soft plastic for Candle is the 3-inch pearl or firetiger Berkley Ripple Shad on a 1/16th or 1/8th ounce jig.
“Fish until you find ‘em,” says Mitchell. His hotspots will be new back bays which will be over recently flooded cattail sloughs. If emerging cabbage weeds, pencil reeds or flooded cattails are present, he knows walleyes are lurking there. One of the benefits of no run-off is that the lake “greens-up” earlier due to algae growth, and this produces perfect conditions for shallow fishing. “You could pick 15 fish off a spot instead of three,” he said. “The boat won’t spook them, and they don’t scatter as much.”
Mitchell covers water with Salmo Hornets or Shad Raps to locate fish. If fish hit or follow with few hook-ups, he switches to slip-bobbers. “I really like to swim jigs – not on the bottom – but reeled slow. Northland Mimic Minnows, Trigger-X and Mister Twisters really produce,” he said.
May fishing on Devils Lake, according to the experts, is shaping up to be one of the best in history. “Jump-start your fishing season with us,” Candle said. For information on Devils Lake conditions, ramps (all launch ramps on Devils Lake are open this season), activities, guides, tournaments, lodging, resorts and restaurants, check www.devilslakend.com, or call 1-800-233-8048.