It’s Time – Devils Lake Fish are Turning On!
Following a winter that produced a 50-inch layer of winter ice on North Dakota’s Devils Lake and an unusually cool spring, the fishing action is beginning to heat up right now.
Three local experts weighed in with “what’s happening now,” and all pointed to the phenomenal northern pike fishery. Aaron McQuoid of McQuoid Outdoors complete lodge and guide service said one of his guides fished with the same group for three days recently (3 people for 3 days) and caught a total of 650 pike. “It’s an astronomical bite,” he said. Most are three to six pounds with a number of 12 to 15-pounders in the mix. “And, every day, the clients catch their walleye limits,” he said.
At the end of May, he had clients out for a 6-hour guide trip and they caught 25 walleyes and 25 pike. “Every client has to catch their own fish — it’s the law — so we teach them to cast, how to work a lure, how to set the hook,” McQuoid said. One of the daily surprises (he guides 250 days per year), is this paraphrase from guests who eat northern pike fillets prepared at the lodge, “I never knew they tasted that good.”
McQuoid said, “Mid-June is start of the time to be on Devils Lake this year.” Walleyes will be in five to 15 feet of water throughout the entire 220,000 acre lake and bays. Tactics change with the weed growth, but he starts with Northland Mimic Minnows retrieved steadily. His slash baits include Rapala Husky Jerks, X-Raps, and perch-colored Countdowns.
Dustin Larson guides for Bry’s Guide Service and said the “light-switch” will be tripped when water temps in the back bays nudge 60 degrees. “Afternoons are best for walleyes, and I cover water, moving two mph with my electric motor, casting cranks or jigs in 2 to 8 feet of water.
“We call it pitching jigs, and use exclusively plastics like white or pearl Twister Tails or Berkley Ripple Shads. Those with chartreuse tails are best,” Larson said. When he contacts a walleye, he fancasts the entire area. “Something is holding them; maybe new weed growth; it could be wind blowing into a shoreline; or bait could be stacked there. There could be 20 to 30 walleyes in one tiny spot,” he said.
In the first half of July, Larson follows walleyes when they pull off the shorelines by trolling crankbaits or spinners with bouncers. “I target 8 to 12 foot depths using 2 or 3-inch Killer Crawlers or 3-inch Gulp! crawlers on spinner harnesses. Walleyes, pike, perch and white bass all chomp this presentation,” he said.
Long-time observer of all things fishy on Devils Lake, Clint DeVier, loves the mid-June bite, saying, “Everything will work. Cast shallow against the cattails; cast the windy shorelines; jig; troll lures in 8 to 10 feet of water; fish rocks, weeds or bridges; standby to get bit,” he said, “I start searching the smaller bays, trying to find walleye concentrations near edges of old cattails.” Shore fishermen will also find good activity right now.
Two species, white bass and pike, always seem to bite. “Pike are nuts, totally nuts. Throw anything, anywhere – it doesn’t matter,” he said. White bass thrive where the wind is blowing across a point or into rip rap shorelines. “They can’t resist a white or chartreuse crank or spoon, and they sure offer a change of pace,” he said.
DeVier advised anglers to pay attention to water temperature in June. If some water is 55 degrees and some is 65, he said, “Choose the warmest water.” He finds white bass, pike and walleyes mixed together at times, and fishes through the bounty for his favorite species – walleyes.
The website devilslakend.com features a map of the nine convenient public accesses. It also lists information about Devils Lake fishing guides, resorts, history, current tourism events and activities, fishing reports and the latest lake, lodging, restaurant, and tournament news. The longest running North Dakota team walleye tournament, the Devils Lake Chamber walleye tournament with cash awards for walleyes, pike, white bass and perch, takes place June 27 and 28. Openings remain. Tournament entry and walleye festival details are on this same website.
A free-to-the-public 20 x 32 fish-cleaning station is located next door to Ed’s Bait Shop (on Hwy 20 south of the City of Devils Lake). Like the Devils Lake fishing season, it’s open all year with A/C, two grinders, a clean-up sink, regular and handicapped bathrooms. There are also fish-cleaning stations (open-air with water and grinders) at many other ramps. DeVier said, “This is a fishing and outdoors community. People will know that once they show up. We want them to catch fish, and share we what we know to make that happen.”