Spectacular Big Walleyes & Sensational Big Pike This Fall
“This summer has been one for the record books,” said Devils Lake, North Dakota guide Jeff Katzer. “The next several months are looking even better, and I expect spectacular big walleyes and sensational big pike this fall.”
Katzer like so many current-day Devils Lake residents fell in love the first time he duck hunted the cattail marshes in 1996. He couldn’t get enough, often visiting the area four and five times per year from his Wisconsin home, where he guided on the Lake Winnebago chain. “When Kyle Blanchfield, owner of Woodland Resort called in 2008, and asked Katzer to consider guiding from the resort, it took his wife a minute to agree. They sold their new house and moved.
The life of a guide (he’s with the famed Mitchell Guide Service of 12 active, regular guides) includes 100 days of open-water guiding, three winter months of 14-16 hour days with no days off running Woodland’s ice fishing business, and waterfowl guiding three months each fall. In his “spare” time, he runs heavy equipment for the Resort to combat the rising water. He knows the lake.
“If you like to fish and hunt, this is your Mecca,” he said. “And, for fishermen, the upcoming months will produce double-digit walleyes and pike from 10 to 20 pounds consistently.” Katzer said Devils Lake fish generally stay where they’re at as the summer transitions to late-summer and early fall, and even late fall. “My best areas are weed lines in 8 to 15 feet of water,” he said. Spinners with nightcrawlers or casting crankbaits are most productive, but like many guides, he will fish the tactics preferred by clients. He even controlled the boat while a client caught walleyes on a fly rod. “He went thru 20 pike for every walleye,” he said.
He experiments from east to west on the sprawling lake system, which now encompasses about 220,000 feet of water. He laughed when describing the lake, “It’s new every year. I start out with a ‘clean’ GPS, and already this year I have 417 new waypoints. Weed lines can change from outside to inside quickly, but it appears to be stabilizing this season, even dropping a bit since spring.”
Late season on Devils Lake means fishing weeds, bridges or underwater roads. By bridges, he jigs vertically; on weed lines, cranks or spinners perform well. He also likes slip bobbers with live bait. Trolling over the many submerged roads is a Devils Lake tradition. He uses 18-pound wire leaders with crankbaits (number 7 Shad Raps or Husky Jerks when casting, Salmos when trolling); 17-pound fluorocarbon leaders when bobber fishing (due to pike); and he ties spinner rigs with 20-pound fluorocarbon.
“Limits of five walleyes might take minutes, and a boat can average more than 100 pike daily,” he said. There are no length or slot limits on the lake. Anglers may possess 10 walleyes, 10 pike (5 daily limit), and 60 perch (20 daily).
Guides always say the two words – walleyes and pike – together, because as Katzer said, “You never know what you’ll catch next, pike or walleye. They live in the same spots.” Earlier this summer, Katzer’s Minnesota client, Ken Miyamoto landed a 26-inch walleye, his personal best. On the very next cast he hooked a 30 ¼ inch walleye with a girth of 16 ½ inches.
Fall days can be filled with casting and blasting, with ducks in the morning and walleyes and pike in the afternoons. “These are win-win days for everybody,” he said, but also warned that visitors will likely fall in love with Devils Lake like he did. His wife April runs reservations and housekeeping at Woodland Resort, and when calling to reserve one of their modern cabins, deluxe lodge units or motel rooms, you might talk to her, 701-662-5996, or woodlandresort.com. For the Mitchell Guide service, summer, fall, winter or spring, call 701-662-6560, or fishdevilslake.net.
For information on Devils Lake conditions, ramps (all launch ramps on Devils Lake are open this season and fish cleaning stations are operating at Graham’s Island State Park, Lakewood access, Six Mile Bay access, Henegar Landing and coming online in October, the four-seasons fish cleaning station on South Highway 20), activities, guides, tournaments, lodging, resorts and restaurants, check www.devilslakend.com, or call 1-800-233-8048.