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JANUARY

13 2012 »

Winter’s Hot on Devils Lake!

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Devils Lake Perch, Walleyes & Pike Biting Now!

Anglers are smiling, guides are booked, travel is safe (and easy), and the fish are cooperating right now on North Dakota’s most-talked about fishery, Devils Lake.  In fact, one of the top fishing guides, Jason Feldner said this week, “This is the best walleye fishing in the past seven years.”

Of the lake’s popular perch, Feldner said, “They’re much shallower than usual, under 20-feet, and feeding actively.  Yes, my guides move around, but perch have been on the sand flats, in the wood, and on the breaklines early and late.”  Of the voracious and huge northern pike, he said, “They’re on fire.”  Photos backing up his words can be found on his website, www.percheyes.com, and on the websites of many guide services and the Devils Lake Tourism Bureau, www.devilslakend.com.

Most of the Devils Lake bays and connecting lakes are covered with 14 to 16 inches of solid ice with no snow covering as of mid-January.  Even the main lake has 12 to 14 inches of ice.  This is the exact opposite of last winter when travel was all but impossible due to massive back-to-back snow storms.  Feldner said, “We should have 20 good inches of ice by Jan. 20.  This is the best winter ever, come and enjoy it.”

Last week one of Feldner’s clients landed a 29-inch walleye that weighed 11 pounds and nine ounces.  The walleyes will be caught in random order, from 10 inches to 29, with many in the 20-inch range.  The shoreline breaks from 6 to 10 feet (sand to gravel) where almost imperceptible points stick out from shore seem to be concentrating the walleyes.  Tip-ups with fathead minnows are effective, as are Darters.  “Have a dead-stick with a minnow next to your Darter hole,” he said.  In North Dakota, ice anglers are allowed four lines.

Other reports from Devils Lake professional angler Johnnie Candle echo what Feldner and other fishermen are finding.  Candle said, “Walleyes are much shallower than past years, but limits every day in a few hours up to 22 inches are the rule for me.”  He said after 30 pike one day, he was tired of running.  “You don’t need four tip-ups to get all the exercise you want,” he said.  Local fisherman Al Freidig said, “The eaters from 13 to 16 inches are everywhere, but the bigger ones are mixed in with them.  I’ve been from 12 to 30 feet, and caught walleyes in every spot.”

Perch seem to be in two distinct groups.  The first group feeds like walleyes, biting best early and late in the day, while the second group feeds like “gentlemen,” biting best from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Feldner’s perch secrets are Lindy jigs with red plastic (imitating larvae) with a spike or waxxie (flutter them in place).  The other presentation is the Lindy 1/16th ounce Flyer spoon with a minnow head.  He uses what he calls a “shimmy-shake,” and vibrates the spoon in place with his rod tip.  “Fish this close to the bottom, and stay in a spot even if they move; they’ll be back in 15 minutes or so,” he said.

Pike anglers are setting tip-ups baited with herring or smelt from the shoreline shallows of 4-feet, out to about 10-feet.  When flags fly from one depth, concentrate all tip-ups at that depth.  A 40-incher was squeezed out of a hole last week.

The on-ice fishing reports are backed up by Randy Hiltner, Northeast North Dakota District Fisheries Supervisor, who has been in charge of Devils Lake for 20 years.  He said the test-netting efforts this past fall reflected the fourth highest walleye abundance in two decades.  “Many are from the 2009 year-class, the best ever in history. What we’re experiencing is a rising natural lake that’s good for spawning perch and pike, but the walleyes are doing very well also,” he said.

Hiltner said the continual flooding provides a great nursery for young-of-the-year fish and the trends are positive.  Devils Lake contains four main game species, perch, walleye, pike and white bass; all are at or above their long-term averages.  “Anglers catch good numbers of fish consistently,” he said, “Anyone can tie into a really big walleye or pike at any time.  Pike numbers and sizes keep increasing,” he said.    His research also shows that the late-fall perch test-netting catch rate was the highest since 2003, with fish to 15 ½ inches.

For information on Devils Lake ice conditions, activities, guides, or lodging and restaurants, check www.devilslakend.com, or call the Devils Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-233-8048.

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