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Devils Lake ‘Walking-Out’ Ice Ready!

Posted: November 24, 2014


“It’s walking-out ice already,” said long-time resort owner Kyle Blanchfield a few days ago. “We’ll definitely be ice fishing by Thanksgiving!” The Devils Lake bays froze early, and even the main lake pulled an ice sheet overhead recently.

The local North Dakota guides, resorts and businesses that cater to an estimated 15,000 visitors each winter season (most for fishing), pray for the cooperation of Mother Nature. “We need her to cooperate,” Blanchfield said, “So we freeze solid with no snow.”

Blanchfield said advance bookings at his resort, Woodland Resort, are way above average. “It’s undoubtedly due to the fact that perch are as healthy as they’ve ever been, and I don’t think Devils Lake ever had this many walleyes. It’s the real deal,” he said.

Something happens at first ice in this lake that has expanded more than five times its 40,000 acres in the past 25 years – the northern pike put on the feedbag. Fishing in the bays, near weedbeds, in the trees and along shoreline breaks creates all-day races for the tip-up flags (best bait is dead smelt or ciscoes). With plenty of 5 to 10 pound pike and numbers in the teens and even pushing 20-pounds, and generous daily limits of five per person and possession limits of 10 make pike fishing exciting family-fun with the bonus of great eating fillets.

Local biologists have surveyed the lake and determined that the 12 to 15 inch perch are above long-term averages, with many more right at that magic 12-inch size. Two schools of fishing-thought are followed by the experts. Some attack perch at first ice fairly shallow (less than 20 feet deep) in and around weeds and in the trees. The others like Perch Patrol guide Dave Randash concentrate early in the 35 to 54 foot depths. Four ice rods are legal in North Dakota, and perch limits are 20 daily and 80 in possession.

In November and December, Devils Lake walleyes bite all day long. They can be found almost everywhere, and walking out to the first break or concentrating near weedbeds can produce fast action. When the fast walleye action slows for a group, expect several anglers to latch onto big pike. When “gators” cruise through, walleyes ease out of sight, and when the marauding pike continue their march, the walleyes return. Walleye limits are also generous, with no size limits, and five daily and 10 in possession allowed.

Long range weather forecasts are very optimistic for Devils Lake ice fishing. Good early ice with minimal snow will create a very long season, allowing fishermen from all corners of the country to enjoy nature’s bounty. Most visiting anglers hook-up with a guide service (operated via most of the lake’s 18 resorts and Spirit Lake Casino). Many independent guide services also operate around the lake, and all are in the know about where and how to catch fish. The latest fishing details can be found at

The website features a comprehensive list of fishing guides plus the latest lake conditions, events, resorts and restaurant news plus a helpful map.

A 20 x 32 heated fish-cleaning station adjacent to Ed’s Bait Shop (on Hwy 20 south of the City of Devils Lake) is open to the public with two grinders, a clean-up sink and bathrooms. “I am betting that the fishing this winter will carry over from the tremendous summer and fall action, and will be excellent,” Blanchfield said.



Where ‘Average’ is Very, Very, Very Good!

Posted: November 14, 2014


When fisheries research reveals that recent net surveys show Devils Lake large perch numbers are close to average, that’s a good thing. Todd Caspers, North Dakota fisheries biologist said, “The 12 to 15 inch perch are still above long term averages, and last year was a record high catch since surveys began in 1992. The 10 to 12 inch perch are just a bit below average.”

“Average” also came up when Caspers said, “Perch, walleyes and pike are about the same as usual, average for the lake.” The walleyes averaged 25 per net lift this year compared to 27 in 2013. He added, “Walleyes are still above the long term average.”

Tournament angler and Devils Lake guide Jason Feldner said, “Based on my travels fishing tourneys, Devils Lake is 10 times ‘average’ compared to places I’ve been. This lake is the best body of water I’ve ever fished, with some 200-walleye days; 200-pike days are possible. Limits of perch 9 to 15 inches all winter! That’s why many clients book on the spot so they are guaranteed time in my boat next season.”

Echoing similar sentiments was guide Mark Bry, “There is no other place on the planet I’d rather fish. Countless clients tell me Devils Lake is better than the Canadian fly-in lake they fish. If what we have is ‘average,’ then having fish almost everywhere with so many places to fish is exactly why I love showing this lake to people from other states. Their word is ‘spectacular’ when describing our fishing.”

Northern pike are above long-term averages and white bass are as abundant as last year, Caspers stated. Guide and world walleye champion Johnnie Candle placed the Devils Lake averages in perspective. He said, “In May and June, my boat averages 75 to 100 pike from 27 to 36 inches daily and a few bigger. In July and August, the walleye average is 75 per day on any technique with average fish 14 to 18 inches and of course some larger. In September and October, we catch about 20 walleyes per day from 18 to 26 inches.”

Guide and resort owner Aaron McQuoid said, “This is an unbelievable fishery. Interestingly, many clients have made this same statement – there must be millions of fish out there – I bet they’re accurate.” If anything, he urged newcomers to the lake to take advantage of any of the guide services (he guides and has complete lodging facilities), and learn the lake with an expert who will also drill holes or hoist the anchor. “This is the best freshwater experience, and it’s in the middle of North Dakota,” he said.

The latest hunting and fishing details can be found at The website lists information about fishing and hunting guides, the latest lake conditions, ramps, history, events, resorts and restaurant news plus a helpful map. The lake has expanded to about five times its size compared to the 40,000 acres 25 years ago, swallowing marshes, woodlands, ponds, shelter belts and farmlands. This habitat created a rich environment for the lake’s popular species – walleyes, perch, northern pike and white bass. It also provides ample habitat for the many local and migrating ducks and geese.

A 20 x 32 heated fish-cleaning station adjacent to Ed’s Bait Shop (on Hwy 20 south of the City of Devils Lake) is open to the public with two grinders, a clean-up sink and bathrooms. Anglers may launch boats or in winter, drive-on from many public ramps around the lake. Candle said, “If people want a fishing adventure like none they’ve ever experienced, Devils Lake is the only place to come.”


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