07 2018 »

Devils Lake Produces Some of Best Northern Pike Fishing in North America


Anglers who know northern pike love Devils Lake.  These scrappy (and very tasty) fish seem to be everywhere.  Perch and walleye fishermen catch upwards of 50 pike per day by accident.  “Those targeting pike will catch well over 100 per day,” according to Devils Lake, North Dakota guide and World Walleye Champion Johnnie Candle.

He continued, “I am shocked at how many people spend thousands to cross into Canada, jump in a float plane and not catch as many pike on purpose as I catch by accident here.”  TV host and guide Jason Mitchell agreed, saying, “It’s not uncommon for a boat targeting walleye to catch 50 in a day during springtime.  Winter can be just as productive.”

The lake expanded from about 40,000 acres in the early 1990’s to approximately 175,000 acres today.  With no outlet the lake kept growing due to spring run-off plus abundant rains.  The levels are being maintained now with pumps.  The amazing amount of shoreline vegetation, connected lakes and back bays provide ideal pike spawning habitat.

Todd Caspers, area fisheries manager said, “Northern pike numbers were above average in the summer net surveys.”  There were twice as many 28 to 34 inch pike in nets compared to the long-term average.  This winter and into the 2018 open-water season, more people are being encouraged to catch their limits of Devils Lake pike.  There are several good videos describing how to create boneless pike fillets.  Check the website devilslakend.com for a “how-to” method.

Mitchell said, “The smaller and shallower connected bays and lakes hold high numbers of three to seven pound pike.  Trophies over 40-inches can also be targeted and caught.”  He prefers main-lake structure, points and reefs on the main bay, Minnewaukan Flats, East Bay and East Devils Lake.    Tip-ups baited with frozen bait like smelt trigger action in seven to 20 feet.

He loves it when a client catches a 40-inch pike, barely squeezing its fat belly thru an ice hole, and said, “I recommend releasing these monsters to fight another day.  Get them back in the water quickly (after a picture) so their gills and eyes do not freeze.  Hold them horizontally.”

Candle nets a number of 40-inch plus pike every year.  “There are plenty of 15 to 20 pound pike in Devils Lake, and 80 percent of the ones my clients hook are caught incidentally to the walleyes they’re after,” he said.  In spring, he feels the ratio is three to one (three pike for every walleye) while casting jigs or crankbaits shallow.  He said it could be scary if some real dedicated pike anglers came to Devils Lake just to chase pike.  “I use suspending jerk baits like X-Raps and Shadow Raps and they keep working,” he said.

While Candle is on his winter seminar, sport show, fishing university and Scheel’s speaking schedule, he waits until spring and said, “I leave the ice fishing mostly to others, but whenever I can, I try to catch some pike for the table.  They’re delicious.”

One Devils Lake family, Boyd LaFleur and sons Nathan and Blake have been targeting giant pike exclusively.  They pioneered open-water patterns to catch more than 100 pike over 40 inches in recent years.  Their tackle consists of long casting rods, 50 to 80 pound braid and size 12 X-Raps, jointed Shad-Raps, Bionic Bucktails, Suicks, shallow Raiders and other glide baits.  They also use fly rods when conditions are right.  Weed flats in three to nine feet of water with deep water nearby are favorite locations.  Boyd LaFleur said, “Most people felt every fish but walleyes were second-class citizens, but that’s not true.”  He has observed that 99 percent of walleyes caught were kept, but the opposite is true for pike, with about 99 percent being released.  “Pike under 32 inches long are the only fish our family eats, and no matter how it’s prepared, it’s delicious,” he said.

These experts urged anglers to pack the tip-ups and spend time chasing pike this winter.  Anglers may use four tip-ups per person.  The Devils Lake limit is five pike per day with 10 in possession.  The season is open 12 months of the year.

For more information about Devils Lake motels, resorts, guide services, fish cleaning stations, fishing reports for walleye, pike, perch and white bass, community activities, tournament opportunities, dining, casino, pike fillet tactics and much more, go to devilslakend.com, or call the Tourism office, 701-662-4903.

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