When the North Dakota sunshine finally forces the ice to retreat, it’s time to head to Devils Lake for walleyes and pike.  The fishing seasons are open year-round.  The fish have spawning on their pea-sized brains.  Pike and walleyes move near shore and to current areas about mid-April every spring.

They are accessible at more shore-fishing locations than any other lake in the country. 


Devils Lake game warden Jon Peterson loves the influx of visitors from almost every state.  “Most out-of-staters come from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois, where they join locals targeting walleyes and northern pike,” he said.  With incredible fishing here, and closed seasons in most other states, Devils Lake is a great place to break out the long rods.


“Our traffic jams are much different here,” he said.  Wherever current flows under bridges or through culverts – and there are dozens of such fish magnets – fishermen congregate.  These necked-down currents flow under narrow gravel roads, miles from any blacktop, and with 30 or 40 vehicles parked, traffic jams occur as farmers try to navigate the parked trucks and cars with wide machinery.  “That’s when we get called,” Peterson said.


He continued, “With the shoulder to shoulder fishing in areas where it seems a person could walk across the massive numbers of fish, parking is the big issue.”  He did admit that most people obey the regs, and wanted to make it very clear that snagging fish is illegal.  If accidentally snagged behind the gills, fish must be immediately released.  The same goes for grabbing fish by hand.  Netting fish with big landing nets is also forbidden.


Being spread extremely thin across the Devils Lake region, Peterson said he appreciates law-abiding fishermen.  “About 50 percent of my cases every year are the result of the public reporting something they observe,” he said. 


There are dozens of fishing spots.  A list compiled by Tanner Cherney follows.  Be mindful of No Trespassing signs and respect these areas.  Leave no litter, fishing line, bait containers, etc. behind.  When fishing shorelines along highways, do what your mother told you about crossing streets – look both ways!


Devils Lake Early Season Shoreline Fishing Spots


Six Mile bridge, SW of DL on Hwy 19, 6 miles.

Mauve Coulee bridge, SW of DL on Hwy 19, 10 miles.

Channel A, W of DL on Hwy 2, 7 miles.

Channel A shore fishing pier, W on Hwy 2, 8 miles; Right (north) on 75th Ave NE, 1 mile. E on 54th St. NE, 2 miles.


Grahams Island Rd, SW on Hwy 19, 8 miles.  5 miles of rip rap to fish.

Brinsmade bridge, SW on Hwy 19, 20 miles. Right (north) on Hwy 281, 5 miles.  Right (east) on 53rd St, 3 miles.

Old 281, SW Hwy 19, 17 miles. Fish either side of highway.

Maza bridge, W on Hwy 2, 21 miles. N on Hwy 281, 8.5 miles.  Right on 67th St NE, 2 miles.


70th St. bridge, W on Hwy 2, 21 miles. N on Hwy 281, 10.5 miles. Right on 69th St. NE, half mile. N on 68th St, 1 mile. E on 70th St. 4 miles.

71st St. bridge, W on Hwy 2, 21 miles. N on Hwy 281, 12.5 miles.  Right on 71st St. NE, 5 miles.

66th St bridge, N on Hwy 20, 18 miles.  W on 65th St/County Rd 10, 10.5 miles.


67th St. bridge. N on Hwy 20, 20 miles.  W on 67th St, 7.5 miles.

75th Ave. bridge, N on Hwy 20, 18 miles. W on 65th St/County Rd 10, 6 miles. S on 75th Ave., 2 miles.

South Churches Ferry shore fishing, W on Hwy 2, 18 miles. S on 67th Ave, half mile.  W on 58th St, 1 mile.  S on 65th Ave. to road closed sign.  Walk south on 65th to shore fishing spots.


75th Ave. Washout, W on Hwy 2, 8 miles. N on 75th Ave, 7.5 miles to washout fishing spot.

Webster bridge, N on Hwy 20, 12 miles. W on 60th St, 1 mile.

Webster bridge # 2, N on Hwy 20, 12 miles.  W on 60th St, 2 miles.


Clint Devier, lake and ice guide and long-time Devils Lake fisherman including years on the pro walleye tournament trail appreciates the great fishing as his doorstep.  “The warm breezes of spring and the smell of open water invigorate me,” he said.  He admitted it doesn’t occur all at once.  “Things start happening when water begins to move,” he said.  The current flows push ice out of the upper ends of the broad expanse known as Pelican and Six Mile Bay. 


Devier and locals refer to incoming flows from the north and west as “coulees.”  These may be well established waterways such as Channel A, which drains many of the northern lakes into the main lake.  Others may be trickles that run mainly in spring.  Most have some water year-round that increases dramatically in April and May.  These are the same currents flowing under bridges and through culverts that Warden Peterson mentioned.


As the flowing water and sunshine erodes shoreline ice, miles and miles of lake access provides ideal fishing locations.  “Shore fishermen for two to three weeks have the advantage since most boat access and a big sheet of main-lake ice prevents launching boats,” Devier said.


In current, most fishermen pitch jigs with live bait or plastic to get down to the walleyes.  Along shorelines, Lindy rigging with minnows is a favorite tactic, as is slip bobbering with minnows or leeches.  Casting also produces.  He said, “This is when big female pike and walleyes cruise near shore, feeding where the warmest water exists.”


His biggest “secret” advice is to fish the side of the roadbed or bridge where the wind is blowing.  He also offered more words of wisdom, “If I could use only one lure, it would be a perch-colored Rapala Shad Rap in size 5 or size 7.”  He acknowledged that many great shad style lures exist and most are OK for catching Devils Lake walleyes.  Those cranks that run 2 to 5 feet deep are best early in the season.


Jigs with plastic paddle tails are quickly becoming another go-to walleye lure.  When cast and retrieved just above bottom, expect excellent results.  Plastic colors of white, perch, watermelon, silver and blue are favorites.


“With all the 16 to 22 inch walleyes in the system, this spring will once again provide loads of action (and great eating) for shore fishermen.  Along with walleyes will be numerous northern pike, some pushing 40 inches.  This is the time when Personal Bests occur,” he said.


Soon after ice-out, usually about mid-April, boat fishermen attack the shallow, muddy bays seeking warm water and schools of hungry fish.  Fish tight to the cattails on shore, along or over old weed beds, and on top of underwater roads.  As the lake warms into the upper 50 degree range, explore the 12 to 15 foot depths. 


Another tactic that works during the first weeks of open water is slip-bobbers.  Small jigs or plain hooks on the business end of this set-up baited with leeches catches walleyes in cold front conditions or when fish won’t chase crankbaits. 


Many excellent guide services, lodging, resorts, restaurants, casino, bait shops, and much more information about one of the best ice and open water fishing destinations in North America can be found at devilslakend.com.