Like many of you, I am a visitor to Devils Lake. My first sight of this amazing fishery was in 1992 with the Professional Walleye Trail. As executive director, the goal of spreading the walleye gospel far and wide took the touring pros to some of the best lakes and rivers in North America.
Not only did Devils Lake deserve that title 30 years ago, but it has held that coveted position on most fishermen’s lists ever since. My personal trips took me there for tournaments, for ice fishing, for spring and fall fishing, and many summer excursions. The fishing season is open all year.
Walleyes move, hide, go deep, go shallow, suspend, tuck into the weeds, hunker down in standing trees, but most days, catching is why just one visit creates “lifers” who return annually.
A couple fishing buddies from the Brainerd-Lakes area joined me from June 5 to June 11 this year. Our goal was to chase walleyes; eat a few fillets; take photos; catch-up on families and life; and laugh much. All these goals were met. Prior to heading to North Dakota, my emails went to Tanner Cherney, Chamber media liaison and Johnnie Candle, friend and Devils Lake guide. Their advice – explore the back bays. If dingy water, so much the better. Stay in 6 to 8 feet and cast shallow. They said jigs with plastic or Shad Raps or Flicker Shads would dredge up walleyes.
Notice, they did not tell us where to fish or put an “XX” on the map. That’s the joy of Devils Lake. We explored, fished, caught a few – or did not catch anything – so we moved. The first spot seemed just right, but nothing. The next spot was a bit better. The third spot became an “XX” on our map.
We fished west and north of the Graham’s Island launch ramp. That includes a lot of water. The fish were in 1 to 4 feet of water wherever cabbage weeds were emerging. When wind was pounding into shorelines, fish were also outside the weeds in 3 to 5 feet where crankbaits proved their worth. Fishing Northland Weed Weasel jigs with 3-inch to 5-inch paddle tails or split tails was deadly. Many walleyes from 18 to 25 inches were boated. Plus many that would soon grow into this range.
Bonus tug-of-wars ensued (more than we would have liked) because of one of the highest populations of white bass in recent years. The biters were almost all in the 15 to 17 inch range, pushing them into the 2 and 3 pound range. There is nothing that will steer a giant white bass to the net. So, we played them out and released them. Pike ate a few of our lures and jigs, but several came home with me. The limits are 5 walleyes and 5 pike daily with 10 of each in possession.
It was surprising as we watched boat after boat come into what we judged community spots. They would stop, fish, and soon pull up stakes and head to the next spot. We observed this while fishing a nearby bay and catching dozens of walleyes. This spot was “ours” after we navigated through trees and stumps. We checked out spots that appeared fishy. It required some finesse maneuvering with an electric bow mount, but the results in this case were worth it.
For those heading to Devils Lake, take advantage of Johnnie Candle’s monthly live Facebook seminars. The next is August 10 at 7 pm CST. Go to facebook.com/devilslake.
One of the joys of returning to a favorite spot is rejoining friends made on earlier visits. Such was the case when Clint DeVier and I said “Howdy,” and jumped in a boat. We met other friends on the water. Before long, Clint and my two Minnesota buddies shared time in each other’s boats. Bonds like that will never be broken.
Devils Lake is one of those spots that must be revisited. And, in my case, will be. I expect the next visit will involve entirely different tactics and the walleyes will be holding (hiding) somewhere else. Each time on Devils Lake is exactly like Tigger explained it in Winnie the Pooh, “An Explore!”