Some regions of the country brag about four seasons. Devils Lake, North Dakota claims only two seasons – Open Water Fishing and Ice Fishing.
With record numbers of fish based on state fisheries surveys and an excellent open water “bite,” lake guides predict that the upcoming ice season will be “Strong, Solid or Great.”
The “Strong” forecast comes from guide Cody Roswick. “Some of the best ever walleye action took place this year. Size and quantity were excellent,” he said. “All indications are that this trend will continue this winter.”
Roswick also conveyed what many of his guide clients tell him, “Hiring a guide is a wise investment.” Guides take clients to the fish. The goal is to provide an experience so they book again. Guides drill holes, provide the tackle and electronics, demonstrate tactics and even clean the fish. “Ice fishing people get excited when freezing weather finally arrives, but some of us have ice on the brain all year long,” he said.
Guide Mark Bry projects a “Solid” ice season. He cited something that has been occurring the past couple years saying, “We caught lots of perch by accident which to me means these 9 to 12 inch perch will provide good action this winter.” Walleyes will be targeted during the low light conditions. “Based on what our guides discovered over the past six months, Devils Lake visitors this winter will be able to take home some of the best eating fillets anywhere,” he said.
Early ice fishing usually begins the middle of December. The shallow, back bays firm up first, but he doubles down by drilling and checking ice. “Safety is our main concern,” he emphasized. Bry and his guides run SnoBear tracked and heated vehicles, escorting clients to their hot-spots as soon as conditions warrant.
Zippy Dahl runs the Perch Patrol guide service and predicted, “I have a Great outlook for this winter.” He estimated 90 percent of his clients travel for perch. “They’re perch crazy, just like me,” he chuckled. “The past open water season was wild with the number of perch caught by accident while walleye fishing.”
Dahl expects that the 2022 ice season will be even better than last year. With his December and January calendar about 80 percent full, the coming ice shows and snow will fill in the slots for his 10 guides. He is excited because his guide team was successful all year, and because the netting surveys proved the strong perch and walleye numbers in Devils Lake.
Fisheries biologists recorded 35.3 walleyes per net this summer, an all-time high. The average is 21.5 per net. They have been conducting and utilizing the same methodology for 31 years. The 15 to 20 inch walleyes also posted a record of 12.3 per net, double the average of six per net.
Perch numbers also were above average. Overall, there were 15.3 perch per net compared to the average of 12. The 10 to 12 inch perch long-time average is 2.4 per net; the recent surveys showed 4.1 of this desired size per net. Devils Lake also boasts a respectable population of white bass. Nets produced 7.8 per net; the average is 5.6. The bass that will bite under the ice from 15 to 18 inches were at 2.6 per net. The average is only .7 per net.
Devils Lake ice fishing is a fun family adventure. The community with many restaurants, guide services, resort and motel lodging, a casino, and much more is a destination. Dahl said, “About 50 percent of the clients book for the next season; they love it here.” The best source of fishing information, lake access points, free fish-cleaning stations, guides and activities is devilslakend.com.