If Forrest Gump was sitting on a park bench in Devils Lake, North Dakota, he might say, “My Mama always said in winter, people talk about spring fishing. In spring, it’s all about summer. In summer, they plan for fall. And, in fall, their heads are full of perch ice fishing talk.”
Forrest is not far off. Winter is now slipping into spring. This is the time of year when spring and summer Devils Lake open water fishing is top of mind for those living nearby and for all their far-flung friends that are making plans to visit.
The Devils Lake Tourism and Chamber website (devilslakend.com) lists a dozen guides and guide services. Many are booked up for the latter weeks of May – guiding usually begins mid-May. June dates are mostly booked, but contacting the guides now will enable guests to squeeze into the time they prefer. July and August offer great fishing, tremendous weather and guide calendars have openings.
For guides like the 10 “iron men” who have been on ice with Bry’s Guide Service every day since Dec. 8, they are due a welcome break. Mark Bry, owner, said, “This was as good a perch-winter as we’ve ever had. It’s also the busiest we’ve ever been.”
Many of his clients book a year in advance, which is why May and June are filling quickly. “July and August are not ‘dog days’ here. The walleyes are biting in more places and the 75 to 85 degree days with stable weather make North Dakota the place to be,” he said.
Another guide service, the Perch Patrol, owned by Zippy Dahl, had all 12 guides on ice nearly every day. “This past winter was phenomenal; one of the best perch years in history,” he said. The hectic ice season will switch to the same pace when open water hits. “Clients have been calling all winter for spring and summer dates. June is filling quickly because people are calling earlier than ever,” he said.
June, July and August offer the best fishing of the year. “We catch more numbers; the weather is good; fish can be on weed edges, along flooded roads, on old shorelines (18 to 24 feet deep); and we employ all methods,” Dahl continued, “People like to have a rod in their hands, especially when it’s doubled over. You never know what’s going to bite.”
One Devils Lake word was in popular use all winter – SNOW. It started Nov. 10 with a blizzard over Veteran’s Day, added 40 inches in December, and March roared in like a lion. That means people like the Devils Lake Basin Joint Water Resources Board manager Jeff Frith is on top of projected run-off and what it may mean for the lake. The board consists of the nine counties and the Spirit Lake Reservation that border the lake. This area represents a 2.4 million acre watershed.
Frith said, “Last spring the lake rose a little more than three feet. This year, taking into consideration a very dry fall, we could see a foot increase.” Both Bry and Dahl agreed that it should come up at least that amount. Variables include the potential of a late spring (wet) snow storm, a rapid warm-up, heavy spring rains over frozen fields, and perhaps another surprise or two.
The key to incoming water is that it leads to even better fishing. That says something for Devils Lake. The website devilslakend.com is the best source for guides, lodging, things-to-do when not fishing, and everything a new or returning visitor needs to know about the community or lake.