When the Devils Lake fishing calendar flips to Spring, good things happen. Walleye fishing peaks in April, May and June on this North Dakota lake nestled adjacent to the city with the same name.
With abundant snow this past winter, the lake is projected to rise another couple of feet. The lake rose more than three feet last spring, and more water equals more acres of fishable habitat – going up from 165,000 acres last year. This translates to 150,000 soggy football fields.
Incoming water draws walleyes to current areas by culverts, bridges and inlets. Shorelines near these popular spots attract families of happy fishermen. Ice may cover the main lake, but early open water produces some great fish dinners.
Boats can usually navigate safely by early May when walleyes become the main target. Guides begin their seasons mid-May. As Spring slides into July, expectations turn into reality with full livewells. Fisheries survey nets this past summer produced all-time high walleye catches. The 35.3 walleyes per net far surpassed the average of 21.5 per net, a record. The “keeper” walleyes, 15 to 20 inches, doubled the average at 12.3 per net. Even the next year-class of 10 to 15 inchers was well above averages at 16.4 per net (average is 10). The nets have told the biologists for 31 years what lives in the lake, sizes, quantity and quality.
Devils Lake is a lake with tremendous opportunities. The tactics are whatever works. If anglers visiting like to fish slip-bobbers, they can. Same with jigs/plastic or jig/minnow combos. They can troll crankbaits or bottom bouncers and spinners with crawlers. They can cast jigs or cranks. If they do it anywhere else, it will work here. Best bet – Learn new methods from guides. Watch how they piece together the walleye puzzle. Carry your new knowledge home and duplicate it on your favorite lakes.
The early season has several “musts,” including the main factor of water temperature. That usually means dark bottom areas inside protected bays, and usually less than 5 feet deep. After an all-morning bright sun, the best fishing occurs afternoon into evening. Guides often start their days later than normal and fish longer.
The benefits of fishing Devils Lake include generous limits and no closed season. Walleyes and northern pike are five per day; 10 in possession; no slot limits. Guides often clean fish for their clients. If not, many motels have enclosed fish cleaning stations and freezers. The City has a free-to-the-public fish cleaning station near Ed’s Bait Shop. There are fish cleaning stations at most ramps, again a courtesy of the community. There are also a number of public fishing piers, with one fishing pier (really good in spring) designed for handicapped anglers.
Lake and area info, details, maps, answers to your questions, guide services, activities, stories about the fish you will be chasing, and more can be found on the comprehensive website – devilslakend.com.
Last season, 16 to 20 inch fish were so abundant, fishermen gained confidence with techniques that the guides were willing to demonstrate. Clients learned to tie spinner rigs, set-up slip-bobbers for maximum effectiveness, cast cranks and jigs into shallow water without snagging the bottom, watching and trusting electronics, knowing the warmest water, using GPS for marking good spots for an easy return the next day, and more.
Tip: When casting jigs with plastic paddletails shallow, guides will explain retrieve speed and holding the rod tip at a 10 o’clock angle to keep the lure near bottom, but not dredging the bottom. A key to a slip-bobber bite is to reel down and point the rod to the fish, feel the weight, and when the rod bows down slightly, sweep the rod up quickly. Sharp jerks without having a tight line won’t bring many walleyes to the net.
Zippy Dahl, owner of the Perch Patrol said he and his guides are ready for open water. He said, “For us, the back bays off the main lake will be on our radar. We love those bays. They warm sooner and the warmest water equals the best fishing. Even 2 to 4 degrees makes a difference, but often late on a sunny day, the difference could be 10 degrees.”
Guide Cody Roswick shared his typical presentations, “I like my clients to cast small crankbaits or jigs and plastic to locate fish. If they catch one or two or get a bump, but action slows, I slow down with the fish. That means a 1/32nd ounce jig and a leech below a bobber.” His favorite color when casting a 1/4th ounce jig and plastic is a chartreuse and white Impulse paddle tail, 3 ½ inches long, reeled just fast enough to keep it off bottom.
With shallow fish, the many bays and necked down areas with multiple excellent ramps offer good fishing close to the access. Johnnie Candle, guide and World Walleye Champion said, “Yes, the wind blows out here, but we can always find very good fishing without crossing the big lake,” he said.
Book guide trips early. From large guide services to one-man shops, the experts featured on devilslakend.com can fulfill your dreams. Expect to contact a few other species while fishing walleyes. White bass are big and getting bigger; many up to 4 pounds. Northern pike also lurk in the shallows in Spring. They willingly stretch line and excite people with their slashing runs.
See you on Devils Lake this spring. Remember, if summer fits your schedule, the open water fishing continues all season, right up to and into the next ice season.