Devils Lake walleyes are snug under 30 inches of ice. That will change in less than two months. As ice fishing season winds down, thoughts are already moving ahead to Spring open water.
The tremendous Devils Lake fish factory loaded with walleyes, pike, perch and white bass attracts anglers from all corners of the world. Many are booking lodging and guides in this north-central North Dakota recreation mecca. With hundreds of fishermen checking their “Bucket Lists” and traveling to Devils Lake, they quickly make two important discoveries:
1. Why didn’t I come here earlier? Most book again for the next season.
2. Fishing for walleyes is stupendous. Anglers fish any tactic they prefer, or with guides, learn new methods they can transport to their home waters. The bonus white bass, pike and perch make every day exciting.
State fisheries test netting last summer showed the overall walleye catch at 32 per net was well above the 21 per net average. The 15 to 20 inch “eater” walleyes were double the average. Trophy walleyes (25 to 30 inches) were also above average. Young-of-year walleyes sampled last fall showed 45 young walleyes per net compared to the historical average of 24. The future is promising with natural reproduction strong. Additionally, about 575,000 walleye fingerlings were stocked in 2021.
What do some area guides forecast for the coming open water season? Johnnie Candle, world walleye champion and fishing educator said, “Predictions for a fair amount of water from run-off snow melt will concentrate walleyes wherever moving water exists. This makes great fishing, because Devils Lake has lots of current around bridges, culverts, inlets, and they stack up there.”
Candle added, “The lake is plumb full of 17 to 20 inch walleyes and this will be a banner season.” Water temperature and water color make all the difference. He seeks the warmest water, and if visibility is no more than 2 to 3 feet, that’s where he fishes.
Guide Jason Feldner expects the lake to rise 2 to 3 feet. “I like the shallow bays next to current areas. After the spawn, walleyes head there to fatten up. Casting jigs with plastic or small crank baits produce this time of year,” he said.
Kyle Blanchfield, owner of Woodland Resort, has many guides running out of his operation. He said, “The upper basin coulees and channels will provide shore and boat fishing opportunities galore. Pitching jigs with plastics is the no-brainer method behind catching big walleyes. I expect a fantastic early season.”
Mark Bry’s guide service of 10 guides will be busy. He rates the open water season judging by the ice season, which he graded as an A-/B+. “I’m really excited about the projected 2 to 3 foot increase in water levels. This will be a very good shallow (2 to 5 feet) bite through June.” His crew was in boats April 15 last year, but expects to begin guiding May 12. Jigs with plastic, crankbaits and slip-bobbers will all be rigged and ready for his clients. As with most guides, booking early is vital.
Cody Roswick guides winter and summer. He has high expectations for Spring and Summer. From very good winter fishing, he anticipates the action to jump into high gear as soon as the ice recedes. He offered a key suggestion, “Don’t be in a hurry. Fish activity is geared to water temps with afternoons best. Use slow moving presentation, lively live bait and bring the slip-bobbers.”
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