An Ice Fishing Trip Well Worth It!
Feb 10th, 2014 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Feb 10th, 2014 at 12:00 AM
If you ice fish, then I’m sure that you’ve heard of the famous Devils Lake in North Dakota. Devils Lake has been a top notch fishery for decades, but in recent years fishing has gotten even better for perch, walleye, and northern pike. The premier guiding service on Devils Lake is the Perch Patrol Guide Service which has been in operation for 19 years and is comprised of the best and most sought after ice fishing guides in the area. Most of the guides also fish the prime waters of Devils Lake year-round, so their knowledge and expertise is unmatched.
The Perch Patrol Guide Service is still the “busiest, largest, most respected, and longest running guide service on the lake.” The “Patrol” consists of six of the best anglers on the lake who work together to locate and catch perch, walleye, and northern pike. Since most of the guides’ fish year-round it’s impossible to match the number of hours this group spends on the ice in winter and water the rest of the year looking for fishing locations.
The fishing has always been very good on Devils Lake, but the continued expansion of the lake’s water area, mainly from rain and snow, has continued to help the thriving fish population. In 1992 the lake covered 45,000 acres, in 2000 the lake was 115,000 acres, and this year the lake is approaching 200,000 acres. The added and improved habitat is responsible for the good reproduction and the great fishing. One of the main food sources are freshwater shrimp or “scud” and the lake has few rough fish, so the lake’s biomass of fish are of desirable species for any angler.
People come from all over the country to fish the waters of Devils Lake and the businesses realize that this great angling is a boom to the local economy. The western part of the state is booming with the discovery of oil, but the constant train traffic going west has hurt the famous Amtrak trains which would take anglers to the Devils Lake. Lately, Amtrak has forced some trains to be anywhere from 3 to 5 hours late because of the loads of equipment going to the sand oil fields. Because of this the Perch Patrol has cancelled using the train in their package deals, so if you want to go to Devils Lake you’re going to have to drive or take your chances with Amtrak.
A few weeks ago, I had a group of friends go from the Sauk City area to North Dakota for a few days of this fantastic fishing. Randy Brice, Joe Noltner, Tyler Zeman, Heath Finer, Wade Moseman, Rod Kruckman, and another six anglers from Minneapolis went to Devils Lake to get in on this great bite. The drive is all four lane highway and takes about 9 hours to get there from Sauk City. The group booked three days of fishing with the Perch Patrol and one of its founders, Steve “Zippy” Dahl. The “Patrol” has one guide for every four fishermen, so you’ll get all the attention that you need. You also don’t have to bring any equipment except warm clothing for whenever ice shelters are being moved from one location to another. The guides are in constant two-way radio communication, so you will usually be on fish. If your location isn’t producing, the guides will move you to another spot where their scouting has found fish. Every angler has their own Vexilar FL-18 and are instructed how to use it by your guide. The price per person is $150.00 per day which includes eight hours of fishing, transportation to your fishing locations, all equipment that you may need, a heated two man Fish Trap fish house, all bait and tackle, and you fish constantly on the go if your spot is slow to where ever the guides have found the best action. Though most anglers come to fish for the jumbo perch, there is also a very good walleye, northern pike, and white bass bite. Tell the guides what you want to fish for and that’s what you’ll fish for, it’s your choice!
The best thing is that the perch average about 12 inches with many larger ones between one and two pounds. The average walleye is about 20 inches, and you can catch all the five to eight pound northern pike that you want. Go to their website and view the photos and video and you’ll see perch like you’ve never seen before. About the only thing the guides don’t do is clean your fish, but all motels have good fish cleaning rooms to use. Bring an electric knife and plenty of Ziplocs for you fillets.
If you are interested in going to this “perch Mecca”, then I highly recommend the Perch Patrol Guide Service because they are the best. There are also many other good guides (like Johnny Candle) and I’ll give you some contacts at the end of this article to help you on this trip.
I wouldn’t worry about bringing much equipment because the guides have what works day in and day out. They know Devils Lake and they want you to catch fish. This is the kind of place where you should plan to go every winter for a few days because the fishing is great and the people are extremely nice. The town of Devils Lake has everything you could want with good motels and restaurants. Randy and his crew stayed at the Sleep Inn Motel and found it very good and clean. The guides pick you up at your motel every morning for the day. The Woodland Resort is also a great place to stay, but they are often filled. I’m including the phone number of the Devils Lake Chamber of Commerce for motels and any other information that you may need while fishing.
The most important thing to bring is good warm clothing and boots. You’re going to be warm in your fish house, but when and if you move you want to be warm. Dress in layers and use some of the warm and new clothes and fabrics for the outdoorsman. You’re better with too many clothes than not enough!
Go to the Perch Patrol’s website and see the kind of fish that I’m writing about and if you like to ice fish then this is the place for you to go. I highly recommend the Devils Lake Perch Patrol and the town for a great few days of fishing. You can buy your license online for three days for $17.00, $27.00 for 10 days, or $37.00 for the season. The daily perch limit is twenty perch per day with a possession limit of eighty fish.
There’s almost thirty inches of ice now without much snow, so traveling is easy. The fishing will continue into March, so make your reservations now.
Contacts; Devils Lake Perch Patrol, 1-701-DL1-FISH or 1-701-351-3474.
Visit Devils Lake Facebook
North Dakota Fish and Game, www.gf.nd.gov