Devils Lake, ND – Devils Lake fishing gets better and better each season. According to North Dakota fisheries manager Todd Caspers, “Not only does this lake demonstrate a stable situation, but it has a good, consistent mix of all sizes of walleyes, not just one dominating year-class.” Guides agree, calling Devils Lake fishing, “Phenomenal, incredible, top-notch, a crown jewel.”
Caspers is the area biologist. Walleyes are perhaps the most popular Devils Lake species, but yellow perch also rank high with thousands and thousands of local and out-of-state anglers. “We test young-of-year perch in a few weeks, but are cautiously optimistic of a good hatch,” he said. This year, the Fish and Game summer net surveys averaged nine perch per net compared to 7.4 last year. Most age classes were about the same as long-term averages.
Walleyes were exactly at the long-term average of 20 fish per net. The 15 to 20 inch fish were slightly above average, as were the 25-inch plus walleyes. Northern pike numbers were above average. The 34 to 44 inch fish were right on the long-term average. Numbers of 28 to 34 inch pike were double the long-term average.
The fourth major species targeted by anglers is white bass. The trend is pointing upwards, with seven bass per net this year, up from 1.2 white bass per net in 2015, and 6.6 last year. The long-term average is four bass. The big jump is due to the 2015 year-class; they’re 10 to 12 inches now.
Devils Lake expert guides are jubilant about the great year-after-year fishing. Approximately 25 percent of all non-resident fishing licenses sold in North Dakota are sold in bait shops around Devils Lake, which is open for fishing all year.
Aaron McQuoid, owner of McQuoid Guides with 19 years on the lake said, “The words ‘average’ and Devils Lake are not ever used in the same sentence. Change the word ‘average’ to ‘phenomenal’ and that’s more like it. With more good news from this year’s netting, I smile and know the future is better and better.” Anglers stay at McQuoid’s lodge, hire guides or go in their own boats, but he said, “They all enjoy the fishing here.”
Jason Mitchell, TV show host and owner of one of the largest guide services on the lake was even more positive. He said, “Over the past 10 years, Devils Lake has been the best walleye lake in the country. It’s incredible how it sustains itself, and with the news of the hatch this season, will remain one of the best fisheries for years to come.”
Mitchell attributes the long-term success to the cycles of rising water. A couple feet of water each year creates areas for small game fish and their forage to thrive and survive. “My clients often refer to the fish here as ‘dumb’ because they bite so readily. Devils Lake is the closest you can get to a Canadian fly-in lake yet remain in the US,” he added. Another reason his clients head home with big smiles is because they love to catch fish, and he said, “They get worn out catching walleyes, pike, white bass and perch. They gain an appreciation of our fantastic multi-species 180,000 acre lake.”
Community leader and guide Clint DeVier has fished the lake for almost half a century. For the past three decades he said, “Devils Lake is way above the other walleye systems I’ve tournament fished throughout the Midwest.” The reason so many people love Devils Lake is because they can catch fish using their favorite tactics. Due to so many types of structure, if jigging is what a person loves to do, that will work. So will slip-bobbers, trolling, bottom-bouncers, casting crankbaits, fishing shallow or deep. “Most days are 50-plus walleye days with many pike, white bass and some perch netted. This makes for a top-notch experience,” he said.
Guide and world-walleye champion Johnnie Candle said an average April and May pike day is 50 fish, with many 100 pike days. Some 20-plus pounders are hauled aboard every year. May and June are peak walleye months with about 20 coming to net daily, averaging three-pounds. July and August are “numbers” months with 60 to 100 walleyes per day. “Many days, our boat goes six to 10 casts in a row with walleyes on every cast,” he said. If targeted, walleyes over five-pounds can be caught, and always end up winning most tournaments.
The season around the corner, September until ice-up, is called “incredible” by Candle. He does not keep walleyes over 20 inches, and despite catching 20 to 30 walleyes per day in the fall, he is often unable to keep any. Catching big walleyes, 75 pike or upwards of 100 white bass make every trip an adventure. “Devils Lake is the crown jewel of the prairie,” he said.
For more information about Devils Lake motels and resorts, fish cleaning stations, water levels, ramps, public fishing piers, fishing reports for walleye, pike, perch and white bass, community activities, tournament opportunities, guides, dining, casino and much more, go to devilslakend.com, or call the Tourism office, 701-662-4903.
Photo credits: Guide Johnnie Candle with a nice walleye catch this fall.
Clients of Mitchell’s Guide Service with Guide Zippy Dahl with Northern Pike of a lifetime!