Unlocking The DL Spring Bite- Part 1: Cody Roswick
Apr 27th, 2019 by Keith Worrall 199
Modified Apr 27th, 2019 at 8:56 AM
The Devils Lake basin in north central North Dakota is no doubt one of the most productive walleye fisheries in our great nation. Its big, habitat rich, and plum full of food making for phenomenal growth rates and plump walleyes. Catching walleyes after they’ve spawned can be a bit tricky at times due to cold, clear water in spring. It can be a boom-or-bust bite in the month of May. In a year when conditions are just right, the post-spawn bite can be excellent. After eating little during the spawning period, the fish are hungry. The previous year’s baitfish have been whittled down and the current year’s hatch has yet to bloom, so food is at an annual low. On a good day, walleyes seem to be constantly on the prowl, and bite with gusto. Other days, finesse and slow techniques is what it takes to catch Devils Lake walleyes. Here are a few things to consider post-spawn for Devils Lake walleyes.
Current and temperature is a key factor. It’s no secret that warmer water and current areas attract fish on Devils Lake. Back bays with sand, cattails, and mud bottoms warm much quicker than the main lake attracting food and all kinds of fish. There is usually some current near the bridges and channels feeding Devils Lake. Much of this is windblown current and we typically have some wind that keeps the water moving in Devils Lake. One tip I’ll share is that afternoons and evenings give these areas a chance to warm up during the day, which increases fish activity. With long daylight hours in May, capitalize on the afternoon and evening time frame. Mornings can be good, but a few degree warm up in the afternoon can make a difference.
Pay attention when you catch some northern pike and/or white bass.
The northern pike and white bass use the same areas as walleyes this time of year. In my experience, when you find numbers of northern pike and white bass, there are typically some walleyes mixed in or in close proximity. You may have to sore mouth a few aggressive pike and bass before you start seeing or catching walleyes. Yes, I said seeing walleyes! It is very common with the clear water in spring, to see walleyes follow your bait on a cast. You will see a fish follow and maybe give you a bump with no hook up. This is common, fun to experience, and may mean you need to slow your retrieve, with a few more hops or pauses.
If you’re not catching fish in the shallows and the water is fairly cold, try deeper water. Many anglers do not realize that the water temperature is fairly uniform in early spring from top to bottom. I’ve caught post-spawn walleyes during midday in water as deep as 30 feet. When the lake stratifies due to temperature the fish most likely will be shallower. This is when most fish in Devils Lake are in 15’ or less.
Take advantage of the wind
A windswept shoreline can produce a good catch of post-spawn walleyes pitching jigs or crankbaits for a lot of reasons. The wind blows in plankton, which attracts minnows and, in turn, walleyes. The wind also roils the water, reducing light penetration and allowing walleyes to feed in the darker environment they prefer. And, if the sun is shining, the wind piles up the warmer surface water along the downwind shore, activating the food chain from the bottom.
Tackle and techniques used on Devils Lake can be simple during the post spawn. Jigs and minnows, live bait rigs, slip bobber and a leech, casting shallow crankbaits are all staples. Sure, the beauty of Devils Lake is that you can fish most techniques with great success, but it’s hard to beat the basics. More often than not, I use a Northland Mimic Minnow or 1/4oz. jig and soft bait. It’s hard to beat a Northland Impulse Paddle Minnow, or Impulse Swimin’ Grub. I like two tone colors that include white and firetiger perch patterns. Find them at www.shop.northlandtackle.com
If you’re not catching fish, try a different part of the lake
The Devils Lake basin includes many separate basins connected by narrows; Stump Lake, East Devils, and Dry Lake to name a few. In terms of the timing of the spawn, each of these basins acts as a separate lake. Rather than trying to force a bite from walleyes that just completed spawning in the deep basin, try a shallower basin. There, the fish likely spawned earlier, water maybe warmer, and the walleyes will probably be more cooperative. It’s a large system with countless bays and backwaters to explore.
Lastly, and I’m biased of course, but consider hiring a good fishing guide to help you make your trip productive. There are many quality fishing guides in the area that have years of experience on the large system. Search the guide listing at www.devilslakend.com/pages/guide-services or ask around. Finding a good fishing guide will help find some active walleyes, you will learn a few things about Devils Lake, and they’ll make your day enjoyable!
When it comes to chasing post-spawn walleyes, there are no guarantees. A sudden cold snap can shut down ravenous feeders in only a few hours. And a warm south wind can swing the pendulum the other way just as quickly. But if you follow the few tips, you can find some Devils Lake gold!