The ice -- and more -- was nice at 36th Annual Devils Lake Volunteer Fire Department Fishing Tournament

Tim Azure, Wessington Springs, SD, joins a group of 16 former and current Devils Lake area residents every year to fish the Devils Lake Fire Dept.'s tournament. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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DEVILS LAKE -- Seconds after Devils Lake Fire Chief Jim Moe sounded the air horn signaling the start of the 36th Annual Devils Lake Volunteer Fire Department Ice Fishing Tournament, cheers erupted from the throngs of anglers holding their lines over holes in the ice.

“We have our first fish," Moe announced as Roland Desjarlais, of nearby Fort Totten, emerged from the crowd carrying a walleye. Desjarlais caught the fish immediately after he dropped his line, he said.

“As soon as it hit bottom, it grabbed it,” Desjarlais said.

Tom Rost, Devils Lake, was the second person to catch a walleye, and also the second-place winner of the tournament’s walleye category, good for a 2020 Ford Crew XL pickup truck.

To keep things interesting, and following tournament tradition, the biggest fish in one of the categories didn’t get the most expensive prize. The first-place walleye prize was $2,000. First- to fifth-place prizes were awarded in perch, walleye and pike categories. Raffle prizes included a 2020 Chevy Equinox, 2020 Jeep Gladiator and 158 others.


Proceeds from the tournament, annually held in late January, are used to buy equipment for the Devils Lake Volunteer Fire Department. This year’s tournament drew 4,676 people from across North Dakota and other states, including Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota.

The weather for this year’s tournament -- 20 degrees, slightly overcast and reasonably calm -- was ideal, said Cory Meyer, a member of the tournament committee.

“Not too warm, not too cold, not too windy,” Meyer said. The ice thickness on the bay, 18 to 24 inches, was optimal for fishing.

Rost, of Devils Lake, didn’t even have to hold his line when he caught his pickup-winning fish.

“I dropped the line, and I laid it down to put my gloves on and it went 'boink,' and he was on,” Rost said.

Rost, like many of the anglers, is a regular at the tournament.

“Only 27 times,” he said with a smile.

The fishing tournament is a fun family get-together, said Tim Azure, who returns to Devils Lake from his home in Wessington Springs, S.D., nearly every year to attend. Azure displayed his Northern Plains roots by wearing a furry, horned cap.


Not to be outdone, his father-in-law, Vince Henrichsen, of Sioux City, Iowa, kept his head warm with an Estonia hat covered in long, blonde locks. Like Azure, Henrichsen travels to Devils Lake annually for the tournament.

“This is a good one here,” Henrichsen said.

For Fargo resident John Motschenbacher, the 36th annual tournament broke a streak -- in a good way.

“This is the first fish I’ve caught,” Motschenbacher said.

It also was the biggest walleye in the tournament. Motschenbacher’s catch, which came in the first few minutes of the competition, weighed in at 6.24 pounds.

Well into the tournament, Mike Anderson of Grand Forks wasn't having any luck catching fish, but wasn't concerned that he didn't have any on the line.

“It’s all pure luck if the fish bites your line,” he said. Anderson should know, he’s been at every tournament since it began.

“Haven’t caught anything yet,” Anderson said. But spending the time with family and friends, cooking brats and hotdogs on a portable grill and setting up a festive fishing site made up of five flags -- including the American flag, North Dakota flag and Fighting Sioux flags -- is a fun tradition, fish or not.


“It started when my dad started coming here, as kids,” Anderson said.

Within minutes a line forms to weigh fish at the annual Devils Lake Fire Dept.'s ice fishing tournament. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Related Topics: DEVILS LAKE
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