Most walleye fishermen list Devils Lake high on their Bucket Lists. That’s true whether they’ve never fished the sprawling north-central North Dakota lake or they were there just months ago.
Ask any number of Devils Lake experts, and they’ll tell you fall time is prime time.
“Fall is the time to fill the boat AND catch a true trophy,” said local guide and walleye pro Johnnie Candle.
While a variety of techniques will produce walleyes in the fall, Candle says he’s surprised at how late in the season fish will chase spinners. He prefers tipping his spinner rigs with half a crawler or Berkley Gulp! minnows.
“Mostly, fall means trolling No. 7 Flicker Shads or No. 5 Salmo Hornets or casting Jigging Raps and Shiver Minnows,” Candle said. For the biggest walleyes, he ties on much larger Flicker Shads and Reef Runners
“Late September into mid-November constitutes fall season here,” Candle said. “Halloween is a great time for monsters.”
Living and guiding in this part of the world, Candle recommends anglers come prepared for a variety of weather conditions.
“Cool mornings, warm afternoons, breezes or wind and even snow affect anglers, but not walleyes,” Candle said. His largest Devils Lake walleye, 11 pounds, came on Oct. 13, but personal bests occur for many clients in the fall.
Guide Cody Roswick of Fin-Hunters Guide Service says walleyes put on the feed bag as water temperatures drop.
“I enjoy targeting current areas, steep breaks and deep rocks with Northland Whistler or RZ jigs with live minnows or Impulse smelt minnows or Puppet Minnows,” he said.
For trophy-size walleyes, Roswick trolls crankbaits. Always within reach are rods rigged with slip-bobbers when he wants to drop a leech or minnow to specific spots.
Afternoon sunshine triggers walleyes, he said.
“I love to take duck hunters out after lunch and their morning hunts,” Roswick said. “Both trophy and eating-class fish can be in the same areas.”
Ross Sensiba of Rush Valley Guide Service says he loves watching his electronics and seeing the water temperatures drop through the 60-degree range into the upper 50s. “That’s my prime time for trophies, and the great guide trips occur then because all fish are feeding heavily,” he said.
Sensiba says his favorite tactic is jigging rock piles, the 22- to 35-foot breaks and main lake points with Berkley Gulp! As the afternoon sun warms the shallows, he prefers casting No. 5 Rapala Jointed Shad Raps over the tops of still-green weeds in 6 feet to 10 feet of water.
“It seems the best afternoon time is 3 p.m.,” he said. “Maybe the walleyes set their alarm clocks and wake up from their afternoon naps.”
Here’s what some other walleye experts say about Devils Lake:
Gary Parsons, Fishing Hall of Famer, host of “Next Bite TV” and major-league walleye tournament winner: “I’ve fished this lake for 25 years. It ranks as one of the best fishing spots in the U.S. The walleye fishing is diverse, and if a spot seems like it holds fish, it does.”
Mike Gofron, professional angler who holds the record for the most top 10 finishes in the walleye tournament world: “This place ranks as one of the best tournament waters anywhere. Anyone can catch a limit any day and is one heck of a fishery for big fish.”
Zippy Dahl, owner of the Perch Patrol guide service on Devils Lake: “The walleyes are fattening up, they're hungry and any tactic will catch them. My personal best, 12.5 pounds, came in the fall.”
Mark Bry, Bry’s Guide Service: “The best chance at an 8- to 10-pound walleye is upon us.”
More info: devilslakend.com.