DEVILS LAKE -- Most anglers have heard the phrase, “Should have been here yesterday.” Right now, the Devils Lake ice fishing experts say, “Be here tomorrow.”
The ice conditions are excellent to start the New Year with 18 inches of ice on Alice, Irving and Dry lakes, according to Devils Lake Tourism. The main basin has 15 to 18 inches. There is some snow on the lake but warm temperatures have melted the snow down enough so anglers have been able to get around fine with four-wheel drive vehicles.
As anglers know, the North Dakota wind may not always be your friend, but it clears the ice of snow; about 6 inches of snow covers the ice in places.
“No matter what you think, the wind does help by getting snow off the ice,” said Tanner Cherney, owner of the video and photo firm Peak Productions and outdoor media coordinator for Devils Lake Tourism.
Equally important for this fishing community is that tourism, city, county and parks fund a Lake Access group that keeps all lake accesses open. They also maintain the all-season, heated fish cleaning station on state Highway 20 adjacent to Ed’s Bait Shop. In open-water season, they keep fish cleaning stations running at four popular launch ramps.
“The walleye bite is strong; perch are active because we can reach the deeper water; pike are always going,” Cherney said. The average perch are running 10 to 11 inches with a few 13 to 14-inchers mixed in; the 30- to 40-foot depths are best, he said.
“Gold seems to be the new hot color for perch,” Cherney said. “Bring plenty with you or pick them up in the local shops. Tipped with wax worms or maggots -- we call ‘em spikes -- stand by for action.”
Walleyes are most active for 90 minutes in the morning and again for 90 minutes in the evening. Cherney suggests fishing in 5 to 7 feet of water on the upper basin lakes and 15 to 20 feet on the old main lake shorelines.
Red, orange or pink rattling spoons tipped with a minnow head are good walleye producers, he said.
“Chase walleyes early and late and fill in the day with perch,” Cherney advised. Or bring tip-ups for all-day pike action.
“They are feeding now, and anglers can fish just 100 yards from shore,” Cherney said. “Pick an old cattail or weed line and set up. This is really fun for all.”
For anglers who want to bring their own ice houses to Devils Lake, Woodland Resort has added a new option. For $30 daily, customers will have access to the resort’s landing, shower house and the fish cleaning station, a fee that covers two people and one ice house. There’s an additional $10 per person charge for larger groups, and the fee includes towels.
More info: devilslakend.com or (701) 662-4903.