DEVILS LAKE – The word “open” means that guides are taking clients to secret spots, and fishing is once again the normal way of life in Devils Lake. Top guides are back in the saddle – or boat seat – and motoring forward.
They have adapted operations with clients' health safety a priority. “The phones are ringing off the hook due to Canada being closed,” fishing guide Jason Feldner said, adding the best walleye bite of the year typically kicks in around Memorial Day weekend.
Feldner says his seven guides are booked until late June. His Perch-Eyes Guide Service can accommodate up to 52 guests in cabins, houses and a main lodge.
“Everything is provided, from AC to fully equipped kitchens,” Feldner said. “Guide groups have their own space. We’re in Minnewaukan on the lake’s west shore.”
Feldner’s staff takes extra steps to clean and disinfect boats, rods and all lodging facilities often. Clients follow guides in their own vehicles to the ramps.
“We then jump in the boat for a fun day on the water,” he said.
Cody Roswick, who operates FinHunters Guide Service, said he lost a dozen trips with some old-time regulars who were nervous about travel, but those dates are filling fast with the Canadian border closed to nonessential travel.
Roswick says he keeps conditions as clean as possible, and as people feel more comfortable daily, bookings are picking up.
“I think people are staying closer to home,” Roswick said. “They also know the walleyes are about to go crazy,” he added.
Feldner’s extensive experience and knowledge of Devils Lake shows.
“Once the Memorial Day bite starts, walleyes don’t slow down all summer,” Feldner said. “They bite well into October, with fall being the time for quality fish.”
In spring, tactics include slip-bobbers with leeches when calm.
“Walleyes love leeches all year long,” Feldner said. “I have even frozen some; thawed them out and caught fish with dead leeches under the ice.”
With bobbers and hooks in red, orange or plain on one rod and jigs on another, all baited with leeches, Feldner catches walleyes on what they want.
“What they want changes often,” he said.
When spring breezes blow, casting becomes a favorite. With all the bays and miles of shoreline, good spots are easy to locate. Casting consists of light jigs with paddle tails or twister tails. Feldner starts with one-eighth ounce jigs and increases to one-fourth ounce jigs in wind.
“I like to follow the jig down (into) 1 to 7 feet of water where the walleyes feed this time of year,” he said. Best colors in stained water are fire tiger, white and perch; in clear water, Feldner pitches gold.
Those same colors translate to crankbaits. When fishing extremely shallow, Feldner says his crew prefers shallow Flicker Shads or the No. 7 Rapala Shallow Shad Raps. If in 3 feet or more, the No. 5 Shad Raps and Flicker Shads are the answer. He always uses lightweight wire leaders because of the voracious pike that frequent the same haunts as walleyes.
Roswick described the Devils Lake walleyes from late May well through July saying, “They will be biting everywhere."
“It’s one of the easiest shallow-water casting or slip-bobber bites I have ever experienced,” he said.
With coronavirus awareness, Roswick said he expected more clients to take advantage of the mid- and late-summer bite.
Starting out the season with a full arsenal of Northland Mimic Minnows for casting (a jig pre-rigged with plastic) that “flat-out catches them,” Roswick also has clients casting crankbaits.
“There is always a crankbait bite on this lake,” he said. As soon as possible, he loves to demonstrate the effectiveness of bottom bouncers and spinners.
A typical Roswick guide day means limits of walleyes and a bunch of pike. Those targeting pike can anticipate more than two dozen a day. One thing Devils Lake offers is a strong population of white bass.
“I tell clients they can catch as many as they want, and they do,” Roswick said. “However, they are tired after about 30, especially since many are 2 to 3 pounds. Then, it’s back to walleyes.
White bass really fight,” he said.
Roswick said being a fishing guide has led to some of the greatest friendships possible.
“I’m my own boss, and this job – and it’s a job – is very rewarding,” he said. “For those regulars I miss this spring, I expect to see them in my boat later this season.
More info: www.devilslakend.com.