An ice covering will soon allow fishermen access to 240 square miles of Devils Lake perch, walleyes, pike and white bass.  One of the most popular US ice fishing destinations is the lake by the city with the same name – Devils Lake, North Dakota.

Following a summer and late fall with some of the best fishing action ever, even long-time fishing guides are giddy about what’s coming.  Zippy Dahl, owner of the famed Perch Patrol, said, “I’m overly optimistic.  This was one of our best open water seasons ever.  Some locals and a few of our guides found and caught 10 to 13 inch jumbos.  With this many ‘open-water’ perch, I expect a really, really good perch season.”

Mark Bry, owner of Bry’s Guide Service echoed those comments, “Perch fishing was the best ever this past season.  With walleyes biting everywhere this summer and fall, the coming ice season has me really excited.”  Guide Cody Roswick shared his observations, “Fishing was stupid-good right through fall.  Walleyes are fat and healthy.  Fish numbers are strong.”

All three guide services urged anyone considering Devils Lake ice-time to book early.  Repeat business and returning clients are a big part of guide operations.  With the Canadian border closed, Zippy commented on how new Devils Lake fishermen rated their experiences.  The top five reasons for loving Devils Lake versus past cross-border Canadian trips:

  1. There are so many methods to catch walleyes; learned new tricks;
  2. The size of the walleyes was much bigger;
  3. Caught an amazing number of fish; all sizes;
  4. Can take plenty of fish home, plus eat several meals at the resort;
  5. It’s easier than trying to cross the border.

Daily and possession limits are generous.  Each angler may keep 20 perch daily with 40 in possession. Walleyes and pike are five daily and 10 in possession.

Cody said, “I expect some really great fishing this winter.  The exceptionally good bite should continue into winter.”  The numbers of fish will mean a competition for lures dropped below the ice.  His go-to traditional areas are deep rocks, gravelly hard bottoms, sandy bottoms, and locating “roamers” that cruise the basins.

He said even though he provides all gear, tackle, electronics, etc. (as do most guides), he keeps things simple and efficient.  Either 1/16th ounce spoons (Northland Buck Shot and others) and 1/16th ounce jigs work.  But like all fishermen, he brings it all.  Bait added to spoons or jigs includes minnows, wax worms or maggots.

Zippy said fishermen arrive with high expectations when heading out with a premier guide service like the Perch Patrol.  His 10 guides work together to find fish during the day.  When one spot slows, the guides and clients charge to a new area.  “We’ve got lots of water to keep up with, but the relationships and friendships are even more fun.  Our clients seem like family,” he said.

Mark Bry loved that the late-season perch were so aggressive.  “This should translate into an excellent perch season,” he predicted.  When asked what a guide service experience is like, he said, “We go. Safe and cozy in SnoBear tracked vehicles.  We provide everything.  We teach techniques, electronics and more.  We even clean and package fish.  Our 12 guides can accommodate groups of any size, and we also have lodging.”

A couple months ago, Mark and a partner purchased Ed’s Bait shop on Highway 20 south of town.  It’s located next to the public fish-cleaning station.  “We want to make the store into the source for the latest lake info and fishing conditions; a place to help people out; with the exact combination of tackle and lures that are working,” he said.

“Devils Lake keeps producing,” was a common refrain.  Ice fishing starts about mid-December, depending on ice conditions.  There is no closed fishing season, and can run well into late March or early April.  Three day North Dakota non-resident licenses are $28.  Season long, they are $48.  Youth under age 16 do not require a fishing license.

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