Experts predict good fishing on Devils Lake

Ice fishing probably ended too soon for some anglers this year, but the good winter fishing on Devils Lake bodes well for more of the same this spring.

In a news release from the Devils Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, several of the area’s top anglers said they felt the combination of no incoming water and an early ice-out will result in excellent fishing. May 1, they said, could start the best month of fishing on record.

Here’s what the experts had to say:

Jason Mitchell, TV host and owner of Mitchell’s Guide Service

Jason Mitchell

“Everything will be relating to shorelines in every part of the lake. Pick a bay and hit it. Find the warmest water and fish. Devils Lake will be a month ahead of schedule. This is the time.

“Fish until you find ‘em,” he adds. Mitchell’s hotspots will be new back bays, which will be over recently flooded cattail sloughs. If emerging cabbage weeds, pencil reeds or flooded cattails are present, he knows walleyes are lurking there. One of the benefits of no runoff is that the lake “greens-up” earlier due to algae growth, and this produces perfect conditions for shallow fishing. “You could pick 15 fish off a spot instead of three,” Mitchell said. “The boat won’t spook them, and they don’t scatter as much.”

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Zippy Dahl, fishing guide

Zippy Dahl

“This is a first for us with no run-off and the earliest ice-out I can remember,” said Dahl, one of Mitchell’s 12 open-water guides. “It’s a game-changer, because walleyes will stay home, not running to distant lakes to spawn.”

Dahl said this year, resident fish will be found in the main lake or any of the adjoining waters. The key will be water temperature. Walleyes have spread into all the connecting lakes of Devils Lake as the lake expanded from 40,000 acres 20 years ago to approximately 250,000 acres today. There are countless new bays and shorelines to fish. Dahl likes to fish with slip-bobbers or jigs early.

“Get the bait in front of their noses and hang on,” he said.

Johnnie Candle, guide and tournament angler

Johnnie Candle

“You never know what you’ll catch — walleyes, white bass, pike — but catch you will,” Candle said. “Your arms will be tired at the end of the day, any day in May.

“The conditions will keep the fish in their normal spots, and all corners of Devils Lake will be good early,” Candle said. “Warming conditions trigger bug activity, which draws minnows, which bring walleyes to the shallows.”

According to Candle, anglers should cover water and keep on the move until contacting fish. His two tactics involve casting either lures or jigs. He has many Husky Jerks, Rapala X-Raps and shallow Shad Raps ready for action. When jigging, Candle’s favorite soft plastic is the 3-inch pearl or firetiger Berkley Ripple Shad on a one-sixteenth or one-eighth ounce jig. “Find a shoreline stretch with fish and go back,” he said.

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Jason Feldner, Perch Eyes Guide Service and tournament angler

Jason Feldner

“The May bite will be phenomenal,” said Feldner, a longtime guide on Devils Lake. Usually, late May is the peak, but Feldner said with water temperatures in the 50-degree range, the best bite will be underway by May Day.

With the ice going out a month ahead of average, Feldner says he will fish with jigs or crankbaits. For jigs, he prefers a Fuzz-E-Grub tipped with a leech. He will be in shallow bays in 3 to 5 feet of water. He also likes to cast Lindy Shadlings on windswept shorelines with rock or sand bottom. He keeps the boat in 6 to 7 feet and casts shallow, pausing his lures occasionally. He watches for following walleyes and returns to the area if they’re not hitting on his first pass.

“Walleyes and pike will be roaming together,” Feldner said. “Catch the pike, then come back and catch walleyes. I use a wire leader or pike can eat a lot of baits.”

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For more information
After a big effort last summer to extend or relocate ramps, all of the boat launches on Devils Lake are open this season. For more information on lake conditions, activities, guides, tournaments, lodging, resorts and restaurants, call (800) 233-8048 or click here:

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