I made my winter fishing debut for the season last Thursday when I joined Jason Mitchell and Jeff Andersen, members of the Clam Corp.’s “Ice Team,” and two others for a day of perch fishing on a body of water somewhere near Devils Lake.
At Mitchell’s request and as a matter of courtesy, I’ll leave it at that.
Mitchell, of course, is a longtime Devils Lake fishing and hunting guide and host of “The Jason Mitchell Outdoors” TV show. Andersen, of Baxter, Minn., is a central and northern Minnesota fishing guide and professional photographer.
Joe Andersen — Mitchell’s cameraman and Jeff Andersen’s younger brother — of Devils Lake and John Hoyer of Minnetonka, Minn., rounded out the crew.
So how was the fishing? In a word — “phenomenal.” Mitchell had stumbled across the perch mother lode a few days earlier after drilling some 200 holes. The fish had moved a few hundred yards from where he found them, but once we hit the school last Thursday, the perch, at times, would hit as fast as we could drop our jigs down the hole.
Catching our limits of 20 perch each (some of them pushing 14 inches) wasn’t a problem. Safety wasn’t a concern, either. The lake we fished had 6 inches of clear, solid ice, and I found myself wishing I’d brought my skates.
The fishing we experienced that day is just one example of the opportunity that awaits North Dakota anglers who like to get out and explore smaller lakes that are off the beaten path. Thanks to a series of wet years beginning in the early ’90s, North Dakota now has 400 bodies of water with fish. According to the Game and Fish Department, that’s up from 168 fishable waters in 1988.
For a full story about our day on the ice and the status of North Dakota’s small lake boom, check out Sunday’s Northland Outdoors section.