Registration open for Cats Incredible, Boundary Battle catfish tourneys

Summer might seem a long ways off — especially after the recent cold snap — but one indicator of warmer days ahead came this week when the East Grand Forks firefighters union announced registration now is open for this year’s Cats Incredible Catfish Tournament.

The annual Red River catfish extravaganza is set for July 30-31 with tournament headquarters at LaFave Park below Cabela’s in East Grand Forks.

Entry fee is $230 per two-person team, and participants can register online at catsincredibletournament.com. The tournament is open to a maximum of 125 two-person teams, and the maximum payout — based on a full tournament field — is $5,000 for first place, $3,000 for second and $2,000 for third. The top 15 teams will receive cash payouts, and door prizes also will be awarded during the tournament.

More information is available on the website or by sending an email to Ryan Swang of the firefighters union at iafflocal3423@yahoo.com.

Registration also is underway for a second Red River catfish tourney, the Scheels Boundary Battle Catfish Tournament, set for June 25-26 in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. The tournament, which is limited to 50 two-person teams, will be held below the Riverside Dam rapids the first day, when boats will launch at the Whopper John Little (North) Boat Ramp. Teams will fish south — upstream from Riverside Dam — the second day, when boats will launch out of the Lincoln Park boat ramp in Grand Forks.

Entry is $220 per team with $8,000 in payouts available and a grand prize of $2,000 if the tournament is full. More information is available at boundarybattle.com.

Winter’s here, and the fish are biting on Devils Lake

The status of ice conditions and fishing on popular Minnesota fisheries such as Lake of the Woods and Upper Red Lake has been well publicized, of late, but less information has been available about Devils Lake.

Perch have been cooperating for anglers in the Devils Lake region, according to reports from local guides. (Photo courtesy of the Devils Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Perch have been cooperating for anglers in the Devils Lake region, according to reports from local guides. (Photo courtesy of the Devils Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau)

This morning, the Devils Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau issued the report below, which bodes well for anyone heading to one of North Dakota’s top fishing destinations. I found out first-hand a few weeks back that pike fishing was very good, but we didn’t venture to deeper water for walleyes or perch because conditions weren’t safe.

Bottom line now, though, is conditions are improving, and the bite is on.

Here’s the CVB’s Report:

  • Zippy Dahl, Perch Patrol, on their main quarry: “Perch fishing has been phenomenal. Lots of limits. Fish are in 14 to 28 feet. We’re fishing by ourselves. We even landed a couple 2-pounders.”
  • Mark Bry, Bry’s Guide Service: “The walleye bite is very good now. They’re weed line-related and the action in 4 to 8 feet is exceptional. A few days ago, a large group of 18 people limited out with 90 walleyes. Limits are common.”
  • Clint DeVier, community ambassador and on the lake nearly every day: “Shallow walleyes in less than 10 feet are biting big-time in Lake Irvine, Lake Alice (open for the first time this year) and the north end of Pelican. Irvine has a lot of 18 to 22 inchers, while Alice has produced a number of bigger walleyes around 5 pounds.”

No surprise given the late freeze-up, the report advises anglers to proceed with caution on the ice, and the use of full-size vehicles is NOT recommended anywhere on the lake.

According to the CVB report, Devils Lake — like other lakes in the region — froze much later than normal this year, and when the bays and lakes to the north and west finally froze, they were hit with three storms and 15 inches of snow. That caused slush and travel issues. The main lake remained open during the first two storms but has finally iced over.

Travel on foot, by snowmobiles and ATVs is the norm, the report said, and DeVier said truck travel may be safe by mid-January.

That’s not far off, and the cold snap on tap for this weekend should benefit ice conditions.

Quoted in the CVB report, Dahl said his 10 guides have only been chasing perch, and they are just beginning to check their key main lake spots. “We need cold, but until then, we will remain mobile and keep searching,” he said.

Bry said the favorite walleye tactics so far have been Northland Buckshot or Slender spoons with minnow heads. With the great shallow bite, he has not been venturing very far onto the main lake.

When describing the most productive walleye lures for the anglers he’s been fishing with, DeVier said, “I really like the Lindy Flyer and Northland Buckshot spoons and the new Northland flutter spoon. Really good are Jigging Rapalas. I cut off the two end hooks so the Raps don’t get caught on the bottom of the ice when fighting a fish through the hole. I also upgrade the treble to a larger size.”

DeVier in the CVB report said he is just getting to his favorite perch spots and usually looks in 24 to 35 feet of water in early season.

He also suggests anglers give pike a try.

“Set out some tip-ups and get some exercise,” DeVier recommends. “The lake is loaded with really good-sized pike, and with four lines per person, this will keep you warm all day. The north end of Pelican and Six-Mile Bay are hot right now.”

Here’s a look at ice conditions, according to the CVB:

  • Lake Irvine: 8-10 inches.
  • Pelican Lake: 8-10 inches.
  • Minnewaukan Flats: 8-11 inches.
  • North end of Six-Mile Bay: 10 inches.
  • Creel Bay: 6-11 inches.

Lake of the Woods fishing update

I tend to take fishing reports with a grain of salt because too many outlets — by my way of thinking, at least — are guilty of sugarcoating the reports and saying the fish are biting even when the action’s slow.

There are exceptions, though.

Saugers have been cooperating so far this winter on Lake of the Woods and buckets of fish such as this one from December 2013 have been common. (Brad Dokken photo)

Saugers have been cooperating so far this winter on Lake of the Woods and buckets of fish such as this one from December 2013 have been common. (Brad Dokken photo)

Gary Moeller of Ballard’s Resort sent a report this morning with the lowdown on what’s happening in the Pine Island area of Lake of the Woods. I haven’t had a  chance to get up there for myself yet, but Moeller says fishing is pretty good. And based on history, when he says fishing is good, I tend to believe him.

Here’s what he had to say about current fishing and ice conditions:

Hello Sportfans…  We are off to the races with the winter ice fishing season here on Minnesota’s Lake of the Woods.

What’s the latest and greatest?

Well, we’ve been on the lake for not quite a week now, and the fishing action has been quite good.  Lots of saugers…

The guides have our shacks on the west end of Pine, near the Morris Point Gap, and we’re literally just on the other side of the island in 23-27 feet of water.

Now remember…  We obviously had a later start to our winter fishing season…  So even though it’s now January, we are basically just starting out like it’s early December.  Fishing near shore…

Make sense?

The fish houses are in close.  We’re basically fishing the south end of the flats.  Just getting things going.

What we have found so far is a pretty impressive number of nice sized Lake of the Woods saugers.

This is what the percentage of our folks are telling us here at the lodge.  A good bite…  Lots of eating size saugers…  The occasional walleye mixed in.

Trophy fish?

Yes.  We have seen a couple the past few days.  Just check out our Ballard’s Facebook page.  Lots of action shots there.

A couple of 28-inchers, and a 29″, a 30″, and also TWO walleyes that measured 31″ and 31.5″ respectively.

Now, keep in mind that we’re putting quite a few anglers on the ice each day.  So catching a trophy is more times about getting the LUCKY BITE!

Travel wise?

Ice conditions, in the area we are fishing, have not changed much in the past few days.  We’re still working with 8″-10″, and using the ATV’s / Small Trailers to transport our folks onto the lake.

Sounds like we might have some frigid weather coming our way later this week.  But for now it’s been mostly teens and twenties.

Either way it’s generally the stable weather / barometer that provides the more consistent fishing.

That’s all for now…  Congrats to Linda D. for that AWESOME trophy walleye you caught  So impressive!

Set the hook…