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Ice: The ‘other’ season on Devils Lake

Fishing guides on Devils Lake predict the upcoming ice season will be “Strong, Solid or Great.”

TonyMariotti_perch.jpg
Yellow perch are the species of choice for most wintertime anglers on Devils Lake, and the big lake sports a strong population of perch in the 10- to 12-inch range, summer fisheries surveys showed.
Contributed/Devils Lake Tourism
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DEVILS LAKE – Some regions of the country brag about four seasons. Devils Lake claims only two: open water fishing and ice fishing.

With record numbers of fish based on fisheries surveys from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and an excellent open water “bite,” guides on the big lake predict the upcoming ice season will be “Strong, Solid or Great.”

The “Strong” forecast comes from guide Cody Roswick. “Some of the best ever walleye action took place this year,” he said. “Size and quantity were excellent. All indications are that this trend will continue this winter.”

Roswick also conveyed what many of his guide clients tell him: “Hiring a guide is a wise investment.” Guides take clients to the fish. The goal is to provide an experience so they book again. Guides drill holes, provide the tackle and electronics, demonstrate tactics and even clean the fish.

“Ice fishing people get excited when freezing weather finally arrives, but some of us have ice on the brain all year long,” Roswick said.

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Veteran guide Mark Bry projects a “Solid” ice season, citing a pattern that has occurred the past couple of years.

“We caught lots of perch by accident, which to me means these 9- to 12-inch perch will provide good action this winter,” Bry said.

Walleyes will be targeted during the low light conditions. “Based on what our guides discovered over the past six months, Devils Lake visitors this winter will be able to take home some of the best eating fillets anywhere,” he said.

Early ice fishing usually begins in mid-December. The shallow back bays firm up first, but Bry doubles down by drilling and checking ice.

“Safety is our main concern,” he said. Bry and his guides run SnoBear tracked and heated vehicles, escorting clients to their hotspots as soon as conditions warrant.

Zippy Dahl runs the Perch Patrol guide service and predicted, “I have a Great outlook for this winter.”

Dahl estimates 90% of his clients travel for perch. “They’re perch crazy, just like me,” he chuckled. “The past open water season was wild with the number of perch caught by accident while walleye fishing.”

Dahl expects the 2022 ice season will be even better than last year. With his December and January calendar about 80% full, the coming ice shows and snow will fill in the slots for his 10 guides. He is excited because his guide team was successful all year, and because the netting surveys proved the strong perch and walleye numbers in Devils Lake.

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Fisheries biologists recorded 35.3 walleyes per net this summer, an all-time high. The average is 21.5 per net. They have been conducting and utilizing the same methodology for 31 years. The 15- to 20-inch walleyes also posted a record of 12.3 per net, double the average of six per net.

Perch numbers also were above average, Game and Fish Department surveys showed. Overall, there were 15.3 perch per net, compared with the average of 12. The longtime average for 10- to 12-inch perch is 2.4 per net, but the recent survey showed 4.1 in this desired size.

Devils Lake also boasts a respectable population of white bass. Nets produced 7.8 per net, compared with the average of 5.6, the Game and Fish survey showed. The bass that will bite under the ice from 15 to 18 inches were at 2.6 per net, compared with the average of only .7 per net.

More info: devilslakend.com.

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