Fall fishing is usually a good barometer to judge the opportunities that will prevail during the ice fishing season. Good fishing in the fall almost always leads to good ice fishing while poor fall fishing often points to continued poor fishing through the winter. I can’t remember all of the fall bites of years gone by but what I can tell you is that the perch fishing we saw this past fall on Devils Lake was better than anything I can remember. Our guide staff was bringing in staggering catches of jumbo perch this fall mixed in with the customary limits of walleyes.
Anglers started to get out on the ice in November and as I write this in early December (2013), we have anywhere from eight to eleven inches of good ice. First ice reports have been exceptional. I have been spending most of my time on the west end of the lake lately but I am hearing good fishing reports for perch up and down the lake.
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department echoes what anglers are seeing on Devils Lake. Perch numbers are solid and the winter of 2014 should easily be one of the best winters for perch that we have seen in more than fifteen years. The stars are lining up with good ice, a great population of fish over twelve inches and numbers of fish. Besides perch numbers that are getting attention, the lake still remains one of the best walleye fisheries in the Midwest.
If I could pick one general game plan to catch perch on Devils Lake regardless of bay, a top strategy is to fish the basin transition. Regardless of bay, the bottoms or basins of these bays are basically a dish bowl of flat mud. As this bottom transitions up to the shoreline, the bottom typically has a gradual slope where the bottom transitions to sand or sometimes gravel and rock. This edge or transition is often where roaming schools of perch hang. Some of these basins might be fifty feet or more while some of the newer basins might only be twelve or fourteen feet deep.
One of the best lures for both perch and walleyes on Devils Lake is a Northland Tackle Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon tipped with either a minnow head or wax worms. Try the smaller sizes when focusing on perch. The fish typically cruise right on the bottom so work the spoon down next to the mud. I tested the new Ultra Violet color patterns last year and they worked incredibly well on Devils Lake. Ask Santa for the new U.V Buckshot Rattle Spoons.
Barring heavy snow that can hamper mobility and make getting on the ice difficult, Devils Lake is poised for a stellar year of ice fishing. All of the stars are lining up and the good old days are right now.
Also see the video from last April: Shallow water ice fishing on Devils Lake.