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Devils Lake Rising Water a Good Thing

by Devils Lake Tourism

Devils Lake, one of the best fishing holes in North America, will become even better with water that is projected to rise four feet this spring.  “We had a pile of April moisture.  This will result in record in-flows,” said Jeff Frith, manager of the Devils Lake Basin Joint Water Resource board.


The guides love it.  Cody Roswick said, “We needed a shot of moisture, and Mother Nature complied.”  Zippy Dahl of the Perch Patrol agreed, “The flooded vegetation will provide excellent spawning conditions; great for the future.”  They talked about what they will do to catch their main quarry starting mid-May – WALLEYES.


First, to put the lake levels into perspective, Frith said the lake was at 1447.2 feet above sea level before spring run-off.  The predictions call for the lake to rise to 1451.7 feet due to the snow pack plus the April moisture-laden heavy snow storms.  


Another way to grasp the tremendous in-coming volume is how this translates to total acreage.  The lake in the early 1990’s was about 40,000 acres.  It is now at 140,000 acres, and by mid-June will cover 168,000 acres.  Frith said the previous record in-flow was 600,000 acre/feet.  This year, the new record will hit about 713,000 acre/feet.  The term acre/feet means each acre of land will be covered with a foot of water.  In the first week of May, nine county roads were washed out or flooded with innumerable town roads also “under water.”  On May 3, a flood emergency was declared for the region.


The good news is that most ramps will be operational.  Docks will be installed within days of “ice-free” conditions. 


To Perch Patrol owner Zippy Dahl, his dozen guides are anxious to hit the water.  Despite the name, his guides zero in on walleyes during open water time.  Perch are their winter game.  “For us, the back bays off the main lake will be on our radar.  We love these bays.  They warm sooner and the warmest water equals the best fishing,” he said.


Some bays may warm 10 degrees over the main lake, but even 2 to 4 degrees draws fish.  Knowing that the warmest part of the day produces the best fishing, his guides call booked clients the night before the guide day and arrange a meeting time.  “We may start the full guide day at 10:30 am and fish into the evening.  We’re flexible,” he said.


The basic fishing tactics in his boat include slip-bobbers holding jigs with leeches just off bottom.  Usually anchored, they will often cast size 5 Shad Raps or Flicker Shads and small Salmo Hornets.  Jigs with paddle tails are also part of the arsenal.  As weeds grow, he moves to weed edges, slowly easing along with spinners and crawlers behind bottom-bouncers.


Cody Roswick likes rising water for the spawn and the fishing.  The future for waterfowl with full sloughs improves duck and geese prospects, also.  “We survived the drought, and now the fishing looks good,” he said.  His expertise has taught him to depend of a number of early season tactics.


He shared, “I like my clients to cast small crankbaits or jigs and plastic to locate fish.  If they catch one or two or get a bump, but action slows, I slow down with the fish.”  In his boat, that means a slip-bobber above a 1/32nd ounce jig with a leech.  When casting a quarter-ounce jig with a Northland Impulse paddle minnow (3 ½ inches long in chartreuse white), he advises clients to reel just fast enough to keep it off bottom.  “This is a really good combo,” he emphasized.


When the northern pike harass his group, he knows that if pike are lurking about, so are walleyes.  “Keep casting,” he recommends.  Roswick has been receiving more and more calls for pike fishing.  “Pike are readily available, fight tough, and eat great,” he said.  Clients appreciate the fact that he cleans the pike for them.  “Most people like them as well as walleyes,” he said.


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