Devils Lake ice fishing is well-documented and is well known to be a world-class fishery. Each winter, thousands upon thousands of anglers take on this giant body of water, in search of jumbo perch, walleye, and pike (yes, there are white bass and crappie too). And when you get into a good school, fishing can be nothing short of amazing.
However, these world-class outings don’t typically happen by chance. Those ice anglers who are mobile tend to be the most successful while ice fishing Devils Lake.
To make the process of how and where to fish Devils Lake easy, I sat down with Mike Peluso, a well-known ice fishing guide in the area. I asked him a bunch of questions that I felt would be beneficial to first-timers, and those who are looking for different perspectives.
My questions are as follows…
What are the necessities for ice fishing on Devils Lake?
My two biggest necessities for fishing Devils Lake are lots of batteries for my auger and the Doc Sonar satellite imaging chip. Most days, you will drill A LOT of holes in search of schools and the chip helps find the old structure.
How does Devil’s Lake ice fishing change throughout the winter?
Typically, the early ice bite on Devils Lake is pretty good. The fish always seem to be in the same areas year in and year out at this time.
The mid-section of winter can vary from year to year. This winter it has been extremely difficult to find a consistent bite day in and day out. It will rebound here for sure, always does.
One thing to note as far as the perch fishing is concerned is the mud/basin bite. I don’t think there has been a real big bloodworm hatch the last couple of years. Normally, during the mid-winter blues, the cold snaps pool up in the perch in the deep basin chasing the blood worms out in the mud. When this used to happen, the slowdown wasn’t as drastic as it is today.
Why should you consider hiring a guide to ice fish in the area?
I connect with a really large network of guides/fishermen, and even when we are on this body of water daily it can be very overwhelming. Some people call BS when I say I have 200-plus hole days but it is the only way to have success on this massive, ever-changing body of water.
Where do you start for fishing perch on Devils Lake?
The nice part of the early ice is the perch have piled up in old sloughs and brush piles. It’s funny cause it doesn’t take long for the fish to get caught. Things can be going really good in these spots, but they are short-lived.
Where do you start for fishing walleyes in the winter?
Personally, over the years I like to find the structure. Points, humps, rock piles, etc. seem to be the best places for me to start on the walleyes. Of course, the lower light times are key to success for walleyes on the main basin of Devils Lake.
How about ice fishing for pike on Devils Lake?
I’ve actually seen a little bit of decline in the pike activity over the last few years. It’s still pretty good, especially if you’re comparing it to other places in the country. We are very spoiled up here on Devils Lake! Typically, we start focusing on the pike in March with tip-ups and smelt in shallow water areas near structures like trees and culverts. It can be some of the most fun fishing we will see all winter and I truly believe it is underutilized.
When is the best time to ice fish Devils Lake in the winter?
I think this is a personal preference but I really like early ice and really late ice personally. The only thing about really early and really late is safety. We have learned to really do due diligence when venturing out early and late.
Do you feel an ATV/UTV/Vehicle is a must for getting around?
100 percent. We actually didn’t start driving our full-size trucks until last week this winter. Ice wasn’t all that thick and we were still finding tough or thin spots. After this cold snap, things are good and we are getting around pretty well. Another thing you have to watch is the snow up on Devils Lake. You better have a plan of attack when the lake does get snow. When it does you better have tracks!
How successful can you be on foot?
Foot traffic is extremely tough on this system. Probably why I recommend a guide. Guides will or should have all the necessary equipment to be able to get you around and stay on fish. Otherwise, you will be extremely limited on how much ground you can cover. On this lake, covering ground is crucial to having success.
What are your go-to lures for fishing various species in the winter?
Walleyes, I’m gonna say a buckshot spoon is about as go-to on this lake as you can get. I’ve started to use more and more PK spoons also. Perch this season I have gone with more of the super small Swedish Pimples. They have really shined well this winter.
What is the “must-have” bait for Devils Lake?
For sure a small buckshot spoon for both large perch and walleyes. Minnows for walleyes and wax worms, minnow heads, or spikes for perch.
Any techniques that work here, specifically?
I talk to my clients daily about being aggressive with these fish. Keep the lures moving and stay above the fish and force them to come up off the bottom. For perch, I call it caffeine hands. Get the fish off the bottom and let your hand shack the lures.
What about lakes in the region, besides the big lake?
Overlooked areas at times I feel are the upper lakes north of Devils Lake. We cannot guide some of those areas that are considered refuge (Such as Lake Alice), but the guys I talk to that fish those areas do really well. I love fishing those areas that I can guide on! It’s super shallow and usually dirtier water up in those upper lakes which is good for an all-day bite. You will also find a really good perch bite and pike bite up there if you drill enough holes.
Good places for lodging around Devils Lake?
I’m gonna be a little biased here, but Perch Eyes Guide Service up in Minnewaukan has great lodging and guide services available.
Good places to eat?
This is a hidden gem up in our area. I love Old 281 in Minnewaukan open Wed-Saturday.
What are the best bait shops in Devils Lake?
Both Pete’s and Eds bait shops in Devils Lake have been great and usually have everything and more you’ll ever need.
Devils Lake Ice Fishing Recap
Devils Lake and all the lakes around the lake are, without question, ice fishing destinations! Some of the best ice fishing has happened here. If you’re looking at trying it you won’t be disappointed!
Mike Peluso is a full-time guide that travels throughout North Dakota. He specializes in Devils Lake, Lake Sakakawea, and the Missouri River system, but will fish almost anywhere they’re biting. Mike can be found at his website, MikePelusoOutdoors.com.