(Dec. 29, 2012 - Devil's Lake,ND)...
There may be no better place right now to catch big walleyes, giant northern pike, and behemoth perch than Devils Lake in North Dakota. This sprawling freak of nature has been running red hot and is giving it up big time including plenty of dandy walleyes, northern pike that can reach the 16 to 20lb plus range, and perch that can average a pound and a half or better with some weighing in at well over two pounds. The opportunities are simply phenomenal and can be well worth packing up your gear and heading out west.
Aaron McQuoid has been guiding for twenty-two years and six years ago did exactly that, settling on the western shores of Devils Lake in a small town called Mennewauken. He and his wife Trisha have established a successful and growing resort business where Aaron spends a good deal of the hard water period finding, catching, and teaching clients how to catch fish. "My main goal is to actually fish with and teach all of our clients how to catch fish and not simply set them up and forget ’em. After I find what I’m looking for and get set up I’ll fish right next to my people and show them how to use a depth finder, what to look for, and how to master a presentation that will put more fish on the ice. It’s also why my groups are kept to a maximum of four. We can accommodate bigger groups but we’ll also add more guides and keep it at a ratio of 4 to 1."
Aaron does all of his reconnaissance in a truck that has a Humminbird 798 GPS mounted on the dash. "The G.P.S. along with its electronic mapping helps me find more hot spots, gets me to where I want to go, and get everyone safely back again which can be a challenge with blowing and drifting snow both of which North Dakota is well known for. Just getting around can be difficult and depends on how much snow we get. If it gets too deep my truck will be fitted with a set of tracks which allows me to keep on going to just about anywhere I want."
Some of Aaron’s best perch hotspots include fallen trees in twenty to thirty feet of water. "I’ve found the trees by pouring over a number of maps both old and new that show tree lines entering the lake along with countless time spent on the water. The trees can hold big schools of fish but you never know which ones are holding the biters which can change from day to day so you have to keep moving till you find the active fish. Another thing is that you can be as little as four feet away from a hot hole and not be doing any catching, so even if you’re on them you have to keep moving until you start hooking up."
Presentations for jumbo perch include the standard fare like jigging spoons and minnows but on a different scale. "These aren’t your ordinary perch here; they are real monsters. In fact our best catch last season included seventeen fish over two pounds! They came on _ to 3/8oz Buckshot Rattles Spoons tipped with a whole minnow which is a combination usually more suited for something bigger like walleyes or pike. "
More on location: "It isn’t all trees all the time though, with other hotspots including the deep side of reefs and drop-offs. Fish will move along the base of the break and out aways and will come and go so again you have to be mobile. Once you find the fish you should probably cut some extra holes in different directions because the action can move, maybe not that far, but far enough not to be catching."
As previously mentioned Devil’s lake is loaded with walleyes and Aaron offers his advice on hooking up: "Right now there are a ton of fifteen to seventeen inch walleyes in the lake as well as quite a few that run from 20 to 22 inches. Some of the better areas include shoreline structure with gravel and sand in the ten to twenty foot range along with any of the rocky humps and bars you can find. By mid-February and through March the bulk of the walleye action occurs about 45 minutes after sunup and again before dark. You can use up to four lines but things can heat up enough during primetime that one rod will keep you plenty busy. Something to look out for is a full moon which can change things and instead of an intense bite in the morning and evening it can spread the action out and last all night long."
Chasing flags when fishing for pike can be a real thrill and Devils Lake has big numbers of fish in the three to ten pound range as well as a few that are in the trophy category. Aaron on pike: "Most of the pike action occurs inside of ten feet and as shallow as foot. Bays and weed edges are where it’s at and if you decide to chase some gators you’ll probably have your hands full. We’ll set out tip-ups of course but we’ll also use a noisy flashy bait like a Rattle Spoon that can get noticed and then rip it hard enough to make some noise."
Anglers new to the lake should consider hiring a guide to get you started in the right direction but isn’t an absolute necessity. McQuoid on being self-dependent: " If you’re a do-it-yourselfer make sure you know where you’re going and are aware of any bad ice that might exist. Also; rather than following the crowds you can do much better finding fish on your own. I’ve always felt the crowds are where the action used to be and is not where the hottest action is. It might be close, just not in the middle of a pile of people."
When you come to North Dakota don’t plan on bringing in minnows; it’s against the law. You really don’t need anything exotic anyhow because when you’re on the right fish they bite, period. You can find what you need here with fatheads being readily available along with plenty of waxworms. Aaron can be reached at 701-351-6058 or you can find him on the web at mcquoidguides.com See you on the ice.