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 20-pound-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 (formerly of Isle) has been guiding for 22 years and six years ago did exactly that, settling on the western shores of Devils Lake in a small town called Mennewauken, N.D. He and his wife Trisha have established a successful and growing resort business where McQuoid spends a good deal of the hard water period finding and catching jumbo perch. Some of McQuiod’s best perch hot spots include fallen trees in 20 to 30 feet of water.
McQuoid on location: “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 until 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. It isn’t all trees all the time either with other hot spots including the deep side of reefs and drop-offs.
“Fish will move along the base of the break and out a ways 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.”
Presentations for jumbo perch include the standard fare like jigging spoons and minnows but on a different scale.
McQuoid on big time technique: “These aren’t your ordinary perch here; they are real monsters. In fact, our best catch last season included 17 fish over two pounds!
“They came on one-quarter to three-eighths ounce buckshot rattles spoons tipped with a whole minnow which is a combination usually more suited for something bigger like walleyes or pike.”
If 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.
See you on the ice.
Ron Anlauf is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.