By Dan Johnson

In recent decades, North Dakota’s storied Devils Lake has become a go-to destination for ice anglers seeking world-class yellow perch, walleye and northern pike action. Good news is, the big lake still deserves a place on the short-list of must-fish hotspots for the winter ahead.

“The water is the lowest I’ve seen it in three years, so that will change things a bit,” reports Lindy pro staffer and legendary iceman Jason Feldner of Perch-Eyes Outfitters. “I think it will be a good winter for perch, but we will have to try new areas as a result of the lower water level.”
perch talker
As for perch numbers, Feldner says he didn’t see as many fish last summer as he did during the past two years, but notes, “That doesn’t mean the fish aren’t there.” Indeed, state fisheries biologist Todd Caspers reports that the abundance of 12- to 15-inch perch is still above long-term averages.

“We also saw huge numbers of 2½- to 3½-inch perch in the fall, which should in turn produce good walleye action in December and January,” Feldner adds. “And pike fishing should be off the charts again, for everything from 14 inchers to gators in the mid-40s.”

Currently, Feldner reports the west end of Devils Lake is frozen over, with up to 5 inches of ice 300 yards offshore in select areas. Pelican Lake was the first area to freeze, and according to Feldner’s sources is cloaked in 4 to 8 inches.

“Due to recent strong winds, the main lake has a lot of floating ice, although East Bay looks to be ice-covered,” he says.

When targeting early ice walleyes, Feldner typically drills numerous holes in 6- to 10-foot depths along shallow shorelines, then bounces from one to another, dropping a red Lindy Darter to check for hungry ’eyes.

“If they don’t hit that, I go with a perch- or firetiger-pattern Lindy Rattl’n Flyer Spoon,” he adds. “If you’re looking for jumbo perch, try Lindy’s new Perch Talker. I got the chance to test it last winter and all I can say is, ‘Wow!’”

As you’re planning your weekend ice-capades, don’t forget to catch the latest episode of Lindy’s Fish Ed television show on Fox Sports North, Saturday morning at 10:30. This week, veteran guide and Lindy pro staffer Jon Thelen visits Lake of the Woods and Mille Lacs Lake, where he fleshes out proven strategies for finding and catching big-water perch and walleyes across the Midwest.