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The Devils in the Details
 by Rick Olson

It keeps growing and growing and growing, with no end in sight. Devils Lake in North Dakota has ballooned up into a real monster, which has created serious hardship for property owners and an incredible angling opportunityfor perch and walleye fisherman.

Rumors have circulated for years about unbelievable catches of monster perch being made and many of the rumors have actually been true. With no limit and a seemingly endless resource anglers filled buckets, coolers, and even the boxes of pickup trucks when the bite was really on. Unfortunately that was then and this is now, although now isnít all that bad, and the future looks even brighter.  Devils Lakeís makeup is conducive to producing an abundance of fresh water shrimp, which is conducive to carrying and producing an abundance of perch, which just so happens to be conducive to carrying and producing a healthy population of walleyes. In this equation everybody wins, except for maybe the shrimp.

With all of that food perch grow big and fat, and do it extremely fast. Right now the lake is loaded with a huge crop of perch that should be pushing into the twelve inch range, which is a decent sized fish in anybodyís book. Thereís also a ton of chunky walleyes in the three to six pound range and beyond, all of which adds up to a tremendous opportunity for those close to the big lake, or willing to make the drive.  One of the problems youíll encounter when approaching this massive body of water for the first time is itís shear size, which you canít really appreciate until you take a drive and find out that itís everywhere and seems to go on for ever. Before you take on the ďmonsterĒ youíd be miles ahead by taking a little time and checking with the local bait shops who will tell you where to go, what to use, and even how deep to fish. The information you receive will likely be good because as they really do want you to catch fish. That should get you headed in the right direction and once you have a handle on whatís actually happening you can then start to venture out to do a little investigative angling on your own.

An obvious feature that youíll notice is thousands and thousands of flooded trees, any of which could be holding active fish. You can try working in and around the flooded trees, and outside the tree line in deeper water. If youíre target is jumbo perch it doesnít take long to figure out if youíre in the right neighborhood as there are usually at least a few that are biting at any given time. Walleyes might take a bit more time, orcall for being on the ice early in the morning or late in the evening .

Another hot pattern for perch and walleyes is working weedlines in five feet of water or so. On a trip to Devils Lake last January I ran into Bruce Bonzer who has been a local guide and successful tournament angler. He said that he had been doing well working pockets in the weedline and invited my crew to join him that afternoon. After a slow morning of catching smaller perch in a deeper bay we met up with Bruce and fished till almost dark. What we found were walleyes and jumbo perch, much larger than what we had been catching in the deeper bay, in shallow water right in the middle of a weed flat. The key was finding a pocket or opening in the weeds where you could get a bait to the bottom without constantly being fouled. The only way to accomplish that was to drill some holes and try to see if you had enough room to work a bait. Tying into nice sized walleyes and jumbo perch in that shallow water is real gas, and is a pattern that often gets overlooked.

Hot presentations in deep and shallow water include using plenty of jigging baits, especially the infamous Jigging Rap. Little #2 Jigging Raps tipped with small minnows or minnow heads are the hot ticket and will attract both walleyes and perch. Another option is to use a small colored jig tipped with a minnow and suspended below a bobber. An even better idea is to jig in one hole with a set line right next to it. Often times the jigging action will attract fish and the neutral or still bait is the one to get picked up.

With all of that water to fish and so many different areas that can be producing on any given day it definitely pays to mobile. Portable shelters and gas powered augers are the rule rather than the exception as you will likely have to move, and move, and move again to stay on the fish. Shelters like the Fishtrap Voyager is the way to as go as it can provide plenty of room to be comfortable but yet moved in mere seconds. Sure you wonít be able to fill a pickup box with giant perch as there are new reasonable limits, and the true monsters of old are few and far between, but whatís there now is good, really good. The combination of fishing for jumbo perch along with fat and sassy walleyes is a real winner and something thatís there for the taking. Somebody is going get in on the fun and it could just as well be you, me, and Bruce Bonzer.