Devils Lake Walleyes

February 23, 2009 by  

By PJ Maguire


Devils Lake walleyes are chubby from the abundant forage base

Devils Lake walleyes are chubby from the abundant forage base

Minnesota is the land in which nothing is legal. Every year it seems as though they tighten restrictions on outdoor activities. Especially when it comes to the most popular fish in the land of 10,000 lakes, the walleye. It should come as no surprise that people look to North Dakota, for the simple reason of liberal limits and no closing fishing season.

Chew on this, besides on the first two nights of the 2007 Minnesota fishing season, which is May 12th and 13th, one cannot fish on Mille Lacs Lake after 10 pm until 6 am. That is until 12:01 on June 11th. If that is not enough the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources imposes slot limits on lake Mille Lacs. I know a lot of the regulations are in place to co-exist with Native American treaties signed decades ago. I am not arguing that these size restrictions are not doing their job. They are, in fact the fishing success has skyrocketed Mille Lacs since they size restrictions have started.

Now a day it seems like almost every big walleye fishery in Minnesota has some kind of ‘slot’ or a specific size range for walleyes. While paging through the Minnesota 2007 Fishing regulations, I counted approximately 256 lakes that have experimental/special regulations. I have fished for walleyes on most of the so-called ‘big ones’ in Minnesota and I have fished Devils Lake. When it comes to fish size and numbers, Devil’s Lake beats them all. No question.

The abundance of fresh water shrimp, which fuel baitfish and perch populations, allow Devil’s Lake to be the fishery that it is. Not to mention a lack of fishing pressure. It is no secret that Devils Lake is an excellent walleye lake, and it is far from major metropolitan areas and presents a lot of different areas to cover.

Learning to fish the timber is a great tool for fishing Devils Lake walleyes

Learning to fish the timber is a great tool for fishing Devils Lake walleyes

I  am strictly stating an opinion here, but I believe that it is possible that more people fish Mille Lacs on the opening weekend in Minnesota, than fish Devils Lake all year round. Which brings me to the often-debated endless fishing season in North Dakota.

For fisherman like myself, who grow up in Minnesota, it is hard to image life without seasons. Our mindset is that the fish, particularly walleyes, need time to spawn and re-cooperate. The fact that most lakes in North Dakota lack good reproduction is simply overlooked. The North Dakota Game and Fish maintain fish populations on these lakes through stocking efforts. Hence, there is no need to not disturb, or release fish during spawning periods.

For these same circumstances there is no need for any size restrictions on North Dakota Lakes, such as Devils Lake. I am not saying that one should keep a bunch of large fish. I believe that every walleye between the size of 19-23 inches should go back in the water to ensure trophy fish for the future. While the common misperception is to throw LARGE fish, it has been well documented that these size fish are the best spawners. However, there can be a few exceptions, we are all human after all.

When my friends and I travel to Devils Lake we are looking to put some meat in the coolers, not looking for trophies. We are not looking to keep big fish, just some good eating size fish, 16-18 inches.

Cleaning fish is an easy process with the excellent facilities provided by the state of North Dakota at Gramm’s Island state park on Devils Lake, as well as many other landings. It is always a joy to clean fish there and listen to the reports from other fisherman around the table. If the weather holds, Gramm’s Island is also has an excellent campground that I have called home many times in the past several years.

I have gone on Canadian fishing trips and live within an hour and a half of Lake Mille Lacs in Minnesota. I enjoy fishing for walleyes in many places and will continue to do so, but for my buck I would prefer to fish the walleyes of Devils Lake, every time.


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