Devils Lake, North Dakota, is a premier destination for ice fishing enthusiasts. With its abundant fish species, including the sought-after jumbo perch and northern pike, it's no wonder why anglers flock to this frozen paradise each winter.
If you're planning an ice-fishing Devils Lake trip, this guide will provide you with all the essential information to make your adventure successful and memorable.
→ Best Time to Visit: Learn when the ice is just right for the best fishing experience.
→ Hidden Spots and Techniques: Discover the secret spots and fishing techniques to catch the big one.
→ Comprehensive Trip Planning: From gear rental to cozy accommodations, find out everything you need for your trip.
When to Hit the Ice
Timing is everything when it comes to Devils Lake ice fishing. The best time to visit is typically from late December through late February when the ice is thick and stable. Although winter fishing lasts until March, check local ice conditions before heading out, as safety is paramount.
Early ice (December-January) often attracts perch and walleye seekers, while thicker ice later in the season (February-March) opens doors for targeting trophy pike and burbot.
This lake boasts a bounty of fish waiting to be hooked through the ice. Here are some of the star catches during the winter are:
- Walleye: Renowned for their fight and delicious flesh, walleyes are a top target, especially during low-light conditions. Look for them near rocky points, weed edges, and drop-offs.
- Perch: These feisty fighters provide non-stop action and are perfect for pan-frying. Target them near weed beds and shallow areas where they gather in large schools. Check out our guide on Perch Ice Fishing before you head out.
- Northern Pike: The apex predators of the lake, lurk in deeper waters. Pike offers adrenaline-pumping battles and impressive trophies.
- Burbot: These bottom-dwellers add unique variety to your catch and are known for their tasty livers. Seek them out in shallower areas with rocky bottoms.
Ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience by familiarizing yourself with the fishing regulations specific to Devils Lake. These include:
- Licenses: A valid North Dakota fishing license is mandatory for everyone aged 16 and above.
- Limits: Daily and possession limits vary for different species. Walleye, for example, has a daily limit of 4 and a possession limit of 8.
- Bait: Live minnows are allowed on Devils Lake, but check for specific restrictions in certain areas.
- Spearfishing: Darkhouse spearfishing for pike and nongame fish is permitted during designated seasons.
Discovering the Best Fishing Spots
Devils Lake is vast, but some of the best fishing spots are often hidden gems known mostly to locals.
- Strawberry Island Flats: This expansive shallow area near Strawberry Island teems with perch and whitefish, perfect for light tackle enthusiasts. Accessible by snowmobile from Pelican Point Resort or Devils Lake Marina. Consider using a GPS or guide map to navigate the open ice.
- Spirit Lake Narrows: A natural choke point where fish concentrate, particularly walleye and pike, making it a magnet for serious anglers. Reachable by car or snowmobile from Spirit Lake Narrows Park. Park near the boat launch and walk or drive on the ice (safely!), depending on thickness and conditions.
- Burnt Creek Bay: Renowned for its jumbo perch and pike, this bay offers both shallows and deeper drop-offs, catering to diverse strategies. Take Highway 281 north of Devils Lake and turn onto 35th Street NE. Follow the road to the bay and access the ice from there.
- The Pinnacles:The Pinnacles: These submerged rock formations near Pelican Point attract fish-seeking structures, making them a hotspot for walleye and sauger. Accessible by snowmobile from Pelican Point Resort or Devils Lake Marina. Be cautious and navigate carefully due to potential cracks and pressure ridges in the area.
- Blacks Creek Bay: Less crowded than other areas, this bay holds good populations of perch and whitefish, offering a peaceful ice fishing experience. Head north on Highway 281 and turn onto 31st Street NW. Follow the road to the bay and access the ice from there.
- Snake Bay: Tucked away near the east shore, this bay harbors healthy stocks of pike and walleye, particularly in deeper waters. Take Highway 281 north from Devils Lake and turn onto 33rd Street NW. Follow the road to the bay and access the ice from there.
- The Narrows by Fort Totten: This narrow passage near the historic fort can be productive for walleye and sauger, especially during low-light conditions. Take Highway 281 north to Fort Totten State Historic Site. Park near the Visitor Center and access the Narrows via the marked ice trail.
- White Cap Bay: A hidden gem on the lake's north end, this bay offers good perch and whitefish fishing, often overlooked by crowds. Drive north on Highway 281 to the town of Minnewaukan. Turn onto 14th Avenue NW and follow the road to the bay. Access the ice from the public access point.
Remember, ice conditions and fish movement can change rapidly. Always prioritize safety, check current ice thickness reports, and be flexible with your spots. Talking to local bait shops, guides, and experienced anglers can also unlock valuable insights into hidden hotspots and effective tactics.
Invest in a good GPS or ice map and compass for navigation. Especially on open ice, knowing your location and potential hazards is crucial.
Consider hiring a guide service, especially if you're unfamiliar with the lake or unfamiliar with ice fishing safety practices. A guide can show you the best spots, teach you the ropes, and ensure your safety.
Gear Up: Rental Options
You don't have to bring your equipment to enjoy this fishing destination. Numerous local businesses offer gear rentals, including heated fish houses, which are essential for a comfortable experience.
- Pelican Point Resort: Located right on the lake, Pelican Point offers comprehensive ice fishing gear rentals, including rods, reels, lures, augers, shelters, and even heated portable toilets! It's a one-stop shop for convenience and quality equipment.
- Devils Lake Marina: Situated near Downtown Devils Lake, the marina provides a variety of rental equipment, from basic essentials to high-end setups. They also offer propane refills and live bait, making it a convenient option for last-minute needs.
- Devils Lake Outfitters: This locally owned shop specializes in ice fishing gear rentals and tackle. They pride themselves on offering top-notch equipment and friendly advice to ensure your success on the ice.
- Pete's Bait Shop: Pete's boasts a wide selection of live bait, including minnows, nightcrawlers, and wax worms. They also carry a diverse range of artificial lures and ice fishing gear, making it a popular stop for anglers of all levels.
- Ed's Bait Shop & Bar: Ed's offers live bait, tackle, and ice fishing gear rentals, along with a friendly atmosphere and post-fishing refreshments. It's a great spot to grab supplies and share fishing stories with fellow anglers.
- Frederick's Live Bait: Located near Spirit Lake Narrows, Frederick's is a convenient option for those targeting hotspots. They offer a good selection of live bait, tackle, and basic ice fishing gear rentals.
Charter Services for the Ultimate Experience
Hiring a fishing guide can be invaluable for those new to ice fishing or looking to maximize their time on the ice. Devils Lake fishing guides are experts in locating the best ice fishing spots and will provide you with the right techniques to catch fish. They often offer full-service trips, including bait, tackle, and fish cleaning stations. Here are some top contenders, each catering to different needs and preferences:
For the Luxurious Experience:
- Bry's Guide Service: Renowned for their "Iron-man stable" of experienced guides and top-of-the-line equipment, Bry's offers a luxurious ice fishing adventure. Think heated ice shacks, comfortable seating, onboard electronics, and even delicious catered meals. Plus, their luxurious on-site lodge provides comfortable accommodations for larger groups.
For the Mobile Adventurers:
- Percheyes Fish On Guide Service and Lodging: This charter service prioritizes mobility and flexibility. They specialize in SnoBear trips, utilizing these unique amphibious vehicles to access remote ice fishing spots quickly and safely. Their smaller, personalized setup caters to those seeking a more intimate and exploratory experience.
For the Budget-Conscious:
- Big John's Guide Service: Offering guided ice fishing trips at competitive rates, Big John's is a great option for those looking for quality guidance without breaking the bank. They provide comfortable ice shelters, reliable equipment, and years of experience navigating Devils Lake's icy terrain.
Cozy Accommodations by the Lake
After a long day on the ice, a warm and comfortable place to stay is a must. Devils Lake offers a range of accommodations, from hotels to cabins.
For the Rustic Retreat:
- Devils Lake Lodge: This lakeside lodge offers a mix of hotel rooms and spacious suites, perfect for families or groups. Enjoy stunning lake views, an indoor pool and hot tub, and a relaxing lounge with a fireplace. Their on-site restaurant serves up delicious meals, and the lodge provides convenient access to boat rentals and ice fishing opportunities.
For the Modern Lodge Experience:
- Pelican Point Resort: Situated directly on the lake, Pelican Point boasts modern lodge-style accommodations with stunning lakefront views. Relax in spacious rooms with fireplaces, unwind in the on-site sauna, or indulge in a delicious meal at the waterfront restaurant. The resort also offers convenient access to ice fishing rentals and guided trips.
For the Boutique Charm:
- The Pines Bed and Breakfast: This charming B&B, situated just steps from the lake, offers a delightful respite. Each room is uniquely decorated with a touch of vintage elegance, and the property boasts a cozy common area with a fireplace and board games. Wake up to a delicious homemade breakfast overlooking the frozen landscape.
For the Budget-Friendly Option:
- Devils Lake Hostel: This is a great choice for a social and budget-conscious stay. Bunk beds in shared rooms allow you to meet fellow adventurers and share stories. The hostel also offers a communal kitchen and lounge area, perfect for cozy evenings.
Book your accommodations well in advance, especially during peak ice fishing season and weekends. Consider your desired amenities, proximity to the lake, and budget when choosing.
Also, check out our guide on Saginaw Bay Ice Fishing
Preparing for the Catch
Before you set out, make sure you're prepared to handle the fish you catch. This means having the right tackle for the fish species you're targeting and knowing the regulations for catch limits. A visit to a local bait shop can help you get the right gear and up-to-date information on fishing conditions.
Safety First: Ice Fishing Precautions
Safety should be your top priority. Always fish with a buddy, carry safety gear, and be aware of the weather conditions. Local bait shops and fishing reports can provide updates on ice thickness and safety advisories.
Making Memories: Capture Your Bucket List Fish
Ice fishing at Devils Lake is not just about the catch; it's about the experience. Whether you're after that bucket list fish or simply enjoying the winter beauty, make sure to take photos and cherish the memories you create on the ice.
Also, check out our guide on Big Stone Lake Ice Fishing
The Local Cuisine: A Taste of Devils Lake
After a day of ice fishing, indulge in the local cuisine. Many restaurants in the area serve up fresh fish dishes that will give you a true taste of Devils Lake. Don't miss out on the opportunity to savor a meal that includes your own catch of the day. Some popular picks are:
- Pelican Point Restaurant: Enjoy panoramic lake views and hearty comfort food at the resort's restaurant in Strawberry Island Flats. Famous for their "Devils Lake Perch Fry" and juicy "Walleye Burgers," you can't go wrong with any fresh catch on the menu.
- The Perch Pole Bar & Grill: This lively bar and grill is a popular spot after a successful fishing trip near Spirit Lake Narrows. Grab a cold beer and their signature "Walleye Tots," a decadent combination of walleye bites atop crispy tater tots.
- Devils Lake Marina Grill: Located right at the marina in Burnt Creek Bay, this grill offers a casual atmosphere and delectable fish tacos. Their "Blackened Walleye Tacos" with mango salsa is a refreshing take on the classic dish.
- Blacks Creek Bar & Grill: This local watering hole near Blacks Creek Bay serves up generous portions of classic American fare. Don't miss their "Double Walleye Cheeseburger," guaranteed to satisfy even the hungriest angler.
- The Paddlefish Pub & Grub: Enjoy pub fare with a twist at this cozy spot near Snake Bay. Their "Snake Bay Walleye Chowder" is a warming favorite, packed with chunks of fresh walleye and creamy goodness.
- The Minnewaukan Inn: Tucked away in Minnewaukan near White Cap Bay, this historic inn boasts a renowned restaurant. Indulge in their "North Dakota Prime Rib," a regional specialty you won't find everywhere.
Q: Do I need a fishing license for ice fishing at Devils Lake?
A: Yes, you will need a North Dakota fishing license to ice fish at Devils Lake. You can purchase one online or at a local bait shop.
Q: Are there any ice fishing tournaments at Devils Lake?
A: Devils Lake hosts several ice fishing tournaments throughout the season. Check the local event calendar for dates and details.
Q: Can I bring my own ice house to Devils Lake?
A: Absolutely! You are welcome to bring your own ice house. Just ensure it meets the state regulations for ice houses on public waters.
Planning an ice fishing trip to Devils Lake, ND, is an adventure that promises both excitement and relaxation.
By visiting during the prime winter months, exploring the best fishing spots, and utilizing local charter services and accommodations, you're set for an unforgettable experience.
Remember to prioritize safety, prepare for your catch, and immerse yourself in the local culture to enjoy your ice fishing journey fully.
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