The Devils Lake Experience

Greetings everyone! Well now that I'm back from vacation, I can honestly say that I somehow survived more trials and tribulations on the tournament trail. And, enjoyed every dad-blamed minute of it!

There was no tournament in New Town this year, lake levels are so low that the tournament was called off for the first time in its 27 year history. Tournament officials pulled the plug clear back in January in review of predicted lake levels. I've been up there a couple times on business, and the water at the Van Hook Boat Ramp is quite some distance from the end thereof!



~~ The Van Hook Boat Ramp ~~


~~ Day 2 - Off to the Lake ~~

I was not overly impressed with the lake level on Sakakawea to begin with. Then the plug was pulled on our spot in the ND Governor's Cup, when my partner's son was elected to play in the Shriners' Football game, which just happens to fall on the last day of the cup.

My partner Bryan, figured it was going to be kinda tough to make weigh-in in Garrison at 4:00 and kick off in Grand Forks at 6:00, when it's 200 plus miles between the two. (Unless of course one owns a Lear Jet, which neither of us do!) And, this being Matt's last High School football game, attendance is mandatory!


One of the guys at work had signed Bryan up last year, to fish the Devils Lake Chamber of Commerce Tournament, and they were likewise planning on doing that one again this year, when something came up at the last minute and he had to back out. Bryan who was at that time searching for a replacement partner for himself in the Cup, to fish with me, asked if I'd like to fish the DL Tourny in the other guy's place instead.

I advised him, I'd only fished the Annual DL Ice Fishing Tournament, had never wet a line up there otherwise, and in the 6 years of fishing said tournament, had never once had a bite.


~~ Day 2 - Bumpy Water! ~~

~~ Day 2 - Tied to a Stump ~~

I told my partner in fact, I wasn't too damn sure there were fish in that lake, and that I thought maybe them folks at the Ice Fishing Tournament had carried those they weighed-in, out there on the ice in their lunch buckets. We had a good laugh, and he assured me that there truly was fish up there!

I of course still doubting it, hesitantly JUMPED ALL OVER this chance to go fish Devils Lake! And, of course find out for sure if maybe there was a fish or two in it, so I could report on it here on the RTFI website for all of you folks benefit. Because that's what fishing journalists do, hey!


Rest assured folks, this was a trip to be remembered. Never again will I doubt the fishing in this highly reputed body of water! The fishing was absolutely fantastic! And, there was no end to it, regardless of what some that were there that week for the tournament, might tell you.

In seven days of fishing, 8 - 11 hours a day, we stopped in only 3 spots to wet a line, that did not produce at least one fish of some nature. We took our limit on more than one occasion during the week, and most days produced numerous small walleye that were not kept.


~~ Devils Lake Walleye Structure ~~

~~ Notice the fishing apparel ~~
~ June 23 - 29, 2003 ~

The weather didn't cooperate real well, and thus the average angler probably wouldn't have enjoyed this trip as much as two die hard tournament anglers like ourselves. But, in seven days time, we managed to remain dry 2 of them! The other 5 we were wet from crashing waves, from rain, or from both!

Highlights of the week included, but certainly were not limited too an acquaintance, who shall remain nameless, exiting his boat, whilst tying to a tree, in three and half foot waves. He reported afterwards that Gore Tex rain gear is highly overrated; it is not the least bit waterproof when you go head first into the drink! He did however say that it keeps water in, as well as keeps it out.


Further complicating that little situation was the "see your breath fog" of 46 degrees on that beautiful overcast June morning, of fishing! And, after returning to town and changing, he was assured by hotel staff, that he was not the first to enjoy that experience. It is from what they stated, a fairly common occurrence at Devils Lake.

He took all the grief we gave him over supper and drinks, pretty well that night, and in closing the day it was jokingly suggested, that he might want to stay away from the hotel pool that night.


~~ Day 3 - Cloudy and Cold! ~~

~~ Day 4 - More Bumpy Water ~~

I personally had to swear to stay in the Boat before being allowed on the trip, as Bryan's partner in 2002, left the boat not once, but twice, during the tournament, in that fashion! Back to Back, in fact!! Tying to the same tree!

And, I must admit the waves did account for a real nasty gash across the bottom of my left foot, after damned near being blown out of my seat in the bow, while fishing Day 6. I knew it was a might painful, but didn't realize the extent of it all, until looking down and seeing the blood all over the boat!


We had our share of other adventure as well. Day 2 started with problems with the tilt and trim that weren't there at the end of Day 1. As soon as the main power switch was turned on, the motor started trimming down. Half way back to town, Bryan realized the foot control cable on the trolling motor was against the switch in the bow of the boat! We pulled over, rearranged the foot pedal, and returned to the lake.

Then there was Day 3's search for the missing gallon of 2-Stroke oil, that somehow made it in the basement with the rest of the goodies when we unpacked, even after Bryan put it back in the truck the first time I set it out.


~~ Even Bumpy in the Trees!~~

~~ Day 4 - Tied to a Tree Again! ~~

That was immediately followed, upon returning home to find the oil, by the entirely too tight cap on the oil reservoir. Which finding no tools to aid in it's removal, required the use of my web belt as a strap wrench, in true McGuyver fashion, to get it off!

Then there was the tree we were tied too in the photo at left, crashing across the trolling motor, after more than 2 hours of our bouncing in the waves tied to it. Simply caught a big one, that was more than it could stand. Fortunately nothing was damaged, except maybe the seat of our shorts when it hit the boat behind us!


And, there was day 4's loss of windshield wipers in the midst of the downpour we just beat off the lake, because my partner indicated he smelled rain. (In the middle of a lake?)

And, then there was the tornado tracking to within 2 - 3 miles of town before lifting to spare the community, day 5. It was reported that it somehow managed to avoid everything, and simply danced across empty fields and prairie for about 10 - 15 miles, thankfully.

Day 7 got a tad bit interesting when we just about lost the Lowrance X-15 over the side, when it blew out of the mount upon contacting one very large bump in the water, at something just shy of Mach I whilst headed for our hot spot!


~~ No Wipers!!! ~~

~~ We just left that spot there! ~~

As far as the fishing went, although we spent $70 on crankbaits that were reportedly working for the Pros a week earlier, only one northern was to be landed on them, or any other crankbait we had for that matter. They did however catch stumps extremely well. And, yep... We sacrificed several to the Gods of Fishing, to assure our success with other methods! We weren't alone however, lots of folks were counting on that bite, it simply disappeared. Those that didn't adjust, did not fare well!

The biggest spinners we had in the box, also a reported hot tactic in the RCL Tourney a week earlier, resulted in only one Perch of about a pound and a quarter. Floating jigs and very large egg sinkers were tried in heavy winds, Day 6, to no avail either.


In fact the only method we found to work for us throughout the week, was slip bobbers. And, work they did, over, and over, and over. Good ole, back to basics, Fishing 101 folks! As sweet and simple as it gets.

A bobber, a hook, a few split shot, and bait! And, since I love that method of fishing to begin with, you can well imagine that I did in fact, enjoy the week immensely! To no end!! Beyond one's wildest imagination!!! So don't even try!!!! (Yep, it was better than that even.) But.... I did techno innovate in the method using Berkley Fireline with a Berkley Vanish fluorocarbon snell, below a swivel. I never lost a bobber the entire week! And, I pre-tied 3 dozen snells to the same length, so when one broke off, you tied on another and everything was set and ready to go.


~~ Park Staff Getting Very Wet ~~

~~ Calm Day at last! ~~

As for whether we caught fish, well... let's just say it was unbelievable! The worst day we had, we caught better than a limit of walleye, although they were a bit small, and half of them went back. Also had a half dozen Northern that day too.

We caught fish everywhere we went on the lake, and those places we repeated visits, for the most part every time we went to them. We caught fish until we were almost tired of catching fish, and then went and caught more fish! We caught so dad-blamed many fish folks that, well...  you just wouldn't believe me if I told you.


As for the Tournament... we held on for 33rd. place out of 150 teams, weighing only 8 of a 10 fish limit. We missed the pay line by 1.1 lbs. and we threw one back on Saturday that would have put us in the top 20, searching for bigger fish. On top of that, we lost 4 nice fish in the last half hour of tournament fishing, anyone of which would have easily put us in the top 15.

On the last morning we fished next to one of the local guides, boating 4 times as many fish simply by recognizing our mistake the previous day and controlling the boat, rather than letting the wind control it.


~~ Day 5 Catch ~~
That filet knife is about 19 inches long folks!

~~ Weigh-In ~~

We made a couple of other anglers grumpy in that fashion Sunday morning, as well. When the wind blew them out of position on the hole we were fishing the previous day, and they grew frustrated and left it. We immediately moved in anchoring the boat in the correct position and stroked 2 fish before they were fifty yards gone! Proper boat position was instrumental to making the bite happen, and while watching what we were doing the others never caught on.

It was truly a blast, and hands down our best tournament showing as a team. You can rest assured the Devils Lake Tourney will be on the schedule next year.


Welcome to the Hotel California

Bonnie Jean and Wally Lang

Through it all we stayed with Bryan's folks, pictured above right, and had a wonderful time. With exception to whipping up on everyone in the Tuesday night poker game, Wally and Jean were both, the greatest of hosts. (Well... actually we figured they only whipped up on one of us. As Bryan and I seemed to have pretty much broke even when the dust settled!) Both were great company, and a whole lot of fun to visit with. The wives and kids came up Saturday to join us, and we all bunked out in the attic. It was a grand time, let me tell you.
I'll certainly look forward to the pleasure of their company again someday! Thanks for having us!!


A Few Parting Shots

~~ Tournament Time ~~

~~ Tournament Time ~~

Now why would anyone jump
out of pretty boat like that?

~~ Camera-shy Eagle ~~


~~ Eagles Nest ~~

~~ Cormorant Nests ~~

~~ Leaving Devils Lake ~~

~~ Leaving Devils Lake ~~

~~ Just a Pretty Picture ~~

~~ Too Close For Comfort ~~


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