History of Devils Lake
The final stop of the 2015 NWT was the Championship on Devils Lake in North Dakota. I had never been to Devils Lake and I was not on a team so I had to come up with a plan focused on a few areas. This was easier said than done. I had read about the water rising over the years but I didn't really understand it until I hit the water.
Devils Lake is a glacial lake that has been fluctuating up and down over the last 10,000 years. In 1940 the lake was only 2 feet deep. According to the North Dakota Water Commission Devils Lake covered 43,000 surface acres in 1993. At its peak in 2011 this swelled to 211,000 acres a rise of 46 feet http://www.swc.state.nd.us/4dlink9/4dcgi/GetContentPDF/PB-206/DL_Quick_Facts.pdf. This was evident by the number of roads, trees, bridges, combines, barns and everything in between that is flooded. As you can imagine there are a lot of places for walleyes to hide. For more history of Devils Lake check out this link http://tourism.devilslakend.com/what-to-do/explore-history/the-devils-lake-flood-story/.
I arrived Saturday afternoon and got on the water with my buddy Rich around 3. Expectations were low for the first day we just wanted to get out for a few hours to get a feel for the lake. We started with Jigging Raps and I tied into this monster white bass.
This was a good sign. The reason the walleyes are so fat on Devils Lake is because they are eating white bass and perch both of which are abundant. We caught a bunch of little walleyes and I missed a giant. We pulled up to our next spot, popped my jigging rap a couple of times and bam, Papa John.
Crap, the first legal fish I catch is over 10 pounds on the first day of pre-fishing. It is like winning your first hand in poker. I sent this picture to a friend and he said "you used your big fish card already?" Unfortunately, he was right but it was an awesome fish!
The next few days we spent looking for similar spots. I was just amazed with the never ending back bays. You would see a dozen boats go back into an area and I had no idea where they went or how they got there as my map was showing water to shallow to navigate. I did find an area that had some nice fish in Pelican Lake. We caught 2 nice fish trolling a small stretch that was away from boats. Unfortunately, we could not replicate this later in the week so by tournament day I ruled it out.
Catching fish was not a problem it was finding the right fish that was becoming a challenge. We did find a spot that had a lot of fish in the 18 to 19 inch range which were fun to catch but they weren't going to help me during the tournament. With so much water to cover I decided to change my strategy and fish the lake like a river. I concentrated on the bridges all of which had good current. There were a lot of fish at the bridges with most being small. However, we did catch a couple in the 4-5 pound range. I thought I could get 15-17 pounds at the bridges if everything went well and I would start and finish my day at the Papa John spot.
On day 1 I ran to my Papa John spot and had it to myself. Most of the fish we caught were small but we did catch a fat 18 incher that I reluctantly put in the box as you could only keep 8 fish, weighing your best 5. We then ran to the bridges where we must have caught 100 walleyes. Again most were small but we did have our chances. We lost a four plus pounder and I netted the jigging rap rather than the 20 inch walleye that was on the line. It was that kind of day. We were throwing back 18 inchers all day, then the wind really picked up making boat control difficult. I had to box a couple of 16 inchers at the end of the day to fill our limit. This was not the day I had hoped for finishing with 5 walleyes that weighed a disappointing 8-05.
I was pretty much out of the tournament but with Papa John swimming around there was a slight chance a could post a big number. I did the exact same thing on day 2. No Papa John so I headed to the bridges. Things went a little better as we were able to connect on 3 fish over 20 inches and kept 2 18's by 11. I could have stayed there to get a 15-16 pound limit but that wasn't going to help so we spent the rest of the day looking for big fish. That didn't happen and I ended up with 5 that weighed 13.24. That resulted in a finish of 47 out of 77 NWT Results.
Although disappointed it still was a great experience. I was never really on them but I put the best plan I could to give myself a chance. I fished a clean, drama free tournament. There was a lot of drama for the tournament which involved a back hoe, a county road and a flooded lake. I didn't even know it existed but it did explain why some boats were disappearing. This caused quite the ruckus which was amusing.
All in all it was fun year. I ended the angler of the year race in 33rd place NWT Angler of the Year. It is hard for me to look back and think I should/could have done much better. Oh well, I learned a lot and if I am able to apply those learnings the results will follow! I am looking forward to 2016!