Eastern North Dakota Lakes Around in Panfish: Ice Fishing Walleye, Perch & Northern Pike in Devil’s Lake Region

An October six degrees cooler than normal followed by a November about 10 degrees warmer than average in 2017 has increased the angst of men and women dedicated to the sport of ice fishing for walleye, perch and northern pike in the Dakotas and Minnesota.

Although Devil’s Lake is by far the number one ice fishing destination in eastern North Dakota, some smaller and shallower lakes situated near Hwy 281, between Jamestown and Minnewaukan or the city of Devil’s Lake, attract local enthusiasts.

This is especially true early in the season when freeze-up commences earlier in the shallower lakes and ponds.

Many Devil's Lake North Dakota Area Locals Favor Secret Fishing Holes

Psssst…An area smack dab in the middle of the stretch of highway 281 from Jamestown to Devil’s Lake has a number of bodies of water nearby that are teeming with panfish:

  • Warsing Dam in Sheyenne
  • Washington Lake east of Sheyenne
  • Juanita Lake six miles east of Grace City and
  • Pipestem Reservoir north of Jamestown are among the favorites for locals.

People of the region are known to take to the ice once the water ‘gets hard.’ Many people in Eddy County stay close to home by driving the ten miles to Sheyenne, then east a mile or so to Warsing Dam. The small lake just across the continental divide is especially popular due to its ease of access, less than two miles from Hwy 281, and to its peaceful solitude so near town.

More stubborn folks have even tried fishing Sheyenne River downhill and upstream from Warsing, near a small waterfalls, but report the fast flow of the water beneath makes for treacherous adventure that few ever try a second time.

Side note - Many folks are unaware that a divide less famous than that running north and south through the Rocky Mountains runs through North Dakota. Waters north of this flow north into Canada or the Great Lakes. South of this the water flows into the Gulf of Mexico via the Missouri and/or, eventually, the Mississippi River.

Later in the season, however, locals will indeed join the multitudes in frequenting Minnewaukan at the west end of Devil’s Lake, or the east bay in the area between Ft. Totten, St. Michael and the city of Devil’s Lake.

Devil’s Lake has tripled in size during the past several years. It is proclaimed The Perch Capital of the World as stated by Jason Mitchell in Mills Field N Forest, Winter issue.

Writing also in the 2009-10 issue of Ice Annual, Mitchell quoted Steve ‘Zippy’ Dahl, "Last winter we did have some really good runs on big perch…we can’t expect that every day."

Mitchell and Dahl are members of the Perch Patrol Guide Service. They report that while perch density is down due to the rapid increase in the surface area to some 150,000 acres, northern pike and walleye fishing have improved and, "…fill the void." In fact, walleye fishing keeps improving every year they said.

Fishing Reports for Catching Walleye, Pike and Perch

Devil’s Lake area fishing reports are published in local newspapers, such as the New Rockford Transcript; Outdoor News Sportsmen’s weekly, and on the Internet. Ed’s Bait, with their own blog, provides excellent coverage and has several links to other sites.

Folks passing through New Rockford can check in at 7 Happy Bears, a live bait dealer nine blocks west of Hwy 281 on Central Ave, or at the two bars in New Rockford, Buck-It’s and Hanson’s.

Information also can be obtained at any outfitter, tackle shop or bait dealer in the area, such as Home of Economy in Devil's Lake, Running's Fleet and Farm in Carrington or Do It Best Hardware in New Rockford.

Bait & Lure Sources in New Rockford, Minnewaukan& Devil's Lake

Lures or plastic swim baits are commonly tipped with smelt, herring, wax worms or minnow heads.

Sources of frozen smelt or herring and live minnows and wax worms:

  • New Rockford – 7 Happy Bears, (701) 947-2248 (BAIT)
  • Minnewaukan – JJ’s Bait & Tackle, (701) 473-5440
  • Devil’s Lake - Pete’s Bait Shop, (701) 662-8033
  • Devil’s Lake – Ed’s Bar Bait & Convenience, Inc (701) 662-8321

Early Season Ice Fishing Near New Rockford Gives A Bonus

Temperatures dropping in the local area to single digits might be threatening to some, or an annoyance to others, but to lovers of the fourth season, freezing accompanied by ice, snow and sunshine is a perfect recipe for fun and excitement jigging for that walleye.

Just when the water starts freezing, while scouting the prairie east of New Rockford, between Sheyenne and Grace City, one can occasionally spot a bald eagle or a hawk also on the prowl, or even a beaver. Such a rare bonus makes jigging for walleye or perch a success even when no fish are landed.

Adventures during such times and among the postcard-perfect scenery also are outstanding opportunities for photographers. Incidentally, the local news media, bait shops and even some restaurants would be delighted to post photos of trophy fish or wild game.

Pity the sportsman who forgets their Nikon or Canon digital camera.

A dawn’s early rise on the ice can be followed up with snowmobiling or a quick stop at Spirit Lake Casino just south of Devil’s Lake for a little gambling fun indoors. Top this off with a candlelight dinner for two? Then, hit the sack, get 40 winks, and then again begin life anew next crack of dawn.

Donald S. Cochran

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