Pro Angler Aaron McQuoid hoists a dandy Devil’s lake walleye.
By Ron Anlauf
There’s more to Devil’s Lake than jumbo perch including walleyes and lots of ‘em, more pike than you can maybe stand, and incredible numbers of white bass. With a season that never ends it seems there isn’t a bad time to fish Devil’s Lake but it’s the early summer period that could be considered primetime, especially if you’re hoping to hook up with a bunch of walleyes. Although this giant body of water can be plenty intimidating you can still expect to do some serious pole bending if you have a good idea of where to look and what to use.
Pro fisherman and full time guide Aaron McQuoid is on the water almost every day and shares with us some of his intimate knowledge. Aaron on first arrivals: “The first thing you’re going to notice is all the water which seems to go on forever and with 400 miles of shoreline it kind of does. But instead of worrying about it all you’d be better off taking a bay or slice of the lake and concentrating your efforts there. Fact is; there is fish just about everywhere although there are definitely areas that can help to concentrate fish. From May through the first part of June I’ll look for sand or patches of gravel in ten feet of water or less. You’ll find plenty of softer mucky bottoms which can hold fish a little later on but right now it’s the harder bottom where we do our best. I’ve been able to find hard bottom patches by running parallel to the shoreline while using the Side Imaging display of my Humminbird 1198. You can easily see the difference when the bottom content changes and you can also see the weeds which are another key to walleye location. Early on they’ll be just coming up and will grow all the way to the surface by mid-summer. With Side Imaging I can see where the wall of weeds ends and how deep that is, along with any pocket or point which are potential hotspots. I can then drop a waypoint from my current boat position on any pocket or point I find and return later to work it over. Another method for determining bottom content in shallow water is to use a rod tip to poke in the bottom or better yet; a metal tape measure. You can definitely feel whether you’re in sand, gravel, or muck. “
There’s more than one way to put fish in the boat but two of Aarons top producers are jigs tipped with plastic bodies and crankbaits. Aaron on technique: “I’ll mix it up a little until I find out what the fish want. With my big 621VS Ranger I can take up to 4 clients and will put the more athletic types in the front of the boat with crankbaits and the shorter casters in the back with 1/8 oz jigs tipped with Northland Mimmic Minnow paddle tails or Mister Twister tails. The cranks need some distance to get them to dive down to the desired depth and you have to be able to cast to be effective. The Mimmic Minnows are easy to use and can be cast or dragged and are going to catch their share of fish. The downside of using a crankbait around all those weeds is the fact you’re going to foul up and often. To help reduce the down time I’ll remove the front treble hook and will even replace the treble on the back with a single hook if I have to. If you hang the jig up a hard snap will usually clear it. Another thing to keep in mind is that there are tons of pike in and around all of those weeds in May which will keep you busy replacing and re-tying if you don’t use some precaution like a steel or fluorocarbon leader. Walleyes are notoriously fussy and tend to shy away from leaders but not so much in Devil’s Lake. You’ll still catch walleyes but with a leader you’ll catch those pike too and still have enough lures left to fish tomorrow.”
One of the hottest baits for working the weeds is a #5 or #7 Vodoo Shad from the Dakota Lure Company. They’ve been a red hot bait out west and are just getting introduced to the rest of the walleye world. The lures have a long “fat to slender” body design and come in some incredible colors.
Pitching jigs is all about feel and is a fun way to fish. To help to that end I’ve been using a 6’7”Omen medium light spinning rod with a fast tip from 13 Fishing. The fast tip is still stiff enough to pop a jig and snap it free when you do hang up but still provide an incredible amount of feel. There is also a new Envy series available in the same length and action and I can’t wait to get my hands on one.
Another hot spot especially further on into the summer is flooded trees and there are plenty of them. Aaron on working the wood: “The trees can hold a lot of fish and are typically larger than those you find in the weeds. It’s hard to know what trees are holding the mother lode and can change from day to day. If I’m looking for fish I’ll cast a crankbait in and around the trees (where I can) and stop and strain an area after I run into a fish or two. The crankbait will get the aggressive ones but chances are there are a lot more fish nearby that might go for a leech suspended below a slip bobber. Some anglers will actually tie their boats to the trees which can work but not if that’s the tree you want to fish. Instead I’ll use the anchoring feature of my Minn Kota Terrova and I-Pilot which holds the boat in one place electronically. The motor will adjust speed and direction all by itself and hold you in one place while you get to fish. If you drop an anchor you run the risk of not getting it back because if it’s windy enough the anchor will slide and could easily get tangled up to the point of no return. To work the trees with leeches and slip bobbers we’ll used a 15lb braided line tied to a swivel, to an eight pound fluorocarbon leader, and then tied to a jig tipped with a leech. The lighter leader will let you bust if off if you get hung up and you’ll just lose the jig and keep the bobber.”
Devil’s Lake has a lot going for it right now and is definitely worth the trip. Besides all of the fish and all of the water you’ll be surprised how few anglers there are and how much of it you can have all to yourself. If you want to schedule a trip and need a guide and or lodging Aaron can be reached at 701-351-6058 or mcquoidguides.com. See you on the water.