Seeing Red on Devils Lake

by Bret “T-Bone” Amundson

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Freezing rain, dense fog, heavy snow, zero visibility, and death defying coyotes couldn’t keep me from reaching my destination.  You could say I drove through Hell on my way to Devils Lake.

The first 15 minutes on the ice later that morning saw Jeff Katzer, guide from Woodland Resort, hook a nice perch and 2 keeper walleyes.  I was still dialing in my Vexilar.

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For the next couple of hours, while listening to stories of people fishing with 7-foot rods, 180 perch days, stealth fishhouse deliveries and other day-in-the-life adventures of a guide, we’d bring in 6 more walleyes for the bucket before breaking for lunch.

A quick check of the other houses saw similar results, including a nice fat perch.

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Mika came along for the afternoon trip, hoping she’d retrieve a few more fish from the watery depths.  I stayed perched above 30” of ice for the remainder of the day, but pulled only one more walleye through.  One miss and many marks offered moments of brief excitement, but this ever-changing lake would offer no more finned creatures on this day.

Day 2 began at 5:30 with a quick breakfast and plans to be in the house by 6:30.  I felt like we missed the early bite the day before and wasn’t about to let that happen again.

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As we all know, things don’t always go as planned.   The rented Vexilar from The Lake Place in Lake Park didn’t show any red lines for the first 2 hours, before a quick tug surprised me, followed by the telltale sign of a miss: slack line and expletives.  Finally I had a successful hook set and our first “throwbacker” emerged.

Things didn’t get too hot and heavy, but I was able to pull another 3 keeper walleyes and a hefty bonus perch before lunch.

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That’s when I had a chance to sit down with Katzer, the “Ice Team Leader” at Woodland Resort and got to the bottom of Devils Lake, cold fronts and what it’s like to be a fishing guide.

I’ve heard it said many times, “you must have the greatest job”, when in reality the life of a fishing guide involves long, cold days and not as much fishing as they’d like.

Katzer goes into detail on this week’s Minnesota Sporting Journal Radio show, including guys getting run over, ice fishing with 7 foot ugly sticks and drilling 70 holes a day.

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During my stay at Woodland Resort, he also had his plow jam into a pressure ridge and slingshot back up destroying the headlights.  Just another day in the life of an ice-fishing guide.

Since I’ve got a limit of walleyes filleted and ready to eat, we plan on heading back out this afternoon before my trip ends to target some bonus perch and big pike. One look at all the polaroids on the wall gets the blood pumping for the “yellow finned tuna”.  There’s no question I was hoping to experience one of the days that they had earlier this year, the “best perch bite in 25 years”, but I’m not complaining as I’ll be eating fresh fish this week.  I might even have to sneak out in the morning before heading back home.  Aren’t the roads supposed to be icy?  Maybe I’ll have to stay a few more days…

Woodland Resort:  701-662-5996

Bret Amundson –

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