by Bret “T-Bone” Amundson
SPAWN OF THE DEVILS (LAKE)
By Bret “T-Bone” Amundson
My last blog was written halfway through my trip to Woodland Resort on Devils Lake. I really should have waited until the trip was over to begin typing since quite a bit took place in the second half of the journey.
The fishing picked up dramatically. I fished Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning and barely went 5 minutes without marking a fish on the Vexilar FL-12 that I rented from The Lake Place in Lake Park. (Stop in and see what Corey and Raina have done with the place!) I hit double digits on walleyes both days, with 5 bonus jumbo perch, including a pair that went about a pound a half each. I planned to fish until about 11 am on Wednesday, but finally packed it up about 9:45 because I‘d felt I’d caught enough. How often does that happen? 30 below wind chills and blowing snow may have played a part as well, as I needed to get on the road.
Overall, I was in “heaven” on Devils Lake (I promise that was the last one) and Jeff Katzer and Kyle Blanchfield treated me great during my stay at Woodland Resort. I also managed to meet a few of the guys from the Perch Patrol. I missed Jason Mitchell, but had a chance to sit down with Bruce Bonzer.
Bonzer came in with a perch the size of my forearm. Weighing in at 1.84 pounds and wearing the blue trunks, it probably would have actually beaten me in an arm wrestling contest.
As I was taking his picture, someone chimed in with “he should know where to catch the perch since he put them in here”.
For the next 10 minutes, I sat with Bonzer as he told the story of stocking Devils Lake with perch, pike, white bass and the king, walleye.
I was almost embarrassed to admit to them that it was my first trip to Devils Lake and I really didn’t know the history. I did know, however, that the body of water had grown quite a bit in recent years, until the new outlets dropped the level a few feet. Bonzer painted a much different picture of the lake 40-50 years ago, when it was a small basin full of alkali, void of most, if not all, species of fish. A one-time northern pike commercial fishery that had a short life span due to the saltiness of the water, which led to Devils Lake being more of a “dead sea” for many years.
In the late 60’s, Bonzer and the local fish biologist, Al Kriel, (Randy Kriel’s father) decided to put northern pike in the lake to see if they’d survive. They did, and a year later white bass were added to provide forage. Walleye were thrown in the mix and eventually, so were the giant perch that have become a favorite target of Devils Lake fisherman. I may have mentioned that walleye were “KING”, but I don’t see a “Walleye Patrol” guiding service on the lake, do you?
The story of stocking perch in Devils Lake during it’s infancy did not disappoint.
Bonzer found nearby Wood Lake full of perch. They were then transplanted to a small pond by the town’s radio station. Bonzer thought these perch belonged in Devils Lake and spoke with Kriel about it, who responded with: “Well go ahead and put them in, I’ll call the chief on Monday”. Hopefully he wouldn’t mind.
Bonzer took his boat to the pond and filled it gunwale to gunwale full of perch. No nets, no water, just filled to the brim with fins.
He then brought the boat to Creel Bay and the rest is history.
So is the boat. After two years, Bonzer couldn’t stand the smell as perch had found their way inside the Styrofoam seats. It was sold to a lawyer in town. Not sure if that’s because he was a lawyer, or because the lawyer happened to live near the lake with a yard big enough to leave the boat outside and get cleaned out.
For quite a few years, they would continue to help the perch by working with the spawning fish until the population had grown large enough to live on it’s own.
The pike, walleyes, perch and white bass are doing just fine now, even if they regret putting the white bass in the lake. Had they known at the time what the freshwater shrimp situation would be, they wouldn’t have needed the white bass.
There have been plenty of people that come to Devils Lake that don’t mind the healthy population of white bass. Anglers also come from miles around for the walleyes, while others come just for the perch and even some prefer to hook into the toothy creatures known as pike. I like them all and with a 20 per guy limit on perch, I was really excited to pull a few from the ice. Based on what I had heard about the perch bite in December (see picture above), and what I caught while I was there (see picture below), I think a few of us owe a big “thank you” to Bruce and Al for getting it all started.
I also passed the Perch Express on my way there. They offer package deals involving taking the old Empire Builder from Amtrak right into Devils Lake, where you’re picked up by the Perch Patrol and brought to Woodland Resort. Find all the details here.
Bret Amundson – Bret@mnsportingjournal.com