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Devils Lake again makes list of top ice fishing destinations in the U.S., while Brainerd ranks No. 1

In a news release, FishingBooker ranked Devils Lake at No. 3 in its list of the “eight best ice fishing destinations” in the country, behind the Brainerd, Minnesota, area and Lake Habeeb in Maryland.

Zippy Dahl.jpg
Steve "Zippy" Dahl of the Perch Patrol Guide Service with the kind of jumbo perch for which Devils Lake is famous. The online platform FishingBooker again has ranked Devils Lake among the top eight ice fishing destinations in the country, putting the big lake at No. 3. The Brainerd, Minnesota, area landed honors as the top ice fishing destination. Contributed / Devils Lake Tourism
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Devils Lake again has been named among the top ice fishing destinations in the U.S. by a digital platform that specializes in booking fishing trips.

In a news release Thursday, Dec. 2, FishingBooker ranked Devils Lake at No. 3 in its list of the “eight best ice fishing destinations” in the country, behind the Brainerd, Minnesota, area and Lake Habeeb in Maryland.

“As the ‘Perch Capital of the World,’ Devils Lake made the list of Best Ice Fishing Destinations in the U.S. last year as well and for good reason,” FishingBooker said. “It’s the largest natural body of water in North Dakota and therefore features a wide range of fishing spots along the shoreline and on the ice.”

Lake Sakakawea, of course, is larger, but as a reservoir is considered man-made rather than a natural body of water.

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In its ranking, FishingBooker cited Devils Lake’s perch, walleye, northern pike and white bass fishing, along with the occasional crappie, as attractions for wintertime anglers. The ranking incorrectly stated that anglers can also find striped and kelp bass in Devils Lake.
Striped bass once upon a time, yes, but kelp bass are a marine species native to the eastern North Pacific Ocean, according to Wikipedia.

As for striped bass, here’s the story:

According to Herald archives, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department stocked 13,000 striped bass fingerlings in Devils Lake in 1977 as part of a one-time stocking effort. The last reported catch occurred in 1993, when a Grand Forks angler landed a 20-pound, 12-ounce striped bass that stands as the North Dakota state record.

Only two other records of striped bass are documented in the Game and Fish Department’s Whopper Club listings: an 18-pound striper caught in May 1989 and a 16-pound, 7-ounce striped bass caught in May 1988.

FishingBooker also had this to say about Devils Lake:

“The ice is usually stable enough for ice fishing starting in mid-late December and lasts until March. The highlight of the season is the annual (Devils Lake Volunteer Fire Department) Ice Fishing Tournament, which will be held on Jan. 27-29.

“Once you’ve had enough of the fishing, the area also offers plenty of activities to get you warmed up again. Whether you’re into outdoor activities like cross-country skiing at Grahams Island State Park, or prefer to go for a hot drink in downtown Devils Lake, you’re sure to find something that suits your idea of a winter fishing trip.”

In ranking Brainerd as the top ice fishing destination in the U.S., FishingBooker said it was only a matter of time before the community rose to the top of the list.

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“Over 460 lakes within 25 miles of the city make it a perfect location for angling enthusiasts,” FishingBooker said of Brainerd. “The fishing is great any day of the year and even in winter that doesn’t change.

“Whether you’re going for an ice fishing trip on Round Lake, trying your luck at Lake Hubert, or joining in the activities on Gull Lake, you’re in the right place. Bluegills, walleye, largemouth bass, yellow perch, northern pike and many others inhabit the waters around Brainerd.”

Rounding out FishingBooker’s top eight ice fishing destinations were:

  • Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin.

  • Copper Harbor, Michigan.

  • Castle Lake, California.

  • Boysen Reservoir, Wyoming.

  • Moosehead Lake, Maine.

Last year, FishingBooker ranked Devils Lake as the top ice fishing destination in the U.S., followed by Upper Red Lake, which failed to make this year’s ranking.

The full FishingBooker article is available here .

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1988.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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For me, the walleye has a mystique I find difficult to explain. The appearance is definitely part of it. Walleyes are beautiful fish, and their color varies depending on where you catch them.