Devils Lake - Being the Number One North American ice fishing destination is an accolade that Devils Lake fishing guides take seriously.
Devils Lake - Being the Number One North American ice fishing destination is an accolade that Devils Lake fishing guides take seriously. They make sure each client receives more bang for the buck (and more fish). Guides are on the ice daily. They know where to go and what to do for the most successful trips possible.
There are large guide services like the Perch Patrol, now 11 guides strong, combining their three centuries of on-ice skills and knowledge. This produces results, and like Perch Patrol founder Zippy Dahl said, “Hiring a guide is about saving time. Guests are here for a brief period and cannot compete with our time on the water. Knowledge is a valuable commodity.” The guide team works together to make sure all clients catch fish.
The Perch Patrol faces the challenge of escorting beginners to experts and from young to old on the ice. “We educate, catch fish, offer a quality experience, and create a lifetime of memories in just a few days,” Zippy said. Ice has a life of its own, and he added, “It lives, breathes and changes. It’s now healing and after Christmas, we begin our non-stop ice season. We want to make each trip a two-way journey. Safety is most important.”
Just like the fishing season – open 12 months of the year on Devils Lake – Zippy’s Perch Patrol can trek across the ice and snow no matter the conditions in their tracked ATV vehicles. This is the Perch Patrol’s 23rd year ice guiding. Based on the fall open-water fishing, Zippy anticipates a very good winter season.
He said, “This fall we caught more big perch by accident while walleye fishing than ever. The same holds for walleyes. Indications are that this will be a winter to remember.” Zippy can be reached directly at 701-351-3474 and also has an availability calendar on perchpatrol.com. There are also packages available via Woodland Resort and the Sleep Inn motel. “We can still fit people in, but spots are booking rapidly,” he said.
Operating from Minnewaukan on Devils Lake west shoreline is Aaron McQuoid. He has 26 years’ experience on the lake. The reason he has an 85 percent repeat clientele is because his five guides work hard to provide everything for a great day plus hot homemade soup and sandwiches for lunch. “From the first phone call to cleaning fish and providing the latest rods, electronics and underwater cameras, our job is to educate people. We teach and explain what to do. The more they catch and the more they learn, the more lessons they can take home to use on their local lakes,” he said.
Aaron’s guides fish in hard-sided permanent houses. They move often. Each guide works one-on-one with four clients. “If we can show them fishing tips, and they catch fish because of it, we have developed one more ice angler,” Aaron pointed out. He chuckled about a day his clients didn’t believe the electronics that were showing fish below the holes. “They weren’t biting, but the AquaVu camera convinced them the fish were down there, and it took a few jigging tricks and lure changes to get them to bite,” he said. “That showed them. They learned. It made the day special.”
He knows ice fishing has evolved from sitting on a bucket all day. He said, “For people who get out two or three days a year, it’s much more economical to hire our crew and stay with us than it is to buy everything to do it yourself.”
Aaron has several houses within Minnewaukan that can handle four to eight clients with all the amenities of home. His team will begin guiding after Christmas. He can be reached at 701-351-6058 or at mcquoidsguides.com. He said openings still exist, but they are about 80 percent booked this winter.
A “one-man” guiding service run by Ancil Reynolds is another option for first-class treatment and a learning experience. He arrived at Devils Lake a dozen years ago to fish a walleye tournament. One thing led to another. Now he guides there full-time.
“Being a newer guy to the neighborhood, I read the history and learned everything about the lake. Some of my trips are history lessons. When I point out and show them the machinery under the lake’s surface (rapid flooding in the past 40 years) and the lake’s immense size, my guiding for fish becomes more like a tour guide,” he said.
Ancil provides all the tackle, gear, electronics, shelters, plus a tracked ATV to reach his destination, which could be anywhere on the 175,000 acre lake. He moves to where his clients can catch fish, and said, “I love to teach. That’s one thing people can take home with them.” He feels this winter will showcase the lake’s jumbo perch (those 12 to 14 inchers) based on fall catches of big perch.
Devils Lake is a special ice fishing destination. Ancil believes many people fish their home waters in summer, but travel to Devils Lake to taste the thrill of winter-time jumbo perch and superb walleye fishing. “I also love to pike fish. Until clients run for tip-ups all day long, they don’t know how much fun pike can be…and big pike,” he said. He can be reached at 701-230-0367 or ancilsguideservice.com. He will also start guiding after Christmas.
For more information about Devils Lake guide services, ice conditions, motels, resorts, fish cleaning stations, fishing reports for walleye, pike, perch and white bass, community activities, tournament opportunities, dining, casino, pike fillet tactics and much more, go to devilslakend.com, or call the Tourism office, 701-662-4903.