Devil’s Lake, North Dakota – Part 1, Walleye Expectations Exceeded!

Mike Schoonveld caught our largest walleye of the day, but we hooked more than 75 fish, some nice perch too, in a half-day on the water. Imagine that.

  • Devils Lake is located in East-Central North Dakota – 1000 Shoreline Miles of Walleye Access
  • More than 100 Fishing Guides are Certified to provide Services on Devils Lake
  • Best Walleye Baits: Jigs, Crankbaits, Crawler Harnesses
Outdoor writer Dave Barus with the first walleye of the day.

By Bob Holzhei

There are 105 registered fishing guides who regularly host avid anglers to fish Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, many of them will find the fishing adventure of their lifetime. High expectations?  Not really, especially when a person considers there is steady fishing action success experienced throughout the year, including ice fishing. The 180,000 acres of Devils Lake provide more than 1,000 miles of shoreline.

Walleyes were targeted the first day of fishing on Devil’s Lake, however, there are northern pike, perch, crappie, panfish, trout and white bass among other popular angler species. 

When even I can catch walleye at the rate of 10 per hour, YOU KNOW the fishing is great at Devils Lake, ND.

The annual Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writer’s annual conference was held in September at Bismarck Mandan, North Dakota, and writers from all over the country discovered history, fishing, hunting and wonderful people. While there, an invitation was extended by Tanner Cherney, a host with the Devil’s Lake Convention & Visitor’s Bureau to join him and others at Devil’s Lake to experience their excellent walleye fishery.

My wife Shirley and I arrived late at Devils Lake, but we were just in time to meet local guide groups and experience the walleye fishing on nationally renowned Devil’s Lake.

Mike Schoonveld caught our largest walleye of the day, but we hooked more than 75 fish, some nice perch too, in a half-day on the water. Imagine that.

Captain Al Freidig, our local guide for the afternoon put my fishing partner, Dave Barus, and myself on the walleye. A total of 28 walleye were caught, many in the 12-14-inch range that speaks well for the future fishery here, all of these were caught and released, and we kept four for the table.

Crawler harnesses with nightcrawler bits on number 2 and 4 hooks were tied-up using 14-pound Berkley Fireline, these produced the steady action. Fenwick rods paired with Abu Garcia reels provided for easy fun in catching these fish in 18 to 27 feet of water. We used white spinner blade colors on the harnesses with the hooks baited with a half-nightcrawler.  Bottom bouncing over a rocky structure near drop-offs was the fishing strategy for the day. 

A professional fishing guide for 18 years, Freidig is sponsored by Devil’s Lake Tourism and he knows his stuff. He was entered in the North Dakota Fishing Hall of Fame in 2015 and is still active in lake access management, as well as maintaining boat ramps and cleaning stations Tobe free of charge and open to the general public. Freidig says, “Hang on guys, you’ll enjoy my 20-foot Ranger Fisherman and 250 horsepower Merc.” He zoomed us across the open lake to reach a variety of fishing spot in record time.

The best part of every trip, making room in the freezer. Mike Schoonveld (right) and I enjoyed using this wonderful fish-cleaning station located right at the Sleep Inn Hotel in Devils Lake.

Freidig’s boat rule is a good one for future conservation promotion, as he asked us to only keep walleye over 16 inches in length, allowing the smaller eyes to grow over the next year. We sure agreed to that idea. If you haven’t been here yet, put it on your bucket list.

For additional information: Devils Lake Convention & Visitor’s Bureau P.O. Box 879 Devils Lake, North Dakota 58301,, 701 662-4903, or contact Tanner Cherney: e-mail –, 701-662-4957. Contact guide, Al Freidig 701-662-7171.

Smiley Sakakawea Walleye – Fishing a Canyon Reservoir

Captain Jeremy Olsen shares secrets for fast walleye fun on Lake Sakakawea in early July.

  • SLOW-TROLL Tricks are Deadly on Walleye Waters
  • Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota, offers Hands-On Learning
  • Bring a Camera: Canyon Colors and Walleye Go Good Together
Delicious, tasty walleye are a top goal for anglers fishing everywhere, but on Lake Sakakawea, the pristine clean water is chilly all year long and the walleye taste better than most anywhere. Forrest Fisher Photo.

By Forrest Fisher

Wanna catch walleye?  Know the two rules that apply everywhere.  Rule #1: Catching fish is fun.  Rule #2: Fishing with a professional guide that understands fish movement helps to make Rule #1 possible.  You can do it on your own later.

No matter where you go, catching quality walleye as a target species fish is the primary objective for many anglers.  This story is proof that Rule #2 is a good money-saving idea.

Coincidentally, my wife and I were vacationing in North Dakota near Teddy Roosevelt National Park and my better half whispered in my ear, “You should go fishing at least one day while we are here – Lake Sakakawea is just up the road, I’ll go souvenir shopping.” Such a deal.  I could not say no.

So I asked Kelly Sorge what people fish for.  The “always cheerful” proprietor at Indian Hills Resort ( said, “Crappie, northern pike, bass, trout and walleye – we have all those species here, but most folks fish for walleye.  They like to eat them cooked over a campfire here.  The walleye are so pure and so tasty from Sakakawea.”  That settled it.

I rushed for my cellphone to make the call to Liebel’s Guide Service.  Capt. Jeremy Olsen called me back a short while later to set up time and departure to fish this beautiful Little Missouri River reservoir – it is pristine, with millions of years of erosion providing colorful rocky backdrops on the canyon walls.

Capt. Jeremy Olsen is a top fishing guide that will teach you how to have fun catching fish. Imagine catching 17 walleye in less than 90 minutes! Forrest Fisher Photo

Lake Sakakawea in central North Dakota was created for flood control on the Missouri River by the Garrison Dam.  The average width of the lake is 2-3 miles, but it is about 14 miles wide at the widest point, heavy with clean, deep water, shallow water, many undulating bay backwaters, drop-offs, flats, and a beautiful view of colorful mountain walls – hundreds of millions of years old, that form the gorge that creates this waterway.  In short, it is breathtaking!

We met at 7 a.m. and when I saw his new boat, I was thrilled, motivated and EAGER to set foot on the 21-foot Lund, 219-Pro-V, with a 350 horsepower Mercury Verado.  Cost: $81,000, I asked.  Cost of my Charter: $350.  A win-win for any angler.  The new Lund Pro-V fishing boats are special: quiet, safe, powerful, live well, many other features.  It’s all there on this boat.

We left the dock at 7:15 a.m., took 15 minutes to motor 10 miles to a chosen fishing spot (it didn’t take long at 62 mph), set up our lines on lightweight Phenix casting rods (  At 7:40 a.m., Capt. Jeremy had the fish figured out and we landed our first walleye.   By 9:15 a.m., we had landed 17 walleye!  Could we call this a great day?  No way, it was an insurmountable day!

It will be a day that I would never forget as a walleye angler.  Indeed, vacations and special fishing moments are about making special memories.   I have no doubt that Capt. Jeremy could do this again.

While I’ll admit, my standards are higher than the average – I expect to catch lots of walleye and often, to beat the usual catch rate, but who would have ever guessed this catch rate of walleye could even occur in wild waters in the middle of summer?  Not me.

Capt. Jeremy is an expert.  He knows the secrets to understanding how fish move, when they move, forage location, wind and eddy current effects, and how to attract fish to invoke a strike.  For this day, he choose Smiley Blade attractors and worms.  The Smiley Blades offer slow rotating action when tied in front of a 3-foot fluorocarbon leader that has two to four beads in front of a single 1/0 hook.  In actual use, this action is death to walleye on Lake Sakakawea.  I discovered after getting home to Lake Erie, it is deadly anywhere else that walleye swim too.  The blades turn with as little as 0.4 mph forward speed because they are made from lightweight Mylar.  Capt. Jeremy buys the blades separate and custom-makes the Smiley Blade rigs with his kids, adding a dash of special magic, I’m sure.

We attached the Smiley Rig leaders to a 1-1/4 ounce wire/bottom-bouncer and set the MinnKota Ulterra bow motor to troll at about 0.6 mph.  Three or four minutes later, presto!  Fish on!  Walleye after walleye came into the boat.  We released all the smaller fish as they were caught.

If you’re out that way, you can contact Capt. Jeremy through Lieber’s Guide Service at  He will travel to many other waters too, including Montana.

Of course, understanding where to drop lines (location), why to drop where we did (bait movement and water clarity), and how fast to go, are among reasons why we ask a charter captain to take us fishing when we go to a new lake.  A charter captain fishes many more times than we do and it is always a learning experience.

This was new water for me, I’m a Lake Erie walleye fisherman, fishing Lake Sakakawea was quite different.  To do it again, I think I’d contact Capt. Jeremy again and leave my boat home.  The trip was safe, fast, affordable and fun.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

To learn more about Smiley Blades, a video with details about rigging, design, styles and colors is here:

Accommodations: You can camp at Indian Hills for just $20/night.  There is a boat launch, convenience store, fish-cleaning station and running potable water at several spots.  If regular tenting is too primitive for you, there is one cabin there called “Peacepipe” that accommodates 6 people with bunks, A/C, sink and kitchen for $90/night.  At Peacepipe, you and your family can camp in comfort, and while this style camping cabin has no shower or toilet inside of it, the conveniences are an easy 200’ walk to the shower house.  There is a built-in, sit-down table that seats four, the kitchen counter includes a 2-burner hot plate, small refrigerator and wash basin (potable water is just outside) with drain.  You only need to provide your own sleeping bag or bedding.  Outside you’ll find a picnic table and fire ring, and exterior electrical outlets.  We stayed here and it was great.  Above that, they offer condo’s and lodge rooms too.  Choices are what life in the outdoor lane is all about.  The degree of “outdoorism” that you choose is available here.  My kind of place (

For additional general information on Lake Sakakawea and other North Dakota sites to see, visit

This may have been one of the most fun, most learning trips I have ever had the pleasure to experience. One last word, I love North Dakota!  My sweetheart of 48 years and I will be back soon.

Hot Whitetail Doe’s Search for Mr. Right Buck

HuntingIn the norther zone archery woods right now, from Maine to North Dakota, the outdoor whitetail deer action is ready to rock as the calendar moves toward rutting activity. This is the time when rutting bucks are chasing does that are not ready to mate. As a hunter, it’s pretty exciting to be in the woods just to watch the nature of the season!

Each doe is looking for Mr. Right Buck as their nature cycle takes them into estrus, while the bucks are looking for ANY and ALL doe’s to mate, ready or not, but once a doe close to estrus is found, the buck will usually follow that doe until peak time. Competitive bucks can become very frustrated at this time, allowing vulnerability for the deer with advantage to the hunter. It’s a hot time to be in the hunting woods if you can accurately place an arrow on the mark of your aim! That is, if your heartbeat is in control, but not sure there is any way to practice this.

Early season scouting is one of the best ways to identify prime areas to focus your hunting efforts, but many hunters work during the day and don’t have time. When hunting season comes around they simply head for their usual hunting woods and do the best they can.

Things is, they can still gain an advantage if they stalk and quietly walk country terrain in search of tree rubs and ground scrapes. The areas that signify telltale markers of bucks in the search for doe’s. The bucks that made those rubs and scrapes are not far away and they will return to check for signs of a visiting hot doe at least twice a day, usually just before sunset and then again in the morning hours before bedding down. Savvy hunters watch the wind and locate their stand downwind of the scrape line.

Use of a scent drag line can offer the hunter an honest advantage, bringing the deer right to the hunter. There are two ways to think about using scent, one is to attract a buck by use of hot doe scent, also known as “doe-in-heat” or “doe in estrus” scent, the other is to upset the buck and trigger him into a more aggressive mode with the use of “rutting buck scent”. The use of buck scent is working when you see the buck return to his scrape and start a violent surge attacking the ground around what he thought was his own isolated scrape. When that happens, you know this buck is upset and considers this area “his area.” On the other hand, if he knows he is not the dominant buck, the buck scent may cause him to bolt away and never return, so smart hunters gotta be careful with buck scent if you are willing to settle for an ordinary six-point buck.

With your stand in the right zone, the visiting buck or doe is at the mercy of your shot. Be sure of distance to target and know your capability for an effective and sure kill shot.