Mark Walters, Contributor
Follow along each week on the adventures of Mark Walters, a syndicated outdoor adventure columnist who lives in Necedah, Wisconsin. He began writing his column, An Outdoorsman’s Journal, in 1989. It includes hunting, fishing, lots of canoeing and backpacking. He currently writes for around 60 newspapers on a weekly basis. He hopes you enjoy reading about his adventures!
This past week I stayed in a 17-foot Ice Castle fishing shack on Stump and Devil’s Lake near Devil’s Lake, North Dakota. Dakota Jeffords, Ross Moll, Joey Weber, and Weston Sexton all grew up near Niagara, Wisconsin and graduated in 2012. Dakota is stationed at Grand Forks, Air Force Base and is the man responsible for hooking us up with the Ice Castle. This week’s column will literally be all over the map as there is a ton to write about.
Thursday, February 25th
High 26, Low 12
We met on Stump Lake which is a drainage lake that was created by Devil’s Lake. Dakota was pulling our home, Joey and Weston had arrived at daybreak and fished all day, Ross and I made the solid 9 hour drive and after setting out four lines a piece; three tip ups and a jig pole in the shack the show began.
First, the fish catching has been very slow, but we had high hopes by bed time, and tons of laughs. Later we had 2 walleye and a couple of perch.
Friday, February 26th
High 24, Low 2
Second, it is much colder in North Dakota than in Wisconsin and the wind kicks your rear end. We got up this morning and made the decision that we were relocating to Devils Lake. That sounds real simple but Devil’s Lake is 95,624 acres and after a six mile drive on Stump we did a forty mile drive on the road and checked out three spots on Devils Lake before we settled into the area we would call home for the next three days. To put it simply, I was amazed at the size of this body of water which has no natural outlet and did most of its growth in the mid-90s when it gobbled up 140 square miles of farmland and 300 homes and farms.
Between all of us we had several contacts for the fishing and all our info and personal experience would not make the fish bite. The last hour of daylight, I caught a couple of walleyes, and a perch and had a great conversation with a retired guide that was staying on the ice for the weekend.
I was told we were in an excellent spot and I learned a lot as he was fishing directly over a machine shed that vanished during the rise when this body of water rose 26-feet in four years.
Here is the real story for this trip, the four guys that I was with are great buddies that all have excellent careers, a work ethic, and love to give each other BS every chance they get. They grew up in what may be the last of the era where kids could be kids and they have more stories than there are pages in the bible.
Saturday, February 27th
High 7, Low -16
Talk about freeze your hands off.
We were up before first light and with the wind and air temp it was minus 27. These yahoos decided it was time for refreshments before first light and what a show that was for me to watch. I fished hard as they kind of did as well but the wrestling matches, verbal abuse, and tying Ross’s shoe strings together with first 20-pound mono and then Gorilla Tape when he took a nap was a hoot.
Back in the day I hunted elk in Montana and in reality, per capita, I honestly believe this part of the country has the most unassumingly good and tough people in the lower 48. Without trying I became friends with two groups of North Dakotan’s that made it very clear I could hunt or fish with them anytime I wanted, and I was even given an offer to buy a piece of property for $2500 for a base camp.
Back to fishing, jigging in the shack and we tried, that is for sure. The perch bite was next to dead, but the one ray of hope was tip ups that were well tended and it was for the most part northern pike.
There was a good 36-inches of ice and we worked hard and thought hard but as it was for everyone that we spoke with on this body of water a non-bite.
We broke camp at sunup the next morning, the temp was minus 8 and to be perfectly honest, every one of us was exhausted.
As soon as this is sent out, I am packing for a four-day trip on Little Bay de Noc of camping and hopefully catching extremely long, fat walleye that take a long time to ice and make me dream all summer of a winter on the ice.
Rest is for the dead!
Check out previous weeks’ columns at: www.outdoorsmansjournal.com