For the first time in several years, contestants fishing the Devils Lake Chamber of Commerce walleye tournament will be able to pass under bridges. “This means they can fish wherever their boats will take them,” said tournament director Johnnie Candle.
“Another new concept in and around Devils Lake is that the roadwork will be completed, paved and back to normal,” he added. Rising water has created havoc and headlines as Devils Lake, with no outlet, increased in size from 40,000 acres in 1992 to covering approximately 180,000 acres of North Dakota today.
The Chamber tournament now in its 37th year will run Friday and Saturday, June 21 – 22. Last year’s winners Jason Ramberg and Travis Clemens will be back. Ramberg, from Langdon, ND, said, “With the lake wide-open, anglers will spread out and fish their favorite spots. Many of the teams that stayed away due to roads and limited boundaries will be back. This is the most enjoyable tournament we fish.” His partner for the past 15 years is from Velva, ND, and Clemens said, “It’s a major accomplishment to win with the great field of anglers; they’re all friends.” He also added, “Stick to a game plan, and don’t chase memories.” The winners earn $5,000 guaranteed.
Flying 3,000 miles from Anchorage each year is Matt Perleberg. He grew up in North Dakota, and uses the tournament as an excuse to get home. He said, “The salmon and halibut fishing is great in Alaska, but I can’t get enough of my favorite -- walleye fishing.”
Clark Williams has fished nearly every Chamber tournament, with third, fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth and tenth place finishes. “My partners and I have done well, and we’ve also bombed,” he said, “I like the fact that every year I meet new people and make new friends. Yeah, there’s the competition and the need to put together a pattern, but it’s the camaraderie I like.” With the great fishing and ability to fish everywhere, he also expects more teams to enter.
The specifics of the tournament are two days of fishing, with Sunday, June 23 reserved as a “blow day.” The possession limit is six walleyes in the boat, with each team weighing five walleyes. There is no upgrading (culling) in this tournament. There are also prizes for other species and the incentives for entering early (by March 31) are very attractive. The entry fee is $275, which includes a banquet. All ages are welcome; one team member must be at least 18 years old. Artificial and live bait are permitted. Boats must be washed, cleaned, dried and inspected for aquatic nuisance species prior to launching before tournament pre-fishing. The biggest walleye each day is worth $500. The largest pike each day pays $250, and the heaviest perch and white bass award is $100 daily.
Director Candle, a professional walleye angler, Championship winner and full-time promoter said, “I enjoy being on the other side, making this event better for everyone by listening to the anglers and making the tough calls, when needed.” He especially likes the fact that many teams are father-son or grandpa-granddaughter or husband-wife teams. “This year, it will be back to the original concept of a big tournament with a local feel,” he said. “The teams heading out from Graham’s Island State Park each day are some of the best walleye fishermen in North Dakota.” To download the tournament application, go to www.devilslakend.com or call 701-662-4903 to have one mailed to your address.
Devils Lake has one of the highest-tech fish-cleaning stations in North America. It’s located just south of Ed’s Bait Shop on Hwy 20 (south of the city of Devils Lake), and free to the public. The 20 x 32 building can handle 15 anglers at one time. It has two grinders, a separate clean-up sink, regular and handicapped bathrooms, is heated (A/C for summer), has plenty of parking for trucks and trailers and is well-lit.
Devils Lake ice and open-water fishing guides target perch, walleyes and pike. They make every first-time angler feel like this is home, and the thousands of anglers who return year after year to fish with the same guides know that’s the case. For Devils Lake guides, winter ice conditions or the summer “bite,” activities, fish-cleaning station (open all year), lodging, resorts and restaurants, check www.devilslakend.com, or call 701-662-4903.