DEVILS LAKE, N.D. — It was one of those hey-I-never-thought-of-that moments.
And the possibility might explain a thing or two.
On the way to an ice-fishing outing led by the Devils Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau earlier this week, a pickup-truck full of anglers learned that the area we soon would be fishing had, up until this ice-fishing season, never been open to fishing.
So, as one angler in the party said, there was a good chance fish in Lake Alice had never seen a lure before.
Which might explain the transducer incident.
Soon after getting started on that virgin fishery, Tanner Cherney, visitors service and outdoors media coordinator for the Devils Lake CVB, encountered a first. He got a bite — on the transducer of his sonar fish finder.
Cherney dropped the transducer through the hole to start fishing and got a surprise when a pike came up to the bottom of the ice and temporarily grabbed on to the super-hard rubber-like “cone.” When the pike let go, Cherney pulled the transducer up, then dropped it back down. Again, the pike hit it, this time holding on long enough for Cherney to pull it up into the bottom of the hole and get a good look at the fish before it again let go.
Figuring it to be 30-inches plus, Cherney this time dropped his line down the hole, and again, instantly got a hit. He wasn’t sure it was the pike, but when the line broke off after a short fight, he figured it was probably the same toothy fish.
Yes, pike pretty much will hit anything — evident by the transducer incident. And while Lake Alice is part of the Devils Lake “chain” and fish could come and go from the lake, at about 11,000 acres, some fish may never find their way out of the lake and into the massive Devils Lake system.
So there may be something to the logic that Lake Alice fish wouldn’t know a lure if they saw it.
Would that explain a slow bite? Probably not. On the second and final day of the outing, anglers in the group weren’t marking many fish. But considering the size of the lake, that’s probably not overly unusual. The fish could be anywhere.
Although early in the week, there were a few anglers here and there on Lake Alice on Tuesday and Wednesday. According to Cherney, the lake has been a draw since early in the season as anglers tried to tap into the new fishery, which before the outing, reportedly had been yielding nice pike and walleyes.
And anglers are trying to hit it while they can: Finally opened to sport fishermen by the powers-that-be, it will close to fishing after the winter season, when Lake Alice again will become the centerpiece of the Lake Alice National Wildlife Refuge.
And, later this winter, it may be difficult to access. The lake is located about 20 miles west of Devils Lake on Highway 2, and then another 15 miles or so to the north, mostly on dirt/snow-covered roads. Even with the little snow out there as of earlier this week, it wasn’t easy to get to the lake via pickup trucks. But with 16 inches or so of ice, at least where we fished, that it was safe for pickups was good to see; for the most part, ice conditions have been sketchy across the Devils Lake system this winter, vehicles a no-go.
Alice is a shallow lake — we fished in 4 to 8 feet, and it’s reportedly no deeper than 11 feet or so. And the water appeared to be fairly clear. So those lures should have been fairly visible to the fish.
But if a fish has never seen a lure before, does it matter?
Tipped mainly with minnow heads, those lures caught a few fish — mostly pike, but some walleyes, too.
Regardless, fishing a never-been-fished fishery was a first for me. I didn’t know what to expect, and that was new and exciting.
Like a pike hitting a transducer.