Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Minnesota Lake Profile – Devil Track Lake, Cook County

Cook’s Devil Track offers sinfully good walleye fishing

 

By Glen Schmitt
Staff Writer

 

Devil Track Lake is located about 8 miles up the Gunflint Trail in northeastern Minnesota, but don’t think of it as remote. This 1,876-acre fishery is the most residentially-developed lake in Cook County, and its easy access makes it a regular fishing stop for local and visiting anglers alike.

 

Devil Track has healthy smallmouth bass and lake whitefish populations, and it does kick out some thick northern pike on occasion. But without question the main draw here is the lake’s ability to consistently produce high numbers of walleyes.

 

According to Matt Weberg, DNR assistant fisheries supervisor in Grand Marais, trophy-caliber walleyes – those over 20 inches – are the exception. But there seems to be no shortage of fish for the frying pan in Devil Track’s water.

 

“The lake is dominated by walleyes and has been since management practices started on it,” Weberg said. “Its population history has always been high numbers of small, slow-growing walleyes.”

 

Natural reproduction is a fairly large part of maintaining Devil Track’s walleye numbers – so much so that the state did not need to stock walleyes in it from 1975 through 2005. 

 

But fingerling stocking does occur if survey results show two consecutive years of natural recruitment that falls below management goals. Thus, the lake has been stocked with walleyes in 2006, 2011, 2013, and 2019.

 

The long-range goal for walleyes in gill nets is five fish per set. Survey results last year revealed a lower walleye population, with nets averaging 3.8 fish per lift – thus, the 2019 stocking.

 

The bulk of walleyes sampled in 2019 measured between 10 and 16 inches in length, while a creel survey conducted last summer showed that the majority of walleyes harvested by anglers were less than 14 inches long.

 

“That’s always been the case on Devil Track. You might catch a bigger walleye once in a while, but they seem to max out around 16 inches,” said John Muhich, of Buck’s Hardware in Grand Marais. “You need to approach it with the mindset that you’re going to have to sort through some small fish.”

 

Devil Track also is considered a high-quality smallmouth bass fishery. First sampled by the DNR in 1990, the  smallie population has been booming in recent years, and anglers seem to be catching a lot of them, based on last summer’s creel information.

 

Angler information indicated that the number of 12- to 16-inch smallmouth bass is solid and that more anglers have been targeting them now than in years past.

 

“It’s another (angling) opportunity for people who fish Devil Track, but some locals feel (smallies) might even be taking over the lake,” Muhich said. “There are a lot of fish from 11⁄2 to 3 pounds, and definitely 4- and 5-pounders in there.”

 

A less-targeted species among anglers – northern pike – provides a low-density population that consists of some bigger fish. The lake has enough deep, cool water for summertime refuge, along with a lake whitefish population for forage, so you can be sure quality pike swim here.

 

Based on last year’s creel information, the number of people targeting pike was minimal, and the number of fish caught was low, but some pike over 30 inches were caught.

 

Lake whitefish also provide fall sport-netting and summer fly-fishing opportunities on Devil Track. These typically are quality whitefish that attract a select group of anglers.

 

“There’s a core group of people who fly fish for whitefish when the mayflies hatch,” Weberg said. “It also remains popular for sport-netting for those willing to go to the effort.” 

Devil Track Lake

Nearest town……Grand Marais

Surface area……………1,876 acres 

Maximum depth………….50 feet

Shore length………………17 miles

Water clarity………………….11 feet

AIS present……Spiny waterflea

 

Fish species present:

Walleye, smallmouth bass, lake whitefish, northern pike, yellow perch, white sucker, green sunfish. 

 

For information:

DNR area fisheries office (218) 387-6021, the DNR website http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind or Buck’s Hardware (218) 387-2280.

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