North Dakota largest

Devils Lake ice fishing derby

The annual Devils Lake Volunteer Fire Department Ice Fishing Derby attracts thousands of fishermen who enjoy their time on the ice. It is the largest ice fishing event held in North Dakota, occurring each year on the last Saturday in January. Kim Fundingsland/MDN

DEVILS LAKE – It is an amazing event, very well run and for an excellent cause. The annual Devils Lake Volunteer Fire Department Ice Fishing Derby was held the last Saturday in January.

“We got about 5,000 holes drilled this morning. We had about 150 people come out to help us with that,” said Cory Meyer, DLVFD assistant chief, while watching a steady stream of fishermen make their way onto the ice at Six Mile Bay. “We like to get about 5,000 people on the ice and we’re usually in the 4,000 area. It’s a good time.”

There’s no doubting that. The evidence could be seen throughout the designated fishing area where eager ice anglers were setting up their camps, some with flags or other indicators that helped identify who they are or where they are from.

“It’s a good time,” remarked Meyer. “It’s a real good event for us and a great fundraiser.”

“It’s neat. Everybody gets together and it’s to help out the fire department and the firemen,” added Jeffrey Ecker, Quinney, Wis. “It’s a nice event.”

Ecker was the winner of a new pickup during the 2019 DLVFD derby, so driving 11 hours with several friends to return to Devils Lake was easy to do. A member of his fishing party was Marty La Rue of Chippewa Falls, Wis.

“My friend Randy and I have been with the fire department district at Chippewa Falls for 20 years or so and we love to support this,” remarked La Rue. “It’s excellent and a good cause for the department. I just love it!”

While thousands of people fish the derby each year, competing for an impressive list of prizes, the DLVFD also sells 22,500 raffle tickets for 160 prizes worth more than $325,000. Money raised has help the DLVFD purchase some major pieces of equipment without requesting help from taxpayers.

“Over the years we’re over a million dollars plus in taxpayer savings,” said Meyer. “I don’t think anybody can complain about that and it’s nice to have the new equipment to do our jobs as firefighters, safely and getting the job done efficiently. That’s why firefighters from other states come to this.”

This year’s event was the 36th for the DLVFD. Scores of volunteers show up each year to make the huge derby a success. Snow is cleared from fields to make room to park hundreds of vehicles. Courteous volunteers assure that all participants are directed to the best available parking spot and that any question from a participant is answered promptly.

“A lot of people like to show up and help out. It’s all about the people that come out to help,” said Meyer. “We really appreciate everybody.”

The smell of burning charcoal drifted throughout the ice fishing area. Ice fishermen use charcoal to warm their hands and keep holes drilled in the ice from freezing over. Many of the tournament anglers arrived two or more hours prior to the start of the event so that they could stake their claim on a favorite spot. Fishing began at 1 p.m. and ended at 3:30 p.m.

“It’s just beautiful. Devils Lake is wonderful. This is where to go to catch decent fish and meet good people,” said La Rue while waiting with hundreds of other fishermen for the start of the event. “Why wouldn’t you do this?”

Thousands agree. The sight of so many fishermen on the ice at one time never fails to amaze the viewer too, all the while benefitting an excellent cause.

“We have several pieces of fire equipment in the fire station right now because of this event, paid for solely by this event,” stated Meyer.


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