Europeans have often taken a somewhat laid-back approach to construing natives’ names for places. When a couple of Iroquois youths casually gave Jacques Cartier directions in 1535, the boys could have little imagined that their word for village, “kanata,” would one day become the name of the second largest country on earth. Early Nebraskan settlers would have been sorely disappointed had they expected an abundance of red willows when they arrived at Red Willow Creek — the Dakota had named it “chanshasha wakpala” after the red dogwoods there, but someone bungled the translation. In that vein, the somewhat imposingly named Devils Lake in North Dakota had originally been called “mni wak’á? chante,” which roughly translates to “sacred water” in the Dakota language. It’s a shame the lake’s name got flipped on its end, as its original one suits it far better.

Devils Lake is not only North Dakota’s largest natural body of water at 180,000 acres, but also the state’s greatest fishing destination. Its perch are so lively that Devils Lake is regarded as the capital of the world for the fish, and it consistently vies with exotic destinations such as River Lulea in Sweden and Ammassalik in Greenland for the best ice fishing on earth. Perch aren’t the extent of Devils Lake’s fauna — brown trout, northern pike, bass, walleye, the unique burbot, and even the mighty johnny darter all live there, providing anglers with sport and delicious filets to sauté year-round.

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Competitive anglers need suffer no dearth of opportunities to prove that their jigs and spinners are best at Devils Lake, because the place hosts endless fishing tournaments. This June the 43rd Annual Devils Lake Chamber Walleye Tournament will take place, with a guaranteed $6,500 prize for the angler who lands the biggest walleye within the weight limit — you could buy nearly 160 pounds of jumbo leeches with so much money, ensuring your future walleye catches for decades to come! Thousands will also participate in the upcoming 35th Annual Devils Lake Volunteer Fire Department Ice Fishing Tournament, with prizes in the past including trucks, ATVs, large sums of money, and even a trip to Hawaii (where the ice fishing is abominable).

Devils Lake offers far more than just fishing. Nearby Sullys Hill National Game Preserve is home to bison, elk, deer, prairie dogs, and a constant flow of migratory ducks and geese. These creatures are not meant for Nosler Ballistic Tips and steel BBB shot — you are encouraged to shoot them with your camera, however. Creel Bay Municipal Golf Course provides 18 holes of world-class driving and chipping, and this May and June the town will host the 27th Annual Devils Run, “North America’s Hottest Car Show and Rally.” Like the animals at Sullys, you are not meant to shoot the cars with anything but a camera. Their owners would very likely take umbrage otherwise.

Devils Lake has got something for everyone to enjoy, and it’s only about a two and a half hours’ drive away from Bismarck or Fargo. Go to to learn more about a good, local vacation.


By David Scheller