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Published May 16, 2013, 06:59 PM

Flipside of the Flood: Better fishing, better business

The effects of the 20-year Devils Lake flood have been well documented. Much of it negative, but some changes have meant big business for the local economy.

By: Adam Ladwig, WDAZ

The effects of the 20-year Devils Lake flood have been well documented. Much of it negative, but some changes have meant big business for the local economy.

Case in point - the Devils Lake fishing industry, once struggling just to survive, is now one of the top angling destinations in the country. While Devils Lake is unrecognizable from what it was 20 years ago, that can also be said about the fishing industry the rising lake has helped spawn.

Pro guide Jason Mitchell says the fishing is the best it's ever been on Devils Lake. That wasn't always the case. 20 years ago officials were scrambling to add water to the lake.

Randy Hiltner, North Dakota Game and Fish: "When I first started working on Devils Lake in the early 1990's the lake level was much lower than it is today, some 30 feet."

A lake preservation committee even suggested cutting the lake in half.

Joe Belford, former Ramsey County Commissioner: "One of the things we were talking about was diking up the bridge by the casino and pumping the water from the east to the west to try to save half the lake's fishery.

But then the water came, and wouldn't stop, raising lake levels 30 feet in 20 years.

Belford: "Our prayers were answered and we have the finest fishery in the country."

Adam Ladwig: "It's no coincidence that the significant increase in Devils Lake itself has led to a significant increase in fishing related industries. Everything from fishing guides to lakeshore resorts have thrived in the last 20 years.

Randy Hiltner: "The higher water makes for better and more fish habitat."

Which have helped guides like Mitchell flourish.

Jason Mitchell, professional fishing guide: "Over time that expanded from two of us guiding to a lot of days we'll run up to 12 or 14 boats a day."

And lakeshore sites like Woodland Resorts grow from humble roots.

Jason: "They had a restaurant in the basement of their own house and a few cabins and fed the hunters and fishermen in their own home."

To give you an idea of how good the fishing is in the Lake Region, during the spring you can literally pull up on the side of the road, find a culvert with water flowing through it and expect to catch some fish.

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