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It May Be Devils Lake but Really It's Closer to Heaven's Pond!   Wednesday 02-18-2009 11:19am CT

By Billy Hildebrand

Host of Fan Outdoors

KFAN Radio

It started as just another Fan Outdoors remote broadcast but turned out to be an indelible memory I can’t wait to make again! The location was to be Devils Lake, North Dakota. I had heard about the lake and of course the Perch Patrol and have actually talked on the phone to Zippy Dahl with fishing reports in past years but had absolutely no idea how unique that experience and the whole Devils Lake area would be in person. Earlier we talked with Sue Johnsrud, Devils Lake Tourism Director setting up the trip details & a guide for a day on the lake. She also asked if we’d like a guide for day 2. Thinking that I’m not a stranger to fishing and with a day being led to fish we’d be fine on our own days 2 & 3. Well, now in hindsight I couldn’t have been more WRONG!

But let’s back up a bit and pick it up as we drove into town for the first time. It was a welcome sight after miles of flatland fields and icy roads left from the rains a couple days before. The local Wall Mart was the visual key to finding the Tourism office. Here we learned a lot about this small town, its’ past, some future activities and about the history attached to the fall and rise of Devils Lake itself. The lake, which was practically dry at one point started out as about 43,000 acres and now 140,000 large and predicted to rise another 5 feet this year. The town and some surrounding areas are protected by a 20’+ dike holding the waters back from the town. Other homes, farms and lands weren’t so lucky. They are now lake bottom ornaments, well fish structure I guess. Wow!

Next stop Woodland Resort to meet Kyle & Karen Blanchfield, the owners. Three foot blower cut snow banks lined the road with single digit temps engulfing us from truck to office door. Welcoming warm smiles from Kyle & Karen, some tackle I’d never seen along with the usual stuff, pictures of lucky anglers holding huge walleyes, pike and giant perch were part of a first impression. We’d made it! Kyle said we’d be fishing with “Zippy” and that he’d be off the lake in a bit. I wondered about the name, kinda funny. He must be just a little high strung guy. We set up the radio stuff and Karen was struggling with a Hallmark computer virus. Steve, my friend and fishing buddy jumped right in to help since he’s an IT guy in real life. Soon the door opened, some anglers had come off the lake. “Limits of walleyes for all” they announced along with a few perch! A really big Kent Hrbek type of guy wearing a big smile in red cold weather bibs followed. Kyle introduced me to Zippy Dahl. A little guy? WRONG again I thought and smiled to myself! The Thursday Fan Outdoors broadcast included John Campbell, President of the Devils Lake Chamber of Commerce, Kyle and Zippy. It was just really fun. We laughed and again I learned a lot. (Hear it again at Fan on Demand)

After closing the bar that night with Kyle & Zippy morning came fast. With a great breakfast in the resort restaurant Zippy announced it was “time to head out” at 7. Jeff, with 4 anglers also was to be his wing man that day. A “wing man?” Well soon I’d see in person the importance of a wing man and Saturday I’d be looking for my own.

A short drive later we got to the lake and headed out. It was like a moonscape. Bright snow white surface drifts with highs and lows but rough, like driving across a plowing. A ¾ ton red Chevy Crew Cab with 2 Clam houses, 1 in back and 1 on a rack, rocking and rolling, pitching and jerking with Zippy at the wheel in total command of it all. He said he’d be aiming for the low spots. Wondering again what the… Suddenly we dropped about 2 feet down, into slush and stuck tight. Enter the “Wing Man!” Jeff worked his way around front hooked on a tow strap and backed away. We popped out like a cork. Now I understood the caked ice on the front of Jason Mitchells’ Snow Bear. Jason’s also part of Zippy’s Perch Patrol team. Turns out the low spots are usually solid with the highs hiding water pockets filled by the recent warm weather melt now past and below zero again.

Truck stopped and we were at our first spot. Zippy grabbed his auger and drilled 4 holes. Two each. Electronics, minnow buckets & rods handed out along with some instruction on the electronics, heater fired up and flap zippered shut. We were fishin’! It didn’t take long for me to watch that red line come onto the flasher, come up to my bait and BANG—I missed him! Cursing, back down went the spoon ‘n minnow head. It wasn’t long for another to come by—got him. Bout 2 pounds and in the bucket. Number one of my 5 fish limit. Zippy spent time in the Chevy drivers seat. GPS mounted under the rear view mirror and flasher on the dash to the left of the wheel. Door open, truck idling he fished alongside the truck. Moving and looking for fish constantly. About 40 minutes later he said “time to move!” One of about 15 times that day. Being on the ice every day these guys have got a pretty good idea where and when to pack up.

Just before the sun set below the horizon Zippy, still looking for fish hollered “Billy they’re here!” Two holes punched with Steve & I making one last move to Zip. He said “pound it on the bottom a couple times & bring it up!” Sure enough bang—fish! Zippy too but this one was a trophy. We guessed 11+ pounds. A couple pics later and back into the water squeezing through that 8” hole. A fitting ending to an absolutely wonderful day!

The next day Steve & I headed out on our own. I promptly got stuck but with the help of Aaron McQuoid, another area guide we got free. Another fun day but no fish! So my recommendation to you—fish with Zippy Dahl, his buddy Jeff, Jason Michell or Aaron McQuoid. They keep you on fish and block the “wood ticks” too but that’s another story. With no exception Woodland Resort is 1st Class along with Kyle & Karen and everyone else. The food is fabulous and the town of Devils Lake absolutely charming!

So if you haven’t been to Devils Lake, ND don’t wait another day! It’s fabulous and I can’t wait for a return trip! Rumor has it they’ve got some pretty good waterfowling there too.

At least that’s how I see it!


Perch Patrol Loses One of it's Founding Fathers

By Jason Mitchell

 

This past fall, I lost a good friend when Tony Dean passed away. When another good friend, Dave Tronson passed away shortly after Christmas, I could only reckon that Tony was hitting the first ice of the year on the big pond above where the fish always bite and he wanted the companionship of one of the best ice anglers and guides any of us will ever know. Tony often said in the company of many that Dave Tronson was the best ice angler he had ever seen or known. Nobody that knew Dave could ever dispute that fact. The fact that Tony had spent a great deal of time fishing with a “who's who” of ice anglers speaks of the magnitude of Dave Tronson. I was fortunate or rather blessed to be able to spend perhaps a thousand or more days with Dave out on the ice while guiding with the Perch Patrol Guide Service, which Dave helped found over fifteen years ago. In that time, I never once seen him in any kind of confrontation and he didn't have too many bad things to say about anybody or anything. Dave was a gentlemen and everybody who knew the man loved him. On his own angling accomplishments, Dave was meek and humble. He     was a man that anybody could greatly admire.                                           

 

When you ask around Devils Lake , especially with the local anglers that pioneered much of the reputation of Devils Lake as a great winter fishery, one name always came up and that name was Dave Tronson. Dave was a true legend amongst ice anglers on Devils Lake . A man with a giant reputation but the real man that caused such a huge shadow seemed almost clueless to the impact and reputation he possessed. Like a beautiful women who doesn't have a clue she is pretty. He wanted no recognition or fame, he made every excuse in the book not to get his picture taken or be filmed for a television segment. A few years back, Zippy Dahl had to practically trick him in order to film a television show and the only television host Dave ever cared for was Tony Dean.

 

Dave was a genuine man and so was Tony so they got along well. The show that Tony did with Dave is one of my favorite shows Tony ever produced. While Dave didn't ever like being the center of attention, he was always there in the background helping however he could. Dave made the rest of us look like much better anglers than we were. When watching some of the old videos we have done over the years, Dave Tronson's pickup is in the background of every one. His quiet and gentle disposition really was the heart of the Perch Patrol all of these years. Dave was the one that kept many of us younger, whipper snappers like myself in line with just his actions.

 

A couple of winters ago, the Lake Region Anglers Association presented Dave with a lifetime achievement award. Most of Dave's close friends and family where there and again, his family had to trick him into receiving the award. His family had to tell Dave that they were just taking him out for supper. When they brought Dave into the KC Hall in Devils Lake and he saw all of us, we practically had to put a leash on him. He knew something was up. Accolades were so hard for the man to receive but he was beaming with pride when he walked up to receive the award. As he approached the front of the meeting room to receive the plague, where a crowd full of people where on their feet clapping, he reached over and bumped his fist into mine, his eyes were wet and he was trying hard not to display too much gloat or emotion. His humbleness made my eyes wet. I was so proud to be able to call him a friend.

 

Behind this soft, warm exterior however laid a very tough man, the toughest man I have ever known. Dave had fought cancer a few times before and won and also battled diabetes. He continued to fish and guide with a hip that pit bone against bone. I never had to guide under a lot of pain and still found something to complain about on occasion. Dave guided and fished under a lot of pain and would never complain. We all thought or hoped that he was invincible but this past December, we found out he wasn't.

 

I often joked that Dave could out fish all of us with a piece of sewing thread wrapped around his finger. Berkley would send Dave boxes of clothes, rods, reels but he gave most of the stuff away to his grandkids. He preferred to wear his old green Cargill sweatshirt he got from the grain elevator in Doyon where he lived. His rods would often be broken and held together with electrical tape. He often took broken rods and made homemade wooden handles in which the rod blank would stick out from the handle crooked, still he could out fish us. “Don't tell Zippy that I broke another one of these fancy rods,” he used to snicker to me with an almost devilish grin. I think he took a pleasure in out fishing us with a broken off rod that was taped together with half a roll of electrical tape. The rest of us believed we needed boxes of tackle and racks full of rods to catch fish. Dave's arsenal included a five-gallon bucket that held a bunch of broken rods and his tackle box was about six rusted lures laying on the dash of his pickup. Nobody could or would say anything however because he would land ten pound walleyes with a broken noodle rod that had one guide on the end. Dave Tronson will be surely remembered as a great, great fisherman.

 

Dave never figured out how to enter phone numbers into his cell phone so he had a piece of paper taped to his dash with all of his friend's numbers. Every time he called somebody, he would squint down at his piece of paper and punch in every number. I was always pretty proud of the fact that I was on this list… my name was spelled “jayson.” Dave loved his Vexilar but seldom used his GPS. He got by just fine however as he could recon how to find just about any spot on the lake. Dave would often mark his holes where he caught fish with something in his pickup. He is the only guy I never had the heart to reprimand for littering. So many mornings when we met for breakfast, he would describe how to find a spot where he caught a limit of perch, “I put a “Dr. Thunder” pop can right next to the hole so you can find it today.” One morning, about five us spent half an hour driving around in circles trying to find a hole that had a white napkin stuck next to it. I will miss seeing his little pop cans stuck in the snow next to a froze over hole where he had marked a spot for us to fish. Most of all, I will miss the incredible man who found those fish and marked these spots for us with his maroon and white “Dr. Thunder” pop cans.

 

Dave had a true love for fishing that was contagious. During his career on the ice of Devils Lake , he taught countless people how to fish and he introduced many people to ice fishing. Dave was a constant on the ice, a friendly man who fished just about every day all winter long, year after year. Sooner or later if you fished Devils Lake through the ice, you would meet Dave. His passion for life and fishing rubbed off on everyone around him. Many people love to fish today because of Dave Tronson and that gift is a wonderful thing to be remembered for.

 


                                 We will Never Forget You Tony

 

Columnist Tony Dean dies at 67

Josh Verges
jverges@argusleader.com

10/20/08

Outdoors broadcaster and conservationist Tony Dean died early Sunday as a result of complications from an appendectomy.

The 67-year-old was among immediate family members at his home in Pierre, where he had been seated in the living room overlooking the Missouri River.

"He could see the water; he could see the ducks," said his wife, Darlene DeChandt. "He knew he was sick, but he said, 'You know, I'm not afraid.' "

The family is organizing a service to celebrate Dean's life. His body will be cremated and the ashes sprinkled over lands where he liked to hunt and fish.

Dean had his appendix removed in Pierre in late September and was moved to a Sioux Falls hospital a week later to treat complications. He returned home Thursday. His death was not a surprise.

Dean earned a reputation for standing up for conservation, no matter the financial consequences. He was criticized for supporting Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson and then again for backing Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

DeChandt said her husband's final work before he fell ill last month was recording commercials for Obama's campaign. If Obama were to win, she said, Dean was going to be on his transition team.

"He was absolutely thrilled. He felt strongly that Obama was the one with enough insight and was young enough" to appreciate land conservation, DeChandt said.

Jason Mitchell of Devil's Lake, N.D., recorded several TV shows with Dean for "Tony Dean Outdoors" before buying the program early this year. Dean eased the transition by joining Mitchell as co-host for the new "Jason Mitchell Outdoors."

Mitchell said Dean had the courage to stand up against the National Rifle Association when it supported candidates who he felt did not have conservation at heart.

"He took a lot of those stances, sometimes at a great financial cost," he said.

"Tony could see the big picture. He was doing those things for future generations."

Conservation activist Dave Zentner of Duluth, Minn., had been a close friend of Dean's for 40 years. Zentner said they both promoted a respect for the land and water that hunters and anglers enjoy.

"He knew there had to be a message about taking care of that resource," he said.

Dean hosted and produced "Tony Dean Outdoors" since 1985 and produced the daily radio show "Dakota Backroads" since 1990. He also wrote columns for the Argus Leader and was considering forming a conservation think tank before he died.

DeChandt said a fund will be established in Dean's name to set aside land for public hunting.

"We're losing more than a friend. The prairies have lost a voice that is, to me, the most amazing voice of a generation," Zentner said. "And it's a tough loss to take."




Staying on Top of Moving Fish

                                                                                  By Mark Strand

 

Using instant setup Fish Trap shelters by Clam, and a deep connection with Dave Genz, Perch Patrol Guide Service consistently leads clients to good catches on challenging Devils Lake. Covering mile after mile of iced-over Devils Lake in pursuit of catchable fish is one of the sport's supreme challenges. Structure is scarce and one of the lake's most important food sources– freshwater shrimp– is nomadic by nature.  Now, add the pressure of paying clients to the mix and it toughens the task even more.  This is the playing field for North Dakota 's famous Perch Patrol Guide Service.

In order to stack the odds in their favor, the Perch Patrol chooses Fish Trap instant setup shelters by Clam.

“Every day it's a new challenge, to find and stay on top of fish,” says Steve ‘Zippy' Dahl, Perch Patrol Founder and Head Guide. “Even after we have our clients temporarily on fish, at least one of us (guides) is already off, searching for the next pod of biters.

“Our fish are constantly moving, so we have to move to stay with them. The Fish Traps keep us moving, and keep us covered. Our customers are extremely comfortable, in padded swivel chairs, with the heater going. They can concentrate on trying to get the fish to bite, and they can move from spot to spot very quickly. At the end of the day, we always hear about what a pleasure it is to fish inside the Traps.”

Zippy talks about the long history between Perch Patrol and Fish Trap, dating back to the early days when Dave Genz brought his invention out to Devils Lake . “We appreciate the time we get to spend with Dave,” Zippy said. “He has become a good friend to us over the years, and he still comes out and fishes with us. We talk fishing, we share ideas, it's the kind of connection you can't have with any other company.

“The people working at Clam Corp. are great too. They listen. One year they sent their whole front office up here. We got to bend the ear of the lead engineer Tom Walters. We discussed things like tub size and seat heights on the Fish Trap Voyagers.” Zippy stated. “Out of the blue, I asked him if there was any way to sew in a rear door so when we (Perch Patrol Guides) are explaining things to our clients like how to read and use a Vexilar, and different jigging techniques, we wouldn't be tap dancing through the maze of 4 holes, the Vexilars, dead stick rods, and the heaters.” Zippy explained. “They took a simple idea and made it better, the next year Clam Corp. came out with the Trap Link system and included in it is a rear door,” Zippy smiles.

 

“When you're in a Fish Trap, you're fishing out of a piece of history, the shelter that started the ice fishing revolution.”  For its part, Clam and Dave Genz feel the same way about Zippy and his guides.

“In a lot of ways,” says Genz, “we have similar histories. The Perch Patrol plowed the road for a lot of people. They've been helping customers be successful for many years, on one of the toughest lakes to consistently catch fish.”  Genz adds this: “Perch Patrol is extremely versatile. It's a big lake out there, and you have some choices. You can go after jumbo perch, walleyes, and northern pike. If you go with the flow and follow your guide, chances are you're gonna catch some nice fish.”

Add it all up, and if you're a Perch Patrol customer, you're in good hands. This year the Perch Patrol Guide Service will put the brand new Thermo X Voyager to the test. This was a shelter designed with the Perch Patrol in mind. The new beefy 1 inch conduit was made to withstand even some of the fiercest NW winds that rip through the open prairies of North Dakota on frozen Devils Lake . The insulated thermo tents which are 28 degrees warmer than any comparable sized portable shelter, will impress anyone's wife on a 30 below day

 

Dave Tronson with Jumbo Yellow Perch

Perch Patrol Guide Dave Tronson Receives the Lake Region Anglers Association's Highest Honor
The Life Time Achievement Award.

When you talk about an award such as the Lake Region Anglers Association‘s Lifetime Achievement Award, you sometimes have to think awhile to come up with that special person that fits the criteria. After all it is an award that is recognized as the club's highest honor and it also is an award that does not get handed out all that often.

But when you think of fishing and fisherman and fisherwomen as well, and as long as our winters are here in Devils Lake, North Dakota it is not too difficult think about ice fishing and ice anglers - the people who do it. After all ice fishing is perhaps our longest season of the year. When you think of ice fishing on Devils Lake, there is one name that comes to mind, and that name belongs to Mr. Dave Tronson. It doesn't matter what coffee house, resort or bait shop you go to, you are sure to hear Dave's name brought up, and if you stay awhile your bound to hear a great Dave Tronson story.

Maybe you'll hear the story of Dave being the first person on Devils Lake to catch a walleye over 10 pounds back in 1982, or how he helped pioneer the guiding industry on Devils Lake to what it is today. I can't imagine the number of people Dave has taken out over the years and sent home with a smile on their face. Or how many people Dave has helped catch their very first fish or perhaps their biggest fish. There is no one else that possesses the passion and the enthusiasm Dave has every day he ice fishes. Every fish he reels up the hole is greeted with the same excitement a young 6 year old boy displays after catching his first ever fish. All you have to do is introduce yourself to one of his clients and you will soon notice that his passion and enthusiasm is contagious. It is no wonder why Dave has always been the most requested guide on the Perch Patrol Guide Service.

Perhaps you will hear the story of how the majority of ice fisherman of the 80's followed a little red Chevy 6 cylinder pickup around to some of the finest perch and walleye fishing in the country. In fact, it was often rumored by many that the big schools of perch followed this same pickup around the lake.

Perhaps you would hear the stories of how Dave would always drop off a limit of the most beautiful walleyes at the Towers Bait Shop and tell Al Bergan to give them to someone less fortunate or to someone who just had a tough day of fishing that day.

Perhaps you will hear the story of how Dave was always the first one to venture out on “first ice” every winter on the newly froze over Devils Lake. I've heard a lot of these stories of how Dave and Donkey Mertens would walk out on ice so thin that they would have to keep 20 yards apart in order to keep water from coming up the hole.

Or you may hear of the first ATV to be used on Devils Lake. Of course it was driven by Dave although it hardly looked like a 4 wheeler or even a 3 wheeler, the story I've heard it resembled more of a riding lawn mower than anything else.

Dave is one of the founding fathers of the Perch Patrol Guide Service. He has been a behind the scenes guy on nearly ever outdoor television production we have ever been associated with. He never wants to featured, he never wants to be on camera, in fact, it is quite difficult to even snap his picture. Dave is very modest. But Dave knows the importance of promoting Devils Lake and what these shows do for our community and he is dedicated to making it work behind the scenes looking for fish and putting the on camera talent on the best spots while the production is being filmed. Tony Dean did do a feature on Dave about 5 years ago. A feature that we will watch in a moment. According to Tony Dean, Dave is the best perch fisherman he has ever known. That says a lot considering some of the company Tony Dean hangs with.

Dave Tronson has always been well known by residents and non-residents alike and has always been the most respected ice fisherman Devils Lake has ever known. After getting to know Dave and fishing with him it is easy to see why. Dave is the most genuine person you will ever meet. Dave never tells a lie. People ask him how the fishing is and not only will Dave tell you if it is bad but he will also tell you when it is really good, and not only that, he will tell you where he is fishing and how he is catching them. He is not only a true gentleman off the ice but a true gentleman on the ice as well


 

Longtime Perch Patrol Guide and Founder Retires

Jim Legacie with 2 Walleyes

 

Members of the Perch Patrol Guide Service will hit the ice this season without one of their long-time companions.  Jim Legacie has retired from guiding winter fishermen.

Jim began his guide career back in 1989, and was a member of the "Red Devils Guide Service" that operated out of the Sportsmen's Den Bait and Tackle shop in Devils Lake, North Dakota.  In 1996, Jim Legacie and Dave Tronson, joined forces and began guiding out of the Towers Bait Shop on Devils Lake.  Eventually the Towers Bait Shop had to close due to the flooding waters of Devils Lake and Jim and Dave joined forces with Steve "Zippy" Dahl and the three of them began the Perch Patrol Guide Service in 1997.

Jim has been one of the leaders of the Perch Patrol Guide Service and has been one of the Perch Patrol's most requested guides.  Jim and Zippy always traveled together to the annual St. Paul Ice Fishing Show and was forever a familiar face in the Woodland Resort or Spirit Lake Casino and Resort show booths.

The Perch Patrol will definitely be different without Jim around. He has been a pillar to this organization for a longtime. His leadership and friendship will be greatly missed.

Jim Legacie will continue his farm operation in Edmore, North Dakota.


Too much Snow on Devils Lake?
Baahumbug!!! Or Shall we say Baaaahhhmbodeer?

Bombadier Trail Groomer

In early February of 2003 it snowed...and the next day it snowed again, the next day it snowed even more.  Not too uncommon for Devils Lake, North Dakota.  The problem was it never quit.  The weather channel would give the local on the 8's and instead of saying chance of snow, they would give the accumulation in inches, to expect each hour.

In three weeks time, Devils Lake was bombarded with over 48 inches of snow.  Steve "Zippy" Dahl, the ringleader of the Perch Patrol, was scratching his head.  He called a meeting of the Perch Patrol Guides and on the agenda was the possibility of canceling all trips for the remainder of the season.  The crew met behind closed doors at Woodland Resort.

The ice on Devils Lake was buried under 3 to 4 feet of heavy snow. Simply put, travel on Devils Lake for ice fisherman was impossible. The Perch Patrol Guide Service, which prides itself on mobility, was left wondering how to navigate through all this snow and still provide a quality trip for their guests.  The 4 wheel drive crew cab trucks were definitely not an option.  Atv's? Definitely not.  Snowmobiles?  May work but how can they haul guests and all the equipment.  About the only option would be a blackhawk helicopter.

As then Perch Patrol Guide Loren Sateren sat quietly through most of the meeting, an idea came to him.  He thought of a friend who lived Fairbualt, Minnesota.  This friend owned a Bombadier trail groomer that was left behind from a now defunct local snowmobile club that used this machine back in the 1980s. 

Several ideas were discussed regarding how the Perch Patrol could put to use a machine like this.  It became rather obvious, that a V plow would also be needed.  Instead of grooming trails it would be used more like a miniature bulldozer - busting trails ahead of the caravan of Perch Patrol trucks filled with their guests, of course whom would be warm and comfortable.

The Perch Patrol Guide Staff made a commitment.  A commitment that no other Devils Lake guide service made.  It was a commitment to excellence.  The show must go on.  No matter what.  Of course safety is always the number 1 priority but the clientele that comes to fish Devils Lake with the Perch Patrol, doesn't come here to play cards in a cabin for three days. They come here to fish.

The rest of the 2003 season, the Perch Patrol Guides grew to love this beast from the east.  A caravan of guide trucks following a cloud of freshly blaze snow.  Trails were opened and maintained from Black Tiger Bay to the Minnewauken Flats.  This was no ordinary fishing trip, it was an adventure.  Fighting off the wolf, doing the impossible.  The Perch Patrol doing what they do best searching for fish and putting there clients on top of them.

Although not every winter does the Perch Patrol have to resort to such extreme measures to run their guide service, it is nice to know that not too far away sits the bombadier - armed and ready for action.  To this day, The Perch Patrol Guide Service remains the only Devils Lake Guide Service that owns a machine like this.  The weather is one thing that cannot be controlled.  Nobody can predict when history will repeat itself.  In fact, just last season, for 3 weeks in 2007, the Perch Patrol was faced with the same situation.  Too much snow.  Guess what?  The show did go on again, no matter what. 


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