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The Pierre area’s numerous lakes and ponds boast extraordinary freshwater fishing in every season. Abundant, well-managed populations of numerous species provide exciting fishing on hundreds of miles of shoreline on Lake Oahe and Lake Sharpe.


Smaller ponds and lakes dot the nearby prairies and the Fort Pierre National Grassland, offering excellent fishing from shore and small craft. Successful ice fishing spans locations and species.

The walleye rules on the Missouri River. Prized for their taste and abundance, walleye are fished with jigs and minnows in the spring, crawlers and leeches in the summer and through the ice in the winter.

Captivated by the walleye, anglers come to Pierre from across the region. The site of numerous tournaments, including the Cabela’s National Team Championship, the South Dakota Governor’s Cup and the Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour Championship, Pierre has become a familiar stopping point on the professional walleye tour.

But day in and day out, it’s the amateurs who reign. They come from behind office desks and out of operating rooms, sales offices and retail stores. They come for a day, they come for a week, but they all come for walleye.

Northern pike
Both the deep, cold waters of Lake Oahe and the prairie lakes of central South Dakota provide excellent year-round fishing for northern pike. Caught with dead bait rigs in the cool early spring, spoons and crankbaits as the water warms, these fish often reach 20 pounds or larger. In the spring of 1993, for example, a record-setting 36-pound pike was pulled from Oahe’s chilly depths. Trophy pike are fished from local lakes year-round; the species is a common ice-fishing catch.

Found throughout the Missouri River system, both white and smallmouth bass are prevalent in Lake Oahe, and in Lake Sharpe, bass are the second most commonly caught fish. Smallmouth fishing peaks during the May–June spawning season in clear water near rocks, logs and dams. Deep-diving lures bring success through the heat of summer.

Native to eastern South Dakota, largemouth bass are dominant in the calm, well-vegetated ponds and smaller lakes of the Pierre–Fort Pierre area. Similar to smallmouth bass, largemouths spawn in spring when water temperatures climb to 65 degrees F. Plastic worms, jerkbaits, crankbaits and pork rind are popular largemouth lures.

Salmon, trout and catfish
From the face of Oahe Dam north to the Cheyenne River, Lake Oahe offers excellent fishing for Chinook salmon. These cold-water fish are pulled from depths of 50 to 100 feet or more. The salmon’s primary prey is the rainbow smelt, and the most effective lures imitate this silvery fish.

The Pierre area’s reputation as a trout hotspot is growing, thanks to a healthy population of large rainbow trout, some weighing over 10 pounds. Trophy catches have been pulled from areas below Oahe Dam, often using silver and chartreuse lures that imitate smelt and baitfish. Fly fishing is increasingly common near the tailrace and marina, starting in the season just after ice-out.

An easy catch from small craft or the shore, channel catfish are found in many habitats and depths in both Lake Sharpe and Lake Oahe. You’ll land prize specimens — perhaps over 30 pounds — using night crawlers, chicken livers, crawfish and other meaty, strong-smelling bait. Look for the best fishing from spring through fall, when warmer waters create peak spawning conditions.

Bluegill, crappie and perch dominate the dozens of small lakes and ponds within a short drive of Pierre. Whether caught on a fly rod or bamboo pole, these fish are remarkable for their aggressive attacks on everything from poppers to worms.

Boat ramps
More than three dozen boat ramps dot the shores of Lake Oahe and Lake Sharpe; access to Lake Oahe sites depends on the reservoir’s water levels. Clink on the area map link for the locations of area boat ramps. For updated information on possible ramp closings, click here.

Fishing licenses
May 18-20, 2012 Free Fishing Weekend. During State Parks Open House Weekend, anyone may fish in South Dakota without a license. The rest of the year, however, licenses are required for residents and nonresidents.

U.S. and Canadian citizens who are over 16 and have valid Social Security numbers (not required of Canadian citizens) can purchase over-the-counter licenses online at www.sdgfp.info; a credit card and a printer are needed to buy the license and print it for use. Parents may purchase youth permits for their children.

Those who need to present some other form of physical documentation (e.g., nonresident students attending school in South Dakota and nonresidents serving in the military stationed in South Dakota) must purchase their licenses from a storefront agent.

Non-U.S./Canadian citizens who need to purchase fishing licenses in advance of entering the United States should call Game, Fish and Parks, (605) 773-3485, to make special arrangements.

Click on the hunting and fishing license agents link to find agents in the Pierre area. Complete information and online license registration are available through South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks: www.sdgfp.info.