Besides Mount Rushmore, many people can not think of many reasons to visit the state of South Dakota. Little do many visitors know, South Dakota is home to some of the not only the best fishing around but some of the best ice fishing in the country during the winter months.
Ice fishing is a popular sport and past time in South Dakota, and the state’s many lakes give anglers plenty of options. While giant walleye and perch are the most sought after species under the ice, anglers can also pursue northern pike, bass, bluegill, crappie, and trout.
Ice fishing in the state of South Dakota is a great excuse for a vacation and you will find no shortage of frozen lakes to drop a line into. Here are our picks for the top locations for the best ice fishing in the great state of South Dakota.
Top Locations for Ice Fishing in South Dakota
1. Waubay Lake
Waubay Lake is found in northern South Dakota and was formed by rising lake levels in the 1990s that eventually connected North and South Waubay Lakes, Hillebrands Lake, and Spring Lake to make what is known as Waubay Lake today.
Since its formation, Waubay Lake has grown its reputation as the place to go for giant walleye. Many walleye around 16 inches are caught here, with many even larger. There are also plenty of smallmouth bass, northern pike, and yellow perch to be found under the ice.
Waubay Lake has over 12,000 acres of surface area, giving you plenty of ice to explore and find that next big fishing hot spot. It also generally warms up and melts its ice around April or sometimes even May, giving an angler plenty of time to enjoy the ice fishing.
2. Pickerel Lake
Pickerel Lake is one of the smaller lakes here on our list at only 950 acres, but is one of the deepest lakes in the state and holds excellent numbers of fish. It is also very accessible, with most of the shorelines being developed and plenty of surrounding lodges and cabins.
Anglers traveling to Pickerel Lake will be pleasantly surprised to find a large variety of fish in these waters, as the lake is filled to the brim with black crappie, yellow perch, walleye, smallmouth bass, northern pike, bluegill, and catfish.
Pickerel Lake, along with Waubay Lake, are among some of the first bodies of water to freeze over in South Dakota in the winter months, and some of the latest to thaw out in the spring. This will afford anglers plenty of time to enjoy catching their limits of big walleye and perch that call these waters home.
3. Madison Lake
Located in southeastern South Dakota, Lake Madison covers 2,800 acres and offers excellent fishing for many anglers in the area. Because it is around 16 feet deep throughout most of the lake, it is the perfect spot to get on the ice as it freezes over relatively quickly once cold weather sets in.
Anglers fishing in Madison Lake can expect to see and catch a variety of species, including yellow bullhead, walleye, bluegill, northern pike, and yellow perch. The yellow perch are the most plentiful and draw the most attention, but large walleye and pike are not unusual here.
The fishing at Madison Lake is usually best after January when the ice has completely frozen over and the first wave of fishermen has left. No matter when you visit though, Madison Lake is a great place to try your hand at some ice fishing and is absolutely beautiful.
4. Goose Lake
Goose Lake is found in the central part of the state and is a relatively small, shallow lake that was formed by flooding. It sits about 12 miles southwest of the town of Watertown and is what many people would consider a hidden gem that not many people except locals know about.
This lake stretches at around 2,000 acres, and while access can sometimes be tricky due to private property surrounding the lake, the effort is well worth it here. Goose Lake continually produces giant walleye and perch, and anglers will also occasionally catch northern pike, bluegill, and bass.
While not the easiest lake to access or fish, Goose Lake is a great place for anglers looking for a new challenge and that want to find some of the biggest walleye and perch in the entire state of South Dakota. It is well worth the effort to fish here!
5. Sheridan Lake
Sheridan Lake is found a short distance southwest of Rapid City and is one of the most popular ice fishing lakes for trout. In addition to different species of trout, fishermen here can expect to find yellow perch and northern pike as well.
This lake will usually freeze over sometime in January. It is found in the famous Black Hills of South Dakota, so there are plenty of things to do in addition to fishing if you are wanting to take a vacation to the area.
With around 400 acres of water, Sheridan Lake is a great place for any ice fishermen that want to get out on some ice that won’t see as much fishing pressure as other similar lakes. While small and a little harder to access, Sheridan Lake is sure to be one of your favorite ice fishing places in the state.
How Much is a Fishing License in South Dakota
The South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks Department offers a variety of different fishing license structures and fees for both residents and non-residents of the state. A few worth mentioning are:
- Annual fishing licenses are available for both residents and nonresidents and cost $28 and $67 respectively.
- One day fishing licenses will cost $8 for residents and $16 for non-residents.
- Nonresidents can purchase a 3-day license for $37.
For more information on South Dakota fishing license fees and structures, you can visit the Department’s website at https://gfp.sd.gov/license-types/.
Where to Buy a Fishing License in South Dakota
You can purchase your South Dakota fishing license online or from a South Dakota fish and game license vendor in the area that you will be fishing. There are plenty of license vendors found across the entire state and can be gas stations, fishing and bait shops, or even retail stores. To find a list of license vendors in South Dakota or to buy a license online, visit the Department’s website at https://gfp.sd.gov/hunt-fish-license/.
South Dakota has much more to offer than just the famous Black Hills and Mount Rushmore. Anglers can travel to this state and find some of the best ice fishing in the lower 48 states, and there is no shortage of places to go. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of some of the best locations for ice fishing in South Dakota and can now plan your next trip!