Lakes of the Missouri River – Lake Oahe – Lake Sharpe – Lake Francis Case – Lewis & Clark Lake
Missouri River is the longest river in North America. The Waterway is ranked the world’s 15th- longest river at 2,341 miles. The starting source of the river begins at the Gallatin, Madison, and Jefferson Rivers in Montana, and flows to the Mississippi River at St. Louis. The body of water divides South Dakota into what most residents of the state refer to as East River and West River. Popular nicknames for the Missouri include “Big Muddy” and the “Muddy Mo.” This is due to the river relocating more than 2,000 feet of soil in some places. The water level of the Missouri River is constantly changing. Disruption is caused changes in annual snow pack/melt in Montana, and water exchange rate through many of the hydroelectric dams located on the Missouri River. This variance in water level causes many of the boat ramps to close if conditions are unfavorable. Check the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Website for the boat ramp status. Also, fishing structure and conditions can change annually due to water clarity and depth. Drift wood and trees can be picked up with rising water and cause havoc on unaware boaters. In South Dakota the river has been divided into four different reservoirs; Lake Oahe, Lake Sharpe, Lake Francis Case, and Lewis and Clark Lake. These reservoirs are separated by hydroelectric dams. Major cities the “Big Muddy” flows through include or by are: Bismarck, ND; Pierre, SD; Chamberlain, SD; Yankton, SD; Omaha, Neb; Kansas City, MO; and St. Louis, MO. There are many campgrounds and resorts along the Missouri River. Many accommodations are not located in towns rather ‘ in the middle of nowhere.’ Although large the Missouri River does freeze in the winter providing great ice fishing and ice spearing possibilities. Make sure to be careful in the winter, large pressure ridges and an uneven freeze is common, and can spell disaster for the neglectful angler. The Missouri has some of the most varied fish species in the area. These fish species include walleye, northern pike, lake trout, salmon, paddle fish, catfish, sturgeon, and much more. There are many bait fish species in the Missouri River including smelt which anglers can harvest in a special season. However smelt also regulate game fish production and abundance and should be respected. You never know what you are going to reel in when fishing on the “Muddy Mo”. The Missouri River hosts a wide range of underwater structure. Fluctuating water levels provide anglers with new obstacles every year. You can find trees both floating in the channel, or recently flooded still green. The Missouri River has long shale and sand bars. These areas are fun to explore with a snorkel and mask. Some rocky areas do take out unexpected boats. Make sure to have a good depth finder and navigation systems. There are many rivers and creeks connected to the Missouri River. These lifelines provide much needed water for South Dakota. The South Dakota watershed is forever tankful for the muddy mo.
South Dakota Communities Near the Missouri River – Mobridge – Gettysburg – Pierre – Fort Thompson – Chamberlain – PicksTown – Springfield – Yankton
Walleye Fishing in the Missouri River of South Dakota
Walleye, are both native and stocked into the region. The Game Fish and parks do tag fish more information here. The fish spawn in the spring and can be found in smaller rivers and streams. Walleye migrate with the currents, temperature,bait fish, and water clarity. Finding a feeding school of fish can be hard especially with high wind. Mud Lines are a good place to start. With the variations in direction the wind can turn your favorite hole into a feeding frenzy. You don’t always get lucky, but if you do, the experience will be great. The Walleye move to the Mud Lines because their hungry. Take advantage of good conditions. Here are a couple recommended lures for fishing Walleye.
Jig and Minnow
In the Spring Walleye tend to be in shallower water. Cast several different sizes, colors, and types of jigs to find what works best for you. I would generally start in about 10 feet of water . Big Walleye can be caught in as little as 4 feet of water. In your boat travel with the trolling motor. Cast your jig and bait towards shore. Locate structure like rocks for fish. Mix up your retrieval rate depending on Walleye activity.Don’t be afraid to cast from land because the fish are there. Sometimes you need to travel the shore line and locate fish by sight. Fathead Minnows or Shiners Work Best in the spring. Night Crawlers and leaches can also be attached to the Jig.
A bottom Bouncer is a great go to strategy in the Missouri River of South Dakota. Different sizes and weights are available to get your rig to the bottom. It is strongly suggested that you change bottom bouncers to avoid snags, and to get your rig to the fish. With a 4 to 6 foot leader the bottom bouncer takes advantage of the river’s structure. These leaders have different beads and spinners that can be attached. However sometimes just a couple beads does the trick. Try attaching minnows, leaches, or night crawlers.The angler can cover a lot of area and depths with this tool. Rocks, weeds, and logs can all be hazards. The Missouri River has some of these hazards.
Plugs and Crankbaits
Using Plugs and Crankbaits is a good choice in the mid summer. Active Walleye search for smelt and find your lure. Different sizes and colors are available. You can either cast the lures or pull behind a boat. Some boats are equip with kicker motors for optimal speed. The idle speed of the big motors goes to fast for best fishing. Make sure to have both shallow and deep diving Plugs. This will avoid many snags and missed fish. Crankbaits are also good for fishing suspended schools of Walleye.