By Natalie Muruato
Lake Francis Case is the large, gently winding reservoir behind Big Bend Dam on the Missouri River in south-central South Dakota that covers just over 100 miles and has a shoreline of 540 miles reaching a depth of 140 feet.
The rolling prairie terrain along Lake Francis Case is a peaceful paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, and the reservoir itself is home to all kinds of water recreation especially for anglers. In the water, you will find walleye, northern pike, sauger, sunfish, yellow perch, common carp, black bullhead, channel catfish and small-mouth bass but Chamberlain-Oacoma is best known for its walleye fishing.
Avid Fisherman and local Chamberlain-Oacoma fishing guide, Brennan Lockwood, touts that “this part of the Missouri river is a walleye factory with the ability to catch your limit within the same school of actively feeding fish.”
One thing that is unique in our area is that there is fishing year-round. Lockwood credits the plentiful fishing to underwater sand flats, rocks, high cut banks, and submerged vegetation that make good spawning grounds for walleye and other species. Lockwood also recognizes the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks for their efforts in the area to maintain the fishing habitat. The limit here in South Dakota allows you to catch up to four fish per day between 15-19 ¾ inches and one fish over 20 inches.
One of the first and legendary fishing guide services in the state of South Dakota, Allen’s Guide Service ran by Garry and Mike Allen, commented that “The Chamberlain-Oacoma Area specifically Lake Francis Case and Lake Sharpe has the best Walleye fishing in all of the United States.” Allen indicated that “they are looking forward to a bumper catch in 2020 as the last two years the river has risen to record levels bringing an abundance of baitfish creating ideal conditions for spawning”. For the outdoor fanatic, Mike Allen says, “Five miles up or down the river you encounter the great wilderness; you are off the grid. Just you and nature.”
Garry Allen explained that “every angler has his style of fishing and many may be inclined to fish with plugs and lead core line within a 25′ to 30ft channel, but if that doesn’t work our local fisherman and guides recommend using sizes #5 and #7 Flicker Shads and Shad Raps in 15′-20 ft of water”. Mr. Allen indicated that of the 1,000 guided tours they give every year, many of their patrons catch and release countless walleye over twenty inches which speaks to the health and abundance of walleye in the area.
Another successful method involves trolling close to the shore and spawning areas in the early morning with a lead core line and #5, #7, or #9 floating Rapala’s and a 6 or 8lb test FireLine. The tried and true style of using and Jig and Minnow either vertical or casting near the rip rap or close to spawning areas is sure to produce your limit for the day. Our local fisherman recommends 1/8, 1/4 and 3/8 oz jigs with a 4 to 6-pound test line.
The Chamberlain-Oacoma area provides several boat docks to launch from, and you will also find rental slips at the Arrowood Resort and Swenson Brother’s Marine. There are plenty of bait shops and safe places to park your trucks and trailers while on the water.
Every summer, we are host to many ﬁshing tournaments and avid ﬁshermen, but the fun does not stop there! We also have an annual ice ﬁshing tournament every January. There is plenty of river for everyone.
After you have caught your limit for the day, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy some live music on the deck at Arrowwood Resort, catch a round of golf, a movie or a game of bowling, visit our museums, restaurants, and specialty shops offering a variety of one-of-a-kind experiences. Be sure to cross the iconic bridge to enjoy a piece of homemade pie and 5-cent coffee at the famous Al’s Oasis. The Chamberlain-Oacoma area is a fisherman’s paradise in a fun and family-friendly community.
For four Fridays during the summer you will find a vibrant street festival on Chamberlain’s main street. Locals and visitors flock to the event to enjoy a taste of the finest food trucks and a vast selection of beverages in the beer/wine garden. This kid-friendly weekly event showcases live entertainment, vendors from around the state, and activities for both the youth and adults.
Chamberlain says aloha to Summer in a big way with a final bash on the third weekend of August. American Island Days are held over three days with main events on Saturday. You will find activities such as turtle races, strong man competitions, and a whole slew of bounce houses for the kids. Be sure to come hungry as there is always a selection of wonderful food from food trucks across South Dakota. The local car club lines the street around American Creek Recreation area. You’ll find yourself reminiscing of days gone by as these classic cars gleam in the sun.
Chamberlain is also home to the South Dakota Hall of Fame, showcasing the contributions of many famous and trendsetting South Dakotans. Next to the Hall of Fame is the Veterans Memorial Park to honor all South Dakota military veterans and active-duty personnel for their unwavering service to our great country. Every military conflict that our country has ever endured is represented in this park through pavers of soldiers who have fought in them or are currently fighting.
Because of the grassy prairie and grain fields, this area provides the prime habitat for pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse, prairie chickens, turkeys, and geese. The Chamberlain-Oacoma area is honored to be selected as the #1 Pheasant Hunting Destination by Pheasants Forever. The communities rest in the heart of prime pheasant, grouse, deer and waterfowl country. With easy access from Interstate 90 and having one of the highest annual bird harvests and counts. Hunters can also pursue big game animals such as white-tailed deer, mule deer and antelope within a 50-mile radius. Chamberlain-Oacoma can easily become your top hunting destination in South Dakota.
Rich, Native American history weaves its way through the area, you can find the Crow Creek and Lower Brule South Dakota tribes bordering the northern banks. You can visit the world-famous Akta Lakota Museum at the St. Joseph Indian School in Chamberlain as well as the beautiful 50-foot high stainless-steel Dignity Statue. You can also take a drive on Native American Scenic Byway (Highway 50 and BIA 47) cutting through the heart of the Lakota Sioux Nation. The Native American Scenic Byway crosses the Crow Creek and Lower Brule Sioux Indian Reservations. It travels across South Dakota’s high plains through the hills and bluffs alongside the Missouri River.
Dams constructed by the Corps of Engineers created two scenic lakes on the river: Lake Francis Case and Lake Sharpe. Among the wildlife inhabiting the area are deer, eagles, and large numbers of waterfowl. Anglers will find catfish, pike, bass, crappie, and sunfish in both lakes, but Walleye is king. The lakes offer numerous campgrounds and picnic areas. Come and enjoy the locals’ secret fishing spot and take home plenty of Omega 3 for the freezer. We believe your stay will be worth your while but if you are not able to take it all in, we think that Chamberlain-Oacoma – is a place where… You’ll come back.