Black Hills of South Dakota: A Fisherman’s Paradise

Every spring and summer, hundreds of thousands of people from all across the U.S. and the world journey to the Black Hills of South Dakota to take in the sights and monuments that our state is universally known for.  From the symbol of democracy at Mount Rushmore to the ongoing carving of what will be the world’s largest monument at Crazy Horse. From the scenic Badlands to the east all the way to the wonder of Devil’s Tower at the region’s western edge, tourists flock to the area to observe its breathtaking beauty and marvel in its stone carved uniqueness. But there is another aspect of the region that few take part in, another outdoor activity that could add to the appreciation of what nature has given to those of us that call the Hills home. Nestled within the Hills are dozens of man-made lakes, ponds, and reservoirs that hold a plethora of fishing opportunities for the outdoor sportsman or woman. And some of them can provide anglers with excellent opportunities to catch some great fish in the breathtaking scenery of the area.

The creeks, streams, and rivers that run throughout the Black Hills offer some world-class fly fishing opportunities for rainbow, brown, and brook trout, but this opportunity is fairly well-known. What about the chance to catch a 20-pound lake trout at Pactola Reservoir or bag a 5-pound largemouth bass at Stockade Lake?  How about bringing in a 15” perch from Deerfield Reservoir or catching a 30” walleye at Belle Fourche or Angostura Reservoirs? Or finding the elusive and beautiful tiger trout on Center Lake? There are ample fishing opportunities for any outdoor enthusiast to find and catch any of these species and a host of others.  And whether you are an expert or a beginner, there’s a lake nearby where you can wet a line and enjoy a day on the water. But where to start?

Let’s start with the biggest lakes. Pactola Reservoir has become a go-to destination for lake trout, which were put into the lake back in the 1970s. Thanks to conservation efforts, both at the local and state level, the lake routinely puts out a number of 10-20 plus pound fish to boat fishermen. Not only are the lakers big, but northern pike over 20 pounds cruise along its shores and weed lines. Rainbow and brown trout populate it as well as bluegills and crappie, which provide excellent shore fishing if you didn’t bring a boat. Angostura and Belle Fourche Reservoirs are the walleye spots to go to if that’s your preferred species and offer some great boat launch locations and campgrounds. These lakes also provide some great largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing opportunities as well as crappie and catfish. Deerfield Reservoir in the middle of the Hills is the highest lake in the region and offers anglers chances at good sized perch, rainbow and brook trout as well as lake trout that were stocked in it in 2016 and 2017. Sheridan Lake, one of the most popular lakes all year long, has multiple campgrounds and docks and offers both boat and shore fishing opportunities for perch, largemouth bass, rainbow trout, crappie, and pike. These large lakes offer users camping sites and docks and boat launches for those who wish to get on the water. 

There are other smaller lakes nestled throughout the area that offer visitors the chance to catch fish as well, though most of these are too small for boats.  Most have campgrounds nearby and offer visitors the chance to rent kayaks, canoes, or other smaller watercraft to find fish on them. Stockade Lake, near Custer, is the largest of the smaller bodies. It offers a chance at catching some great smallmouth and largemouth bass as well as pike over 10 pounds. There are also perch, crappie, and a good population of bluegills with many over 10”. A single boat dock offers those with them a chance to get around on the water, but there are ample shore fishing locations as well. After Stockade, it is mostly rainbow trout lakes to fish on. One of the most picturesque locations is Sylvan Lake, which is partially surrounded by huge boulders and is a hot spot for tourists all summer long. Center Lake is home to the tiger trout, a sterile hybrid cross of a brown trout and a brook trout, and is one of the most beautiful freshwater fish you will find. They don’t get very big, but are not the easiest fish to catch.  Then there are other smaller locations at Lakota, Roubaix, or Bismarck Lakes that offer shore fishing chances for rainbows and are great places to bring families to as these lakes are not the most visited or fished. And throughout the Hills, there are scores of other small lakes that are home to trout, crappie, and other panfish and can provide the chance to catch good numbers of fish.

The Black Hills have so much to offer to its visitors, not the least of which are the great opportunities to tie into many different kinds of fish, all in close proximity to each other. You could fish for walleyes in the morning, panfish in the afternoon, and trout and bass in the evening and barely have to drive 30 minutes in between each location. For anglers looking to visit the Hills, bring your boat and your gear! There is no shortage of bodies of water to test your abilities on. So take in the sites and the majestic views that the Black Hills have to offer…and wet a line while you’re at it!