The 2019 ice fishing season continued on an upbeat note last week as cooler weather and a dropping barometer helped to spur the bite in higher elevation Black Hills area lakes. The coming weekend promises more of the same as a cold front moving through the area should promote fishing activity, a situation that will hopefully extend into the warmer days forecast for next week. As always with an up and down weather pattern, a willingness to move about and drill lots of holes may be required to reap the benefits of a January bite.
As mentioned in previous weeks, ice fishing so far this winter remains primarily an Black Hills upper elevation activity as the ice conditions on prairie lakes and ponds, with a few exceptions, remains problematical.
Overall, a promising week ahead for solid water anglers who trek into the hills while those who like fishing waters of the liquid variety should find area streams setting up nicely for trout fishing. Here’s a brief peek at what’s been happening recently.
Angostura Reservoir: Not much fishing activity at present as with the exception of some back bays the ice on the lake remains unsafe, a situation that will not improve with warmer weather forecast for the next week or so.
Belle Fourche Reservoir (Orman): Open water remains on the lake and though there is fishable ice conditions remain very spotty, a situation made more iffy by the the addition of a couple inches of snow during the recent storm. Though anglers have been few, those venturing out on to the ice have caught some nice walleye in the 15-19 inch range. Nonetheless, safety exercised by extreme caution, is the key ingredient to an enjoyable fishing excursion at present.
Black Hills Fly Fishing: While warming weather may not be conducive to lake ice fishing, not so in area trout streams as angling action should continue to be excellent during period of the day when the temperature climbs above the freezing mark. Brighter nymphs and streamers should be the ticket for most days though midge hatches might allow for dry flies on the warmest days.
Center Lake: Lots of panfish action reported last week with perch and crappie taken on waxworms and small jigs tipped with a minnow. Fish are typically deep and largely settled in and moving about to locate can be essential.
Deerfield Reservoir: Perch remain active throughout the lake. Are typically located in 25-30 feet of water and responding to maggots and waxworms. A nice trout bite continues as well with small jigs tipped with a minnow working best.
Pactola Reservoir: Ice fishing remains a back-in-bay activity as lake has not yet produced safe ice elsewhere. Jenney Gulch has been producing some northern pike on smelt or golden shiners.
New Wall Lake: One of the few positive reports from small prairie lakes as ice (carefully probed) appears to be safe and anglers were finding some panfish activity last week.
Sheridan Lake: Excellent perch and trout bites reported along with occasional northern pike activity along the highway. Perch are located in 20-25 foot of water — moving up in the water column on colder days — and responding to waxworms and small minnows. Golden shiners remain the go-to bait for pike. As previously noted, temperature variations have produced pressure ridges on the lake which need to be religiously avoided.
Stockade Lake: Steady perch bite remain in place throughout the lake. As elsewhere no mystery here as electronics will likely locate fish in deeper water and even on most lethargic days responding to maggots and waxworms.
Missouri River: Most of the activity in the Pierre area remains near the stilling basin (boat and from shore) and around the bridges where anglers have been limiting out with walleye in the 15-19 inch range. Some ice near the hospital though not yet safe for foot traffic. Some ice reported in the Farm Island area though little activity reported.
Upcoming Ice Fishing Tournaments (applications and info available at area fishing supply stores):
● 4th Annual Whitney Dock Club Tournament (between Chadron and Crawford Nebraska), one of the largest fishing tournaments in the area is scheduled for Saturday; Pre-registration, 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. with tournament following from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; chili feed and raffle to follow. Contact Scott Goodar (308-430-4896) for details.
● Rapid City Chapter Sheridan Lake Walleyes Unlimited Fishing Tournament, Jan. 27, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.. Information will be available at SD Walleye Unlimited website (sdwalleyesunlimited.org).
● Also, info on annual fishing competitions sponsored the The Rooster should be posted in the next week.
Dakota Angler & Outfitter, 513 Seventh St., Rapid City; The Rooster, 1441 W. Main St., Rapid City; Wheel and Bait, 18696 Fisherman’s Road, Fruitdale; West Prairie Resort, 28354 182nd, Pierre (605-264-5303), Horsecreek Inn and Campground, 23570, Hill City, and Angostura State Resort have contributed to this report.