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Eyes on Ice-out

It is almost March! While ice fishing continues to dominate the Black Hills scene, stream fishing remains spectacular. Strong midge hatches on sunny South Dakota days have made for frequent winter-time successes on the water. This warm weather not only prompts midges from their cold water homes, but also the thoughts of ice out and the fish that become vulnerable to a fly in the spring.

Black Hills lakes offer great fishing opportunities at ice out, even if ice still covers much of the main body of water. Larger fish will cruise the warmer water bays and shorelines in search of an easy meal. Flies make the perfect presentation for these big fish due to their ability to cover a wide range of depth and retrieval styles. Accessibility to big fish is one of the biggest advantages of a spring ice out scenario. Lake trout, northern pike, salmon, rainbow and brown trout, even big bass and panfish make themselves more available when the spring thaw is on. These are our favorite spots to chase big fish in the spring:

1: Pactola Reservoir (Black Hills) - Pactola is becoming a favorite spring and fall fishing location for big bows, browns, and hefty northerns. Shore fishing works fine while ice is going out. Focus on open shorelines, bays and points with steep drop-offs. Early spring, don’t hesitate to get the boat out and chuck-n-duck into shore. This lake is a big fish producer and you never know what might be on the other end of your line.

2: Deerfield Reservoir (Black Hills) - Not many people know about Deerfield as a big fish lake, but the spring offers many opportunities for you to catch nice fish. Back in 2007-2009, big brook trout were taken in Deerfield during ice out. The state record was broken many times over that time period, but none have been caught since. That doesn’t mean there aren’t big fish roaming, though. Big rainbows love to cruise the bays and deep water shorelines looking for easy pray in warmer water. After lake trout were stocked in Deerfield five or six years ago, that offered another great ice-out opportunity from shore. If you’re lucky, you may even come across some of the big rock bass and yellow perch that call deerfield home. You can easily access all of these species from shore when the weather warms up in a setting that is hard to beat.

3: Lake Oahe (Pierre) - Venturing outside of the Black Hills is not uncommon for anglers seeking a change of scenery and a chance at monster fish. 2020 will be a banner year for ice out northern pike in the Pierre area. Cow and Spring creek are usually the first to warm, and will hold fish early and late. The corps property that surrounds lake Oahe offers plenty of opportunities to roam the shoreline with a flyrod in hand. Vary your presentation to find what will be working on that given day. When you are done chasing northers, go below the dam and try for walleyes and white bass. Not many people can say they have caught a walleye on a fly rod, but in Pierre, it is a great possibility.

4: Angostura (Hot Springs) - Crappie and walleye on the fly never really gets old for us. That’s why Angostura is such a great place in the spring. Shorelines, canyons, bays and marinas are all great places to cast a fly for crappies and eyes. If you have access to a boat, check out the face of the dam with a deep diving clouser minnow. Memories of 100 crappie days seem distant, but the fishing is still great down in Hot Springs.

5: Black Hills Creeks and Streams - Lakes aren’t the only hot spots during the spring thaw. Fishing on creeks and streams in the Black Hills only gets better during the early months. Runoff from higher elevations dislodges food and provides ample cover for hungry fish. The faster water creates a sense of urgency for fish to grab food quickly before it goes by. Spring is not a time for selectivity, but for gorging. Streamers offer exciting takes for bigger fish, while large nymphs and certain dry flies provide enough catching power to fill anyone’s spring appetite!

So many great fishing opportunities to be thankful for here in South Dakota. Here’s to an upcoming spring with great possibilities!