South Dakota is one of the few states that are popular among anglers when it comes to salmon fishing during the summer.
In this guide, we cover the four best fishing spots to catch salmon in South Dakota. We also tell you what time of the year is optimal to go fishing for a few big ones and what kind of equipment you’ll need.
Let’s dive in!
1. Lake Oahe
After the state of South Dakota began constructing dams along the shoreline of the Missouri River, the ecosystem there changed. This event allowed the waters’ temperature to become colder, allowing salmon to migrate there.
In Lake Oahe, for instance, you’ll find multiple shoals of Chinook or King salmon. As a result, this species has become the main attraction in South Dakota.
Located north of the Cheyenne River, Lake Oahe has become an enormous reservoir for salmon. There, the fish feeds on plenty of rainbow smelt, which is their primary prey. In other words, want to catch one? Find bait that closely imitates them or lake herring.
Lake Oahe might not contain any other species of salmon, but you may be able to catch other kinds of fish there, including Walleye, Smallmouth Bass, and Channel Catfish.
2. Lake Poinsett
East of Stone Bridge, central of the South Dakota state, lies Lake Poinsett. Much like Lake Oahe, it’s a cold habitat that has recently been favored by King salmon, Northern Pike, and White Bass.
Spanning 8,000 acres of water, Lake Poinsett has more than enough room for salmon fishing. All it takes is to time your trip correctly. Early spring months are ideal since that’s when the salmon fray is at its peak.
Since Lake Poinsett is a popular location for ice fishing; anglers spend time there all year round. Not only that, but you can also catch some big ones from the sandy shorelines.
That said, unlike Lake Oahe, King salmon isn’t quite as abundant in Lake Poinsett. While you may catch one sometime from May till June, the odds are pretty slim.
3. Lake Sharpe
Similar to Lake Oahe, Lake Sharpe is part of the Missouri River. This lake flows below Lake Oahe, at the dams near Fort Thompson, and above Lake Francis Case.
Lake Sharpe is one of the biggest bodies of water in central South Dakota, taking up around 56,000 acres. With a shoreline that extends over 200 miles, Lake Sharpe is a rich fishing location that’s home to around six different species of fish.
When it comes to salmon fishing, though, anglers can find Chinook and Atlantic salmon in Lake Sharpe when their wild feed is less abundant, meaning during the fall and spring.
As summer rolls around, it becomes harder to land a fish when there’s plenty of gizzard shad in the water.
Since salmon prefer colder waters, their numbers are more concentrated near the Big Dean Dam, upstream from Lake Sharpe. Because the water near the dam is cooler, you have a better chance of hooking salmon there.
4. Lewis and Clark Lake
Named after those who discovered and named four distinct salmon species there, Lewis and Clark Lake is a popular place to catch salmon in South Dakota. It has been dammed three times, so the place is full of reservoirs for fly fishing.
Lewis and Clark Lake may expand over 31,000 acres of water, but anglers looking for salmon direct their focus on the lower region of Lewis River. This water section is only 20 miles long, meaning, it can get pretty crowded during peak salmon season (spring to fall).
Regardless, there you’ll find plenty of Chinook, Sockeye, Coho (Silver), and the less popular of the salmon family, Steelhead salmon. You can catch the latter all year round in Lewis River as Steelheads make their runs all through summer and winter.
When fishing for Coho, however, make sure to hit the shallow ends of the lake and where the current is strong. Remember also, to check the latest WDFW regulations before fishing at Lewis and Clark Lake, since runs there are not always plenty.
When to Go Salmon Fishing in South Dakota
South Dakota offers year-round fishing opportunities for all anglers. Those seeking to catch salmon, however, need to be mindful of the migrating cycles of this fish.
To put it simply, salmon usually hatch in ocean seas and then make their way after maturity to freshwater rivers. During this time, salmon fishing in South Dakota is at its peak—specifically in lakes and rivers near the Pacific Ocean.
In short, the chances of catching Chinook are high in June. Coho salmon join in later in September, where both species can be hooked until October comes. Steelhead salmon, on the other hand, show up in May, June, July, August, December, and January.
What Type of Tackle/Equipment Is Recommended?
Fly fishing is the preferred method to catch salmon in South Dakota. This fish can be easily caught on wet or dry lines, so long as you know when, where, and how to get them hooked.
For instance, in-line spinners highly attract salmon. If you favor deep waters for salmon fishing, choose heavy spinners, although lighter models work just as fine but not as fast.
Another great salmon lure to use is flies. They’re popular with anglers due to their colorful appearance and bright colors. Flies work best in big waters, such as Lake Sharpe.
We highly suggest heading out to Lake Sharpe as an ideal place to catch salmon in South Dakota and one of the best salmon spots in the U.S. The odds of hooking a few big ones there are higher when the feed is less abundant (typically around summertime).
If you favor competition, however, why not check out Lewis and Clark Lake? Chinook and Coho fish there are aggressive and will pose a challenge for most anglers.
Either way, enjoy your fishing trip!