Northeast Region - Glacial Lakes and Prairies Region

Approximately 20,000 years ago, the last of a series of glaciers moved across northeastern South Dakota. Their scouring and scraping created glacial bowls, which quickly filled with clear blue water upon retreat of the massive ice formations.

Today, more than 120 glacial lakes dot the northeastern part of the state. Anglers who travel to this rolling farm and ranch country will find the lakes range in size from several acres to more than 17,000 acres. There are 16 state parks and recreation areas, plus several municipal and private campgrounds in the region. Resorts can be found on several of the larger lakes, but many of the glacial lakes remain undeveloped and may be surrounded by private land.

Fishing Techniques

Since glacial lakes were created by scraping and scouring, most are bowl-shaped with little structure and maximum depths of 20 feet. Finding concentrations of fish requires time to locate suspended schools or reviewing contour maps to locate available structure, usually in the form of rock piles or emergent vegetation. Lakes that are fished frequently throughout the year include Blue Dog, Enemy Swim, Lake Thompson, Lynn, Roy, Rush and Waubay Lakes.

Walleye dominate the fishing scene in the northeast. Most are caught by trolling crankbaits or night crawler/spinner rigs over hard gravel or sand bottoms during the late summer months, while spring and fall are reserved for jig and minnow combinations and lindy rig fishing. Walleye night fishing is also successful, especially in the spring and fall. This is a great opportunity to fish from shore casting jerkbaits and swim baits near rocks and off points. Many large fish are caught from shore after the sun goes down.

Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass
To catch largemouth and smallmouth bass, cast lures toward shore near clumps of vegetation or along rocky shorelines. Mouths of creeks and sloughs also host bass, particularly near rushes. Most white bass are located trolling in open water or casting over rocks with a medium spoon, spinner or jig and grub combination.

Perch, Bass, Bullheads, Bluegills and Pike
For the most part, yellow perch, rock bass and bullheads respond to still-fishing with live bait. In June, fishing small jigs in shallow nesting cover is effective for bluegills; as is fly fishing with wet flies or small poppers. Northern pike fishing also reigns in the northeast. A standard way to catch pike is to cast a diving plug, spoon or spinnerbait along weed lines.

Ice Fishing
Wintertime fishing enthusiasts don’t quit when the water freezes. They just drill holes to reach the water! Jigging spoons, teardrop hooks and spearing all account for a variety of cold-season fishing. Pike, walleye, bluegill and perch are favorites. Concentrations of trucks and ice houses on a lake will usually indicate where the bite is taking place.

More Information

  • Fishing Reports: 800-445-3474
  • Spin Casting: Lead-head jigs, spinners, crankbaits, jerkbaits, plugs, spoons and spinnerbaits
  • Bait Fishing: Night crawlers, minnows, chubs, leeches, frogs and wigglers
  • Most Fished Species: Walleye, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, white bass, northern pike, panfish, and bullhead
  • Popular Waters: Waubay Lake, Mina Lake, Lake Louise, Mission Lake, Twin Lakes, Richmond Lake, Roy Lake, Amsden Dam, Enemy Swim Lake, Pelican Lake, Blue Dog Lake, Pickerel Lake, Lake Thompson, Lake Preston, Big Stone Lake, Lake Kampeska, Lake Poinsett, Oakwood Lakes, Clear Lake, James River and Big Sioux River