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Walleye Central, Here I Come

Oahe Dam forms Lake Oahe that extends from Pierre, South Dakota all the way to Bismark, North Dakota

Pierre, South Dakota is not only the capital of this beautiful state but it has what is considered the premier lake in a chain of lakes that make up the Great Lakes of central South Dakota.


Oahe Dam forms Lake Oahe that extends from Pierre, South Dakota all the way to Bismark, North Dakota.  The lake covers more than 370,000 acres with a depth of up to 205 feet.  The lake is 231 miles long. With a shoreline of up to 2,250 miles, this allows for some of the best fishing habitat in the country. The lake is named for the Oahe Indian Mission.


Besides excellent population of northern pike, walleye, smallmouth bass, and channel catfish, the state of South Dakota has stocked the reservoir with chinook salmon.  This is a really popular fishing to experience right in the middle of the country.


During college I used to hunt and fish with an avid outdoorsman and while we talked periodically, it has been over 40+ years since we had gotten together to wet a line.  During a conversation, we both decided it was time that we got together now that the iron in our blood has turned to lead in our backside.  In other words, we have both gotten old, or as we now like to call it, mature.


My friend Bruce has many years of fishing Oahe for walleye and salmon, plus he has fished the river below the dam with great success.  He has the technique and know how to boat fish below the dam on the river.


The plains of South Dakota

The drive up was outstanding.  I had never seen central South Dakota so green. The prairie was picturesque with the deep blue sky and the white fluffy clouds.  Scattered among the various grasslands were herds of grazing cattle.  This scene was what the native Americans experienced centuries ago when they hunted buffalo.

I have never seen the open prairie so green.

Pierre has a lot of motels and excellent ones that cater to the hunter and fishermen. Bruce had set up a really good place to stay.  I checked in and headed to the river to try some luck before Bruce got there.  He said, "By the time I arrive, you will have caught your limit of walleye."  That brought on a lot of excitement.

In a bay off the river South Dakota has established an excellent campground and boat ramp.  You can see the access to the river with a boat on its way out to the river.  That is my boat tied up.


Heading into the river was a new experience for me and I was very nervous about it.  Bruce had cautioned me about some bars just under the surface that might be a problem.  After the spot was found, I wanted to begin hauling the walleye into the boat.  This consisted of holding a position down stream from a wing dam just out of the current and keeping the boat in that vicinity.  The fish would lay off the current, and move out to grab something when it floated by.  This spot was worked for about an hour with not one hit.  I should mention that a red and white jig head was used with a crawler.


A view of the river looking down stream.  The water was crystal clear, and you could see several feet down.


My phone rang.  It was Bruce.  He was at the boat ramp and wanted to know if I was limited out.  The truth sometimes hurts, but there was great optimism in our conversation.  I ran back and picked up my old friend.  We immediately got down to business.  The business was catching fish and as fast and furious as we could catch them. We would sling the baloney later that evening and catch up on our lives.


The helm was immediately turned over to the expert and we were on our way to slam walleye.

We went back to the spot where I had fished and worked it for about an hour.  Then moved off into an arm of the river and worked the bank out to eighteen feet of water.  Not one hit.  Both graphs showed fish from five to ten feet with nothing on the bottom that we could make out.  Worms, leeches, jigs and spinners were being used and the only thing we did not do was throw the tackle box overboard.


We then moved up close to where the water was being discharged from the dam.  It is at this location where a hydro-electric plant is located.  Water is being taken from the bottom of the reservoir to run the turbines that make electricity.  I was told that scuba divers had seen a lot of fish in this location in the past, but we caught nothing.


Water flows from the bottom of the dam through the generators and into the river.  The big fish wait for bait to wash down to them.


We gave it up for the day.  Visiting with other fishermen coming off the river, no one was having any luck.  A front had come through the day before and it had been really windy in the morning.  Then in the early afternoon the weather stabilized.


At the motel we met two old dogs like ourselves.  They had limited out in a day and a half.  In fact, they had spent the afternoon catching and throwing back.  We were interested.  They had been fishing a new plug called a Flicker Shad in blue tiger and trolled at about 2.5 to 2.7 mph.  The plug would go down to about 7 -10 feet depending on how fast you pulled and it was right in the feeding zone.


The best part, they had been fishing a lake that formed an arm off the river with an excellent boat ramp and a fish cleaning station.  As the old saying goes, "If it is too good to be true, it is."


Next morning were were at a farm and hardware store and saw one of the biggest display of fishing lures and equipment I had ever seen.  The clerks were very helpful and fixed us up with an assortment of colors.


Next week learn what happens. 


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Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank




Click on the banner above for Hank's Home Page

More Stories By Hank Huntington

Hank Huntington, Esq., is a native of southwest Iowa, healthcare professional, entrepreneur, accomplished pilot, hunting and fishing enthusiast, connoisseur, father and husband. He developed this web site for people to share their fun and excitement about the great outdoors. The best part of this hobby is, after a successful hunting or fishing trip, you are able to dine on fresh game or fish, after all, “ How do you eat a golf ball?” asks Hank. Hanks father and grandfather were both avid outdoorsmen so Hank learned his hunting and fishing skills from them and has passed the tradition down to the fourth generation. Plus the love of the outdoors, and a craving for exquisite dinning, would round out the package.

As a small boy, he fished a local oxbow lake formed by the Missouri River. The lake is primarily old river bottom mud, is not real clear, and has a lot of vegetation. The southeast corner holds a huge lily pad bed, and it was there Hank learned to drag through the water and across the tops of the pads, a Johnson Silver Minnow, with a pork rind attached. This was the place for big mouth bass, and there were lots of them, and young Hank loved to catch them.

At age of 12 Hank started going with his Dad hunting, and by age 14 he was an accomplished shooter with a 12-gauge pump. Shortly after that he was given his first shotgun a Winchester Model 12 pump; he still has it today. It looks like almost new, but the gun is never to be hunted again. Duck hunting in the late 50’s had little pressure after the first two weeks of the season, and when the north wind blew and it got really damp and cold, the big Canada Mallards came.

After graduation from high school, Hank attended Midland College in Fremont, Nebraska. There he met a fellow outdoorsman, and their friendship developed in the fields and streams of central Nebraska.

Hank had little time for hunting and fishing while attending professional school at Creighton University. After graduation he married his college sweetheart and they settled down to career, family, and as often as possible, hunting and fishing.

Hank and his family frequently flew their plane north to Canada to the legendary Canadian fly in lodges to fish for Northern and Walleye. Here he taught his son all the things his father had taught him about fishing. Most of the time the two went alone to the north woods, but when camping was not involved, his wife Pam went along. She always enjoys the fact that she has caught a bigger Northern Pike than Hank, and he has been fishing for 60 years. Today along the Missouri River valley, the deer population increased to the point that in many areas they are a nuisance. The duck, goose, and turkey has also population have also soared.

Area lakes have been well stocked. Many even have a walleye stocking program that makes outstanding fishing. Several are within easy driving distance of Hank’s lodge-like lakeside home. All packaged together is great dining. By the way, Hank harvests only what he will share at a table with family or friends.

Hank says, “Whenever I am on a lake, in the woods, or in the blind, I am always reminded of God’s great bounty and His constant presence. And whether in the great outdoors or at home with my wife, I strive to be a good steward of nature and all that God has given us.”

Good hunting! Good fishing! Good day!

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