The Missouri River flows north to south through the center of South Dakota. The longest river in North America gives life to the otherwise desolate prairie. The waterway is divided by dams into four reservoirs. Lake Oahe, Lake Sharpe, Lake Francis Case, and Lewis & Clark Lake. Climate and precipitation can cause water levels in the Missouri River to fluctuate. Make sure to check out boat ramp status before venturing out. There are many towns and resort communities on the banks of the Missouri River. Most of the population is located near a dam or bridge over the Missouri River. Fishing, boating, camping, and swimming are some of the activities available here. Much of the Missouri River shoreline is mud and shale. Trees do grow in some places, and can be water hazards. Nice Walleye, Catfish, and Chinook Salmon can be caught in these waters. Many birds migrate south with the river. Hunting is also very popular near the Missouri River of South Dakota. Canadian Geese, Pheasants, and Grouse can be hunted on private and select public lands. Large Mule Deer are prized big game. Make sure to always have permission before entering land. Be careful for Prairie Rattlesnakes, they are known to den along the tributaries.
South Dakota Missouri River Reservoirs
Lake Oahe is the northern most reservoir in South Dakota’s Missouri River. The lake starts in Bismark, ND and ends at the Oahe Hydroelectric Dam near Pierre, SD. Lake Oahe is the largest of the four reservoirs in the state. The maximum depth can reach over 200 feet deep. Morbridge, SD is the main community in the center of the reservoir. Lake Oahe offers great fishing. Game species like Walleye, Northern Pike, Silver Bass, and Catfish can be caught regularly. Chinook Salmon can also be found in Lake Oahe. The fish are annually stocked and managed. The Salmon Station near West Whitllock State Park is a great place to check out. Changing conditions often dictate what your going to do. Check the wind and weather report before venturing out. Any day at the River is nice, however more peaceful with the wind at your back.
Lake Sharpe is located in the central part of South Dakota’s Missouri River. The Reservoir starts at the bottom of the Oahe Dam and extends approx 80 miles south to Big Bend Dam at Fort Thompson, SD. There are tons of outdoor recreational opportunities on Lake Sharpe. Most people travel to the Pierre, SD area and Farm Island State Park. Fishing, Boating, and Camping are all available in the area. The current of the river is faster near the foot of the Dam. This prevents ice from forming making for an all around hazard. Lake Sharpe has also had some bad flooding in recent history. The banks of the Missouri River can cause havoc to local residents of Pierre and Ft. Pierre.
Lake Francis Case is the South Central portion of South Dakota’s Missouri River. The Reservoir starts below the dam at FT. Thompson, SD, and runs to Pickstown. This lake has a maximum depth of about 150 foot. Chamberlain, SD is the major economy on this section of the Missouri River. Like the other reservoirs, Lake Frances Case has several boat ramps and parks. Walleye is the main sport fish caught here, although there is a lot of other species. You really get your space on Lake Francis Case. There is not a lot of competition for fishing spots.
Lewis & Clark Lake is the southern most Reservoir on South Dakota’s Missouri River. This is probably the most traveled area along the Missouri river. Yankton, SD has a lot of amenities and lodging facilities. The Lewis & Clark Recreation Area is a great place to bring the family for vacation. This location has a great deal of camping sites, cabins, and hiking trails. This is one of the few places on the Missouri River in South Dakota with a nice marina. If your traveling to Lewis & Clark Lake make sure to check it out. It is a good idea to have proper licensing and maps. At the southern part of the state the Missouri River shares its boarder water with Nebraska.
South Dakota Missouri River Communities
Morbridge, SD is the northern most major community on the Missouri River in South Dakota. Life is simple here. Morbridge has a population of about 3,500 people. There is a few convenience stores, local diners, and thrift stores. Morbridge is know for early season walleyes. Water temperature and clarity are connected to this phenomenon. Trophy fish can be caught here year round. The unique integration of Lake Oahe into the prairie is unique. The Standing Rock Native American reservation is to the west. This unique culture is deep within the culture of the area.
Gettysburg, SD is located on the South Dakota Missouri River near Whitlock Bay. This community is the local economic center. Potter County has a Population of about 2,400 people. There are a couple of good cafe’s, motels, and a bakery in town. Farming is the main occupation here. The majority of businesses in Gettysburg are for agriculture. Whitlock bay is about 15 miles west of town on Highway 212. The road crosses the Missouri Rive at Oahe Bridge. There are many resorts, recreation areas, and West Whitlock State Park. Bob’s Resort and West Whitlock Resort are good places to stop. Cheyenne River Native American Reservation is located on the west side of the river. The communities rich culture and history are interesting. There are no major communities for over 60 miles at Eagle Butte, SD. Highway 83 is about 5 miles west of Gettysburg.
Pierre, SD is located on the east side of the Missouri River. Fort Pierre is located on the West. Highway 14 crosses the reservoir across a big bridge. The population of the two towns is about 16,000 combined. These communities are located at the beginning of Lake Sharpe. La Framboise Island ” the Cosway” is located between the two towns. The Oahe Dam is directly north of town less than 10 Miles. The massive hydroelectric Dam provides the region with electricity. Pierre is the State Capitol of South Dakota. The Capital Building and other state facilities are here. There are many great attractions in town. The history of the settlers and Native Americans is key in Pierre’s Culture. Stop by the Cultural Heritage Center in the middle of town. This great place is fun for the whole family. A great deal of South Dakota kids have been touched by the displays. There is a mall, shopping centers, and unique restaurants in town. There are several unique Parks in the area. Along the shore of Lake Sharp Pierre has several walking paths and small parks, and facilities. Farm Island State Park is south of town on Highway 83 about 5 miles. There are several recreation areas around the Oahe Dam.
Chamberlain, SD is located on the east side of the Missouri River. Oacoma is on the west. The communities are located near the middle of Lake Francis Case Reservoir. Interstate 90 crosses the river here. Chamberlain and Oacoma have a combined population of about 3000. There are several convenience stores, motels, and resorts in the area. Fishing and outdoor recreation are popular. Fort Thompson about 25 miles north has the Lode Star Casino. The Crow Creek, and Lower Brule Native American Reservations are located north of chamberlain.
Yankton, SD is located on the southern border of South Dakota and Nebraska. Highway 80 crosses the Missouri River here at Yankton Dam. The population according to the 2010 census is around 14,454 people. However, the surrounding communities around the Missouri River do boost Yankton’s economy. There are several unique resorts, campgrounds, and amenities in the area. Lewis and Clark Lake is the reservoir before the dam. The Lewis & Clark Recreation Area is great. With family activities and parks, this is a sure stop on you way through. Lewis & Clark is were to go if you want to fish, swim,. or go far a walk. Make sure to stop by the Fish Hatchery and Science Center. The educational experience is fun for the kids and adults alike.There are many angling opportunities in the area. Lewis & Clark Lake is known for good walleyes and boating. Lake Yankton has smaller fish, and is fun to use bobbers with the kids.
Vermillion, SD is located on the Missouri River in extreme Southeast South Dakota. The town has about 10,500 people. Vermillion is about 15 miles west of Interstate 29. Highway 19 crosses the Missouri River 5 miles south of town. Vermillion is famous for the University of South Dakota or “USD”. The college hosts the only football dome in South Dakota. This unique campus has great sports, education, and culture. Vermillion benefits from many factors. Agriculture, tourism, and college students all boost the economy. Some small hotels, restaurants, and resorts are located in Vermillion. There are several smaller parks in the area including Mulberry Bend in Nebraska.
South Dakota Missouri River Fishing Guide
Fishing the Missouri River in South Dakota gives anglers a lot of options. Many fish can be found in the four reservoirs. Exotic species like Paddlefish, Sturgeon, and Gar are present and highly regulated. Although their populations are small these fish give a prehistoric feel to the Missouri River. Walleye, Northern Pike, Lake Trout, and Muskellunge and much more are found here. If you spot a school of carp try to catch one ! Water conditions, time of year, and food all contribute to game fish location. Most fish migrate with local water and climate conditions. Seasonal changes in water temperature and the photocycle often trigger fish to move or reproduce. Chinook Salmon are found in several of the reservoirs, however Lake Oahe has a Salmon Station at Whitlock Bay. These fish spawn every September and can be seen from shore. The wind from the South Dakota Prairie kicks up mud and erodes the banks of the Missouri River. These area’s are known as ” Mud Lines” . Game Fish will ambush prey in the transition Zone. There are clear strategy’s that work better at certain times of the year. For walleye cast a jig and minnow in the spring. Early and mid summer a bottom bouncer and leader work well. Crank Baits or Plugs sometimes work good on active fish at certain times of day. Baitfish, like Smelt and Minnow, migration will affect the game fish location as well. Different insects and aquatic plants also bloom in the summer months. Take all that into consideration and it can be hard to find the fish. Ask the locals what their doing, and be prepared for contingencies. Many times fishing on the South Dakota Missouri river the walleye bite was sparse. But we switched to jig and crawlers and pulled up a dozens of strong catfish and Silver Bass. Spearfishing is also fun on the South Dakota Missouri River. Both winter and summer spearfishing is regulated. Have fun the next time you travel to the “Muddy Mo”.