Fishing Overview

Lake Oahe and Lake Sharpe are located on the Missouri River in central South Dakota near Pierre the capital. Four miles north, separating the two reservoirs is Oahe Dam. Lake Oahe runs north for over 200 miles and has a maximum depth of over 200 ft. at full pool. This massive impoundment has over 2,100 miles of shoreline to fish.

There are 3 rivers that run into Lake Oahe. The Grand, Moreau, and the legendary Cheyenne. There are literally thousands of points, many large bays and sunken islands to fish for Walleye, Northern Pike (15-25 pounders not uncommon), Smallmouth Bass, White Bass, Salmon and Catfish.

Lake Oahe

Lake Oahe

Lake Oahe currently has an abundance of Walleye. The fishing here is world class. There are fantastic Walleye and trophy Northern Pike for the taking. If you would would to see more about the Walleye limits and other fish regulations see the Game Fish and Parks website. Some of these limits are very liberal.

In January and February, Lake Oahe is usually iced up and ice fishing for Walleyes is good. Fish on main lake points in 20 to 50 ft. of water. Tip-ups and jigging rods baited with minnows are standard fare here. Depth finders such as a Vexilar, and underwater cameras make finding fish and structure much easier. Ice-out usually happens between mid-March and early April. This time of year Lake Oahe is world famous for trophy Northern Pike, many over 25 pounds are taken every year. Most Pike run from 15 to 25 lbs. The locals even abandon their boats and fish from shore this time of year. Look for the warmest water in the very back portion of large bays. Fish with a quick strike rig, with either chubs or smelt and be sure to bring a gaff. A 20 lb. plus Northern Pike is hard to net from shore.

Walleye fishing slowly takes off this time of year. Early spring the water is very cold at 35-40 degrees, so stay shallow where the water is warmer. Try to keep the boat in 10 to 15 ft. depths and pitch jigs towards shore. Use the lightest jigs and line that conditions will allow (1/8 oz. to 1/4 oz. jigs, 4 to 8 pound test on line). Move the boat along the shore with an electric motor as so not to spook the fish. Dragging and drifting jigs and lindy rigs works best on windy days.

As the water temperature warms up in late May, the bite switches to bottom bouncers, lindy rigs, jigs and crank baits. These presentations work best throughout the summer months. Fish your bottom bouncer as vertical as possible. Too much line out results in lost tackle. 3 to 6 ft. leaders with spinner harnesses, plain hook with a bead and floating jigheads work best this time of year. The fish are usually at 15 to 30 ft. on both main lake and secondary points. Crankbaits can excell at times. Troll Rapalas and Wally Divers along shoreline contours. Some of my best fish have came from trolling crankbaits.

In July, August and September the fish move deeper to the 40 to 60 ft. depths. A heavy bottom bouncer seems to work best (1 to 2 oz). You can also troll crankbaits on leadcore line. Do not be afraid to use large live and artificial baits this time of year. On calm days you can vertically jig on main lake points with 3/8 oz. to 1/2 oz. jigs with large chubs or minnows and really catch some nice fish.

From October through December, Karl mostly fishes main lake points using his bowmount trolling motor to present his jigs and live bait rigs (bottom bouncers and lindy rigs) as vertical as possible. The slower the better. A drift sock really helps on windy days. Once again 1/4 oz. to 1/2 oz. jigs and 1 to 2 ounce bottom bouncers excell at this time of the year. The Cheyenne river is a local hot spot. Work the 30 to 50 ft. depths.

The Salmon fishery on Lake Oahe is nothing short of fantastic. 

Salmon can be caught from ice out through late September. Early Salmon fishing is fairly shallow (30 feet or less) trolling crankbaits and spoons. Later on when the water warms up and the Salmon move deeper, Karl uses downriggers rigged with flashers and dodgers baited with squids, trolling flies and cut Herring. Dont be afraid to try spoons and crankbaits also. Play with different colors and leader lengths till you find a pattern that works, then you can really put the hooks into them! Karl runs different depths/speeds until he finds the Salmon, then sets his downriggers at and around that particular depth. They are great fighters; all it takes is one 15 pound Salmon peeling off 50 or more yards of line, then jumping clean out of the water, to get you hooked on Salmon fishing!

Lake Sharpe

Lake Sharpe

Below the Oahe dam and running for over 75 miles is Lake Sharpe. Maximum depth here is over 75 ft. Upper Lake Sharpe near Pierre is more like fishing a river, with many sandbars, current breaks, channel edges, large flats and deep holes. Lower Lake Sharpe near Joe Creek and West Bend has deep water points, channel edges, large flats and submerged timber.

The ice fishing in January and Febuary on Lake Sharpe takes place mainly at Joe Creek, West Bend, North Shore, and backwater areas such as Hipple Lake by Farm Island State Park. Tip-ups, jigs and spoons should all be tipped with minnows. Setup on channel edges and drop offs in 10-30 ft. of water. Usually along the edges of submerged timber. Once again depth finders and cameras are helpful.

The top 5 to 10 miles of the river is generally free of ice, due to the current flow out of Oahe Dam. The water temperature is usually between 33 to 35 degrees. The fish are not too aggressive at this time of the year due to the cold water. Jigs and minnows are the #1 bait this time of year. Once again, light tackle is the way to go both with jigs and line. 1/16 oz. to 1/4 oz. jigs, 4 to 6 pound line. Karl uses his electric bowmount trolling motor to position his boat so he can either pitch or drag jigs until he contacts the fish. He then anchors up and cast jigs to the fish, usually in 10 to 12 ft. of water, casting up on the sandbars, along drop offs and edges of deep holes. In March and April when the water warms to 40 degrees and above, the crankbait bite really takes off. Trolling in 8 to 14 ft. with Shad Raps and Wally Divers on flats and along channel edges can really be productive this time of year.

In May, June and July the water warms up and a lot of the fish move downstream to the Joe Creek and West Bend areas, where there is deeper water. All techniques seem to work this time of year. Bottom bouncers with spinner harnesses, plain hook and a bead, and floating jigheads with 3 to 6 ft. leaders are common. Lindy rigs and jigs also work this time of year but there is a lot of sumerged timber on lower Lake Sharpe and bottom bouncers seem to snag less. You can troll crank baits on large flats using planer boards to spread my presentation out.

In August, September and October the bite is outstanding on Lake Sharpe. The walleyes are putting on the feed bag in preparation for winter. In fall and early winter bottom bouncers and jigs work the best. Concentrate on drop offs, current breaks and deep holes. In November and December the bite slows down with the dropping water temperatures. Look for fish in deep holes and current breaks. Once they are located anchor up and cast your jigs to them.

Local Bait and Color Tips

The colors for jigs are; white, chartreuse, green, pink and white, firetiger, and Karl's personal favorite, plain lead. Crankbait colors should include blue and silver, firetiger, charteruse, clown, black and silver, orange and gold, and red. Hot spinner blade colors are; silver, green, white, chartreuse, copper and orange. When using live bait rigs (bottom bouncers and lindy rigs), we use minnows, leeches, and crawlers. We have better results on 1/2 a crawler rather than a whole one.

LOCAL TIP: When using plastic bodies on jigs, pinch the twister tail off and just use the body part on your jig. Then tip this rig with a minnow.

For more tips and tricks, contact us.