The Fishing Line: The quest for the perfect fishing report

Today's anglers have more options than ever to find reliable, up-to-date ice fishing reports. However, nothing beats time on the ice. Photo by Spencer Neuharth

By Spencer Neuharth

Planning an ice fishing trip is a daunting task. What often makes it so tough is a lack of mobility in an unfamiliar place.

Pulling up to a spot and setting up shop usually means you’re committed to that general area for at least a couple hours, no matter how bad the fishing is. Fail at getting on the right piece of ice multiple times, and your daylight is shot.

The best way to take some of the guesswork and legwork out of ice fishing is by getting a report. Not all reports are created equal, though. They range from whiteboards hanging above a gas station’s bait cooler to anonymous tips through online forums. Here are the best ways to get intel for your next weekend ice fishing adventure.

Facebook Groups

Facebook has become the new go-to place for fishing reports. With over 18,000 members in the Ice Fishing South Dakota and East River South Dakota Hunting & Fishing groups, there is a ton of information available.

The thing that makes these pages so great is also its downfall, though. With so many members, it means that there are too many eyes reading the same information. Often, someone will post a picture of a limit of perch on a lake around Brookings, and then the following weekend the fishing pressure is tripled. A good example is what happened on Schaefer’s Slough with crappie a couple years ago, or what happened on Lake Poinsett with perch this year.

The online pages are great for finding deals on ice fishing gear, though. Year-round, guys are buying and selling shacks, augers and depth-finders at discounted prices.

Forums and are some of the best resources for ice fishing reports. They’re frequented by the most die-hard anglers and offer more intimate discussions. I think these areas are where fishermen are most likely to share real, honest tips.

I’ve had good luck with forums and trading reports. One of my go-to tactics is starting a thread a week prior to a fishing trip and seeing if anyone wants to trade information. Usually a handful of people reply who plan on fishing the same area and offer to share their fishing reports in exchange for mine.

This tactic brought me success on a trip to the Glacial Lakes a couple years ago, where a stranger got on a big school of bluegill and texted me his coordinates. Prior to that, we were both striking out but felt confident that one of us would find the fish because we were covering a lot of ground and willing to share the wealth.

Video & Radio

Every Wednesday Dakota Angler has a fishing report video that covers eastern South Dakota, and every Thursday KWAT 950 has a radio show that covers the Glacial Lakes area. Both are very up to date and offer info that is unique to their respective outlets.

Their reports typically come from conservation-officer input and personal experience. Their reports also have other tidbits of info sprinkled in, like how the weather has played a factor recently or what the results are from recent fishing tournaments.

Local Businesses

The classic way to get reports is through local businesses. Stop by a place like Artie’s Bait & Tackle in Ortonville, Minn., or Sportsman’s Cove in Webster, S.D., and the person behind the counter is sure to have some info. Buy bait or new split shots, and you’ll probably get a detailed update on where guys are flocking, what they’re using and what they’re catching.

Another way to score intel is through the place you’re staying. Remote areas like Lynn Lake Lodge or Hidden Hill Lodge offer unique accommodations and have the best ice and fishing reports for their local waters.

South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks

There are multiple ways you can use the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks to get reports. One thing you can do is call a local conservation officer to ask how the action has been in an area you plan to fish. They know better than anyone where anglers are congregating and accessing lakes.

The guys pulling nets and counting fish are the biologists, though, who have their lake surveys published each year on the GFP’s website. In 2015, the department did over 30 surveys in the Glacial Lakes region that included stocking numbers, netting numbers and contour maps. They cover the smallest bodies of water, such as Hamak Lake, all the way up to the biggest lakes, such as Bitter Lake, and everything in between. These reports are very accessible and have tons of relevant information that can help you craft a plan to find good fishing.

About the Author: Fishing columnist Spencer Neuharth is from Menno, S.D., studied biology at the University of South Dakota and worked as a fish biologist for five years. For more information go to