Fishing rules less restrictive in 2019


— By Mark Ermer, Northeast Area Fisheries Supervisor for South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.

On Jan. 1, several substantial changes to fishing regulations will be implemented in South Dakota that will make fishing less restrictive. Anglers are encouraged to consult the 2019 South Dakota fishing handbook to familiarize themselves with the changes and to review all fishing regulations.

Some of the changes affecting northeast South Dakota follow:

Walleye 15-inch minimum length limit: The 15-inch minimum length limit has been removed from Richmond, Elm, Enemy Swim, Pickerel, Clear and Roy lakes. Recent sampling was not able to determine whether or not the minimum length limits on these waters were benefiting the fisheries. Because of this, it was decided that the minimum length limits should be removed.

Black bass regulations: All harvest regulations for black bass (largemouth and smallmouth bass) have been removed in northeast South Dakota. Regulations removed this January include the 14- to 18-inch protected slot limit on black bass at lakes Clear (Marshall County), Horseshoe (Day County) and Roy and the 15-inch minimum length limit for black bass on Richmond Lake. Based on creel survey information few people are harvesting black bass making the regulations unnecessary at this time.

No daily limit for white bass and rock bass: White bass and rock bass can now be harvested without regard for a daily limit. These species tend to be abundant where they occur and angler interest in harvesting them is less when compared to other species. Although there is no limit, anglers are encouraged to harvest only what they can utilize as wanton waste rules can still apply.

Walleye 1 over 28 inches: Horseshoe Lake in Day County was added to the lakes that allow for the harvest of only one walleye larger than 28 inches. This regulation has been successful at creating high angler catch rates for large walleyes at Reetz and Twin (Minnehaha County) lakes in eastern South Dakota. Anglers interested in harvesting walleyes should avoid these waters since no walleyes less than 28 inches can be taken.

No spring-closed fishing season: The closed fishing season on South Dakota/Minnesota border waters (Big Stone Lake, Lake Hendricks, Mud Lake and Lake Traverse) and on eastern South Dakota streams has been eliminated. Anglers can now fish year-round on these waters. Opening the previously closed season will provide anglers with additional angling opportunities and simplify regulations.

No domicile possession limits: People can now possess unlimited numbers of fish at their domicile. A domicile is defined as a person’s established, fixed and permanent home to which the person, whenever absent, has the intention of returning. This change only applies to the possession limit at one’s domicile. Outside of the domicile, a person may have only twice the daily limit in possession.

Muskellunge catch and release: This will be the first full year that the statewide muskellunge regulation is catch and release only. The catch and release regulation was enacted during the 2018 summer.

Reetz Lake: Reetz Lake will open to fishing on May 1 and close on Sept. 31. Permission is required to fish Reetz Lake during the rest of the year. Anglers fishing at Reetz Lake should consider it as catch and release unless they catch a trophy-sized fish with the exception of smallmouth bass. The fishing regulations on Reetz Lake are:

  • One walleye larger than 28 inches.
  • One yellow perch larger than 14 inches.
  • One crappie larger than 15 inches.
  • One bluegill larger than 10 inches.
  • The smallmouth bass regulation is the statewide regulation of five fish per day with no length limit.

The 2019 fishing licenses went on sale Dec. 15; 2018 licenses will expire Jan. 31. For more information, go to