South Dakota GFP Explains Lake Oahe Fishing Limits

PIERRE, S.D. – Fishing on Lake Oahe is heating up, particularly in the upper reaches of the big lake. Questions regarding walleye limits have accompanied the increased fishing activity, especially because they differ from walleye regulations in other waters.

“Lake Oahe has a walleye harvest limit that is unique from the rest of the state, with a daily limit of eight,” said Mark Fincel, senior fisheries biologist for the Game, Fish and Parks Department. “Of those eight fish, no more than four walleyes may be 15 inches or longer – and of those four, only one may be over 20 inches.”

The Lake Oahe regulation adds the potential to harvest four more walleyes in addition to the standard statewide daily limit of four walleyes, which is in place on all other waters of the state, combined.

That leads to the question of how an angler might combine a day of fishing on Lake Oahe with another body of water.

The walleye regulation on Lake Oahe is considered additive. That means anglers can harvest a four-fish limit of walleye on any other water body, and then  may harvest up to four additional walleyes on Lake Oahe, as long as they adhere to walleye length and daily limits for Lake Oahe.  On any one day of fishing, anglers can only keep four walleyes 15 inches or longer, of which only one can be 20 inches or longer, no matter how many waters they fish.

“That does not work in reverse,” Fincel stressed. “Once four or more walleyes have been harvested on Lake Oahe, anglers cannot harvest additional walleyes on any other water bodies that day.”

Walleye possession limits have also been increased on Lake Oahe and are again considered additive.  Anglers are allowed to have 24 walleyes in possession from Lake Oahe. In addition, anglers are allowed their statewide possession limit of eight walleyes from other water bodies of the state combined. Therefore, the maximum number of walleyes an angler could have in possession after fishing at least three days on Lake Oahe and two days on other waters of the state is 32.

GFP personnel are available if specific questions or concerns come up, and anglers are encouraged to seek advice from local law enforcement.     

“It is the job of GFP officers to enforce our state’s regulations, and serve as contacts for anglers who would like more information regarding angling limits,” said Dale Gates, regional conservation officer supervisor in Fort Pierre. “We strongly encourage questions from anglers if they are uncertain about anything in the new regulations. We want our angling public to be well-informed of current regulations on all water bodies, so feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.”

“We’ve been hard at work collecting walleye eggs for South Dakota walleye stocking programs and the Lake Oahe walleye tagging study, and what we have seen is right in line with what anglers have been experiencing – walleye catches on Lake Oahe appear to be high for fish 13- to 16-inches in length,” Fincel said. “Those fish are a result of a couple of very large year classes starting in 2009. The new Lake Oahe walleye regulation is aimed at providing anglers an extra opportunity to harvest those abundant year classes.”

A fact sheet outlining how Lake Oahe walleye limits are related to limits from other waters is available at many bait shops and convenience stores in the vicinity of Lake Oahe and on the GFP website under the fishing regulations tab at:

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