Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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The ‘Big Muddy:’ a great place to social distance

(North Dakota Game and Fish Department)

By Steve Carney


I’ve been holding off on my usual treks to the Missouri River in South Dakota while waiting for clarification on travel rules, etc., but I decided recently to head there and get in on walleye-spawn fishing near Fort Thompson.  


As I drove there, I thought about the fact that with the coronavirus drama these days, there would be fewer anglers. But I pulled into the Cedar Shore access and saw hundreds of trucks and trailers. All the parking spaces were full! I’d never seen so many boats at that location in the 30 years I’ve been going there in the spring. 


Because this was late April, I figured the spawn would be occurring as normal and my timing would be perfect. My group worked the in-town riprap rocks, which are normally red hot at this time of year, but we found no activity that afternoon.


Obviously, we’d missed the spawn probably by a week or two. We decided to head upriver next and hit some ledges near the Kiowa area. I found a breakline with fish on it so we fished there the next morning and caught limits of some beautiful 16- to 18-inch walleyes. 


Because there were so many boaters racing up and down the river, I had multiple boats move in on me many times, and I would watch them catch a fish at my precise breakline of 17 feet and then they would wander off the break into deeper water. 


It’s amazing how sloppy some anglers are in their boat control. On the Missouri, if you catch a fish at 17 feet, you stay at that depth all day.


We caught a mixture of walleyes, silver bass, and sheepshead, all along the ledge at 17 feet. If I moved a foot on either side of 17 feet, no bites.


This goes to show how precise boat control has to be to be successful.


The anglers pulling leadcore seemed to be doing the best, although it’s not my favorite way to catch walleyes.


It was awesome to finally get on open water after being homebound for so long. There are precautions in place at every public spot in South Dakota, with take-out food only and everyone practicing social distancing at every level. It goes to show you can still catch fish and stay safe in the process.

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