Fishing in South Dakota


South Dakota is well known as the home of Mount Rushmore. Beyond the famous stone faces, this lightly populated state delights visitors with the majestic Black Hills and the wild rock formations of Badlands National Park. If you know where to look, South Dakota is also a great fishing destination — you can drop a line in picturesque trout streams, mountain lakes, and beautiful creeks. The best spots for fishing in South Dakota are a stone’s throw from the state’s most popular tourist destinations, so they’re easy to access on a larger trip throughout the state. Everyone aged 18 and older must have a valid fishing license in South Dakota, and your permit allows you to fish in most public places, including South Dakota state parks. Make sure to check the limit and size requirements for each location.

A small river flows past green, grassy fields and a stand of tall green trees.

Fishing Spots in South Dakota

Spring Creek

If you’re visiting Rapid City, take a short detour down to Spring Creek for excellent brown trout and rainbow trout fishing. Camping at Sheridan Lake is a great option because the creek exits the southern end of the lake. You’ll also find a variety of access points along Highway 385. 

Spearfish Canyon

With a variety of fish, including brown trout, rainbow trout, and brook trout, Spearfish Canyon has something for every angler. The Spearfish / Black Hills KOA Holiday in the town of Spearfish has all the amenities you need for a comfortable stay. From there, you can walk over to Spearfish Creek or drive into the canyon to find a wealth of good fishing spots. While you’re in the area, check out Squaw Creek, Little Spearfish Creek, and Iron Creek Lake.

Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake is located inside Custer State Park. With its rocky shores and still water, it’s one of the most beautiful places for fishing and camping in South Dakota. The lake is small and relatively shallow, so you’ll have plenty of luck reeling in rainbow trout from the shore. Camp right next to the water at Sylvan Lake Campground; if your RV is longer than 27 feet, check out the nearby Horse Thief Campground.

Little Elk Creek

Little Elk Creek is located near the town of Piedmont, which is about 20 miles north of Rapid City. It’s one of the most beautiful spots for fishing South Dakota in the fall. Hop on the Little Elk Creek Canyon Trail into the canyon, and you can fish surrounded by rock walls and changing leaves. This river is home to a sizable population of brook trout. The Dalton Lake Campground makes for a convenient home base with direct access to the local trails.

Pactola Lake

Pull your RV into a site at the Pactola Campground, and you’re just a short walk from great shore fishing on Pactola Lake. This large reservoir is home to some of the biggest lake trout in South Dakota, but it’s also a good spot to catch brown trout, kokanee salmon, and rainbow trout. If you’re after the bigger fish that hang out in the deep water, launch a boat from the campground’s ramp or rent one at the nearby Pactola Marina.

Lake Oahe

Lake Oahe is an enormous reservoir that’s formed by dams on the Missouri River. If you’re interested in walleye fishing, there’s no better place in the state; the lake also is also home to bass and pike. Book a campsite in the West Whitlock Recreation Area near Forest City, and enjoy miles of excellent fishing. Boating is the best way to bring in the biggest fish, so bring your own or rent canoes in the park.

Where to Fish in South Dakota

Many of the best fishing spots in South Dakota are located in or near the Black Hills National Forest. Whether you’re staying at a campground near Rapid City or Mount Rushmore, there are a variety of reservoirs and streams scattered throughout the hills. It’s easy to reach the best spots within two hours, so it’s quite seamless to add fishing excursions to a trip to the Black Hills. If you’re closer to the center of the state, the Missouri River is the perfect fishing destination; it bisects the state, giving you miles of exceptional fishing.

Camping and Fishing in South Dakota

After you settle on where to fish in South Dakota, it’s helpful to map out your top spots. South Dakota is sparsely populated, so you may need to plan ahead for gas, fuel, and supplies. This is particularly true if you’re camping in the central and eastern parts of the state. In the Black Hills, be sure to reserve campsites well in advance; during the summer, they fill up fast. 

When your RV is fully stocked, South Dakota is an easy destination for fishing. Trails are well marked, most spots are easy to access, and the scenery is world-class. Winter brings cold weather and frozen lakes, making it a wonderful time to try ice fishing. If you’re boondocking or staying at a primitive campground on a forest road, ask about road conditions at the local Forest Service or DNR office. Make sure to keep a cooler and plenty of ice on hand, especially if you’re fishing in a boat. Before you head out on your trip, check out our blog for all you need to know about fishing.

With an RV rental, your fishing trip will be a little more comfortable! After you’ve spent a long day fishing, grill up your catch right at your campsite. Then, retire inside to enjoy all the comforts of home on board your RV. Plan your perfect fishing getaway with an RV rental from RVshare.