The local’s guide to fishing in the Aberdeen area
In Casey Weismantel’s younger days, he spent almost all of his free time staring at bobbers over the calm ripples of Richmond Lake. It was only a brief ride from his home in Pleasant Valley; so he’d hop on his 10-speed, tackle box and rod in hand, sit on the dock, and fish until dark. That is, of course, until lighted bobbers were invented – then you had to pry him off the lake. On Saturdays, he would ride over to visit Dennis Smith, the owner of the A-Frame (known today as Anchor’s Away), buy some nightcrawlers and Mister Twisters, and fish for crappies off the edge of his dock. Dennis made a deal with Casey – if he could catch a catfish, he would buy him lunch. Casey was eager to accept the challenge. Every time he caught a fish, whether it was a crappie or a bluegill, he brought it into Dennis’s restaurant and asked him if it was a catfish. Once the lunch rush was over at about 1:30, Casey would come back with the same fish, but this time Dennis would say, “I’ll be damned, you caught one!” Then he’d grill Casey a cheeseburger and secretly walk out the backdoor to toss the fish into the lake.
Casey’s fondest memories are all about the pursuit of fish, a passion he’s carried with him for his entire life. And what better place to fish than the tranquil and diverse lakes of South Dakota? From the grassland expansions of Elm Lake to the cut banks and bluffs of the Missouri River, there are endless opportunities for reeling in the catch of a lifetime. Boasting year-round fishing and different lakes for every skill level, there truly is something for everyone. And with Aberdeen’s convenient location, you don’t have to drive far to get the fishing experience of a lifetime.
Since we at Aberdeen Magazine are by no means expert anglers, we were lucky enough to sit down with Casey, Executive Director at the Aberdeen Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, to learn all the tips of the trade to help you and your family reel in the fish of a lifetime (or at least have fun trying).
What’s in a Place?
So you’ve got your rod and your tackle, but now what? How do you decide where to go? This one should be obvious: wherever they’re biting, of course! While this may be true, Casey advised us that it depends largely on what you want to fish for. If you’re looking to bring a youngster out fishing for the first time, Wylie Lake, located right in Wylie Park in Aberdeen, is the perfect place for kids 16 and under to get a bobber in the water and sharpen their skills. Richmond and Mina Lakes are typically the next steps up. “These lakes are great places to take a family,” Casey explained. “You can enjoy the water on the recreational side of things and also wet a line while you’re there.” Casey also recommends Elm Lake, citing its similarities to the terrain of the Missouri River. Amstem Dam, just east of Aberdeen, is also a good spot to check out, boasting high populations of rock bass and crappies.
However, if you plan on getting into the more serious side of fishing and want to spend the whole day in the boat, Casey advises putting in more effort into heading east or west to the glacial lakes near Waubay or to the Missouri River. “There’s a different vibe on the lakes near Aberdeen, because you have to share the lake with water skiers, pleasure boaters, and pontoons.”
If you’re simply seeking out the place that will net you the most fish, the most important thing you can do is stay connected. On huntfishsd.com, weekly fishing reports help fishers stay in touch with where the most bites are. “Our fishing reports range from the glacial lakes to the Missouri River,” he explained. “We tell people they’re biting here or it’s slower there and do some of the homework for them.”
By Boat or by Land?
How are you going to approach your fishy adventure? Will you catch more fish on the shore or by boat? According to Casey, it boils down to personal preference and the resources available to you. If you don’t have access to a boat, there are still bountiful bank fishing opportunities that provide benefits of their own. “A common mistake people make in boats is not fishing shallow enough. Although the mobility of a boat can definitely outweigh fishing from the shore, I’ve seen people on shore out fish people in boats easily,” Casey said.
Timing is Everything
Catching fish when they actually feel like biting is tough, especially in the summertime. During the “Dog of Days of Summer” when the temperature is at its most extreme, the water gets hot and the fish stop cooperating altogether. The rest of summer is typically okay for fishing, but Casey noted that spring and fall are the most lucrative. “In the springtime, they’re spawning and coming in shallow to lay their eggs. In late fall, they eat as much as they can because they know they’re going to have to get ready to roll into winter soon.”
For this reason, Casey advised starting out shallow and then working your way deeper while fishing. “Don’t be afraid to get your lure snagged in some weed beds,” he said. “There’s a reason there’s big fish – they know how to hide.”
There are few sports that boast a wider range of gear and doodads to confuse and overwhelm newbies than fishing. There seem to be different lures and bait for just about every stretch of water you can imagine, making choosing one no easy task. Every year, the industry releases the latest and greatest –lures that are shinier, run deeper, make more noise as they go through the water, and even imitate live minnows. Depending on the water quality and clarity, you may want to use a dark lure or a bright and flashy lure. If the water is calm and clear, you don’t need a lure that creates vibration, but if the water is dirty and stained, you need a lure that will make as much noise as possible in order for fish to key in on it.
While lures can be important for fishing in certain conditions, Casey told us that it isn’t always necessary. “There are a lot of old timers out there that can still catch things on a hook and line. Live bite on a hook with a split shot and throw it over the boat. Shore fishers often just use a jig head and a minnow, that’s as basic as you can possibly get.”
End of the Line
There are countless challenges and whole lakes full of fun awaiting the enthusiastic angler, and hopefully the information provided here is enough to put you on the path to successfully navigating the world of fishing. If you haven’t done so already, all that’s left to do is obtain a fishing license, which can be purchased at Ken’s, Kessler’s, Wal-Mart, or any of the local bait shops. The Resident Annual Fishing license is only $28, and ensures you an entire year of unlimited access to the water.
Casey is hopeful that the younger generation will grow to love fishing just as much as he did as a kid. “Nobody taught me how to fish,” he said. “My dad didn’t take me out or anything like that. But I like to go with others and see them enjoy catching a fish.” And although Casey is proud of his larger catches, he almost always throws them back. “If I throw it back, I hope some little kid can catch that fish at a later date in the hope that somebody buys them a cheeseburger, just like I did.” // –Becca Simon