February 23, 2018 5 min read
Northern Pike fly fishing has become very popular around the Black Hills area over the past several years, and for good reason – even a small one is bigger than most trout you’re going to catch, they eat big flies with bad intentions, and it’s something different than your standard bobber and two nymph rig that you’d use for trout fishing. We have some great pike fishing opportunities around the area, with a wide variety of waters and tactics to choose from. There’s places you can go and fish most of the day to have a shot at one 15 pounder, or there’s places you can go and have consistent action on 20-30 inch pike – which are a ton of fun. We’ve been guiding pike for a few years now, and we’ve decided to branch out a bit and expand our territory to not only include Black Hills lakes, but also some exceptional lakes on the prairie that are a further drive, but have solid fishing for average sized fish.
If you’re new to pike fishing or looking to have more consistent action most days rather than hunting one or two big fish, there are some awesome lakes on the prairie north and east of Rapid City that offer exceptional pike fishing for fish in the 2-5 pound range. Most of these lakes have large numbers of pike in them, and under the right conditions they are competitive and aggressive towards a properly presented fly. In the spring, fairly shallow presentations are the norm, and a good portion of the fishing you do is very visual – you often see the fish hit the fly, and they can be caught on the surface under the right conditions. Are there bigger fish around than the cookie cutter fish? Yes – it’s not uncommon to encounter larger fish, but the majority of the fish you have shots at are going to be aggressive 25″ fish that are a hoot on an 8 or 9 weight rod. If you’re newer to pike fishing, these lakes are a great option because you get many more opportunities than you would in lakes with fewer, larger pike, which allows you to have more chances and learn faster. Plus, it’s a lot of fun! The lakes we frequent are anywhere from a 1-2.5 hour drive from Rapid City, so it’s often an early morning drive. We fish both out of boats and wading, depending on the conditions – wind mostly. Many of the lakes are too shallow to run a conventional V-hull boat, so we use a driftboat to access water that would otherwise be particularly difficult or even impossible to launch in or motor to. If you’re looking for numbers of fish and a lot of fun, many of the South Dakota prairie lakes offer great action and lots of fun!
There’s great opportunities for pike in the Black Hills as well, but you’re going to work harder for fewer fish, but they’re typically larger. If you’re looking for more numbers, we often fish Sheridan and Stockade lakes. The fish are pretty willing, and there’s good numbers of them with the opportunity for a big one thrown in as well. On a full day trip, sometimes we will fish two lakes as well, depending on the conditions and the willingness of the pike. In the spring when the water temperatures are optimal, the fish are laid up shallow and you typically fish intermediate lines and shallow water. Under the right conditions, you can often sight fish them. These fish are a bit trickier than the prairie fish typically, but the opportunity for a large fish is there on any of the lakes in the Black Hills. Once the fish get done spawning we switch to heavier sinking lines and focus on fishing structure – weededges, dropoffs, ledges, etc. The larger fish are typically found this way, as they’re less skittish when they have a little more water over their heads. We guide almost exclusively out of boats on Sheridan and Stockade, as they allow us to be more mobile and cover water more effectively and efficiently. A lot of the water we fish is almost impossible to fly fish off the bank, as the banks are steep and a backcast would be nearly impossible. Mobility and covering water is key!
Pactola Reservoir has earned a reputation for enormous pike, and for good reason – there’s a lot of them in there. The population has went down a bit from spearfishing in the last few years, but there’s still good number of large fish around. This isn’t easy fishing at all, and isn’t for new fly anglers – you’re often fishing for 1-3 solid chances in a day. That being said, if you’re looking for a pike in the 15 plus pound range, nowhere in the Black Hills puts them out like Pactola does. Like Sheridan and Stockade, this is almost all boat fishing. Covering tons of water seems to be the key to success at Pactola, so we spend a lot of time casting and moving. In the spring when the water temps are prime, we often fish shallow water to laid up fish. It’s technical fishing, but there’s nothing cooler than moving a massive pike and having them crush your fly and seeing the whole thing. This kind of fishing isn’t a numbers game at all, but it’s exciting to see and cast to big pike. Once the water warms a bit more and the fish move out deeper, we switch to heavy sinking lines and fish drop offs and structure. It’s not a visual game, but it’s oftentimes a more productive way to consistently move fish. Fishing Pike at Pactola is almost like Musky fishing – lots of casts and if you’re lucky you’ll move a few and get one to eat. We’ll typically be fishing big flies in the 7-10″ range – you don’t catch many small ones, but the flies are big enough to move a brute if they’re in the mood. Fall can be good also, and it’s the same heavy sinking line game as the late spring. To land a big pike at Pactola you have to put some work in, but it’s awesome when it all comes together.
We typically fish rods in the 8-10 weight range, with a variety of sinking lines to get your flies to the level the fish are at. Don’t have a heavy rod or the right lines? No problem. We provide all the equipment you’ll need for a day of pike fishing, wherever that might be. We’re always adjusting and changing lines, flies, and locations to put you in the most opportune location to be successful. Pike fishing isn’t the numbers game that Black Hills trout fishing is, but it’s a ton of fun and a nice change of pace for most folks.
Taking a guided trip for pike is probably the single best way to learn how to chase them, and with the variety of waters we have available to us there’s something for everyone. We’re offering both full and half day pike trips this coming year. A full day runs $475, and half days are $300. All equipment is included in the cost of the trip – boat, rods, lines, flies and water. Lunches are included on full day trips. Due to traveling logistics, most of the lakes we guide on the prairie are only full day trips – but it’s typically worth the extra driving time. Try something different this year – pike on a fly are a blast! If you have any questions about our pike guided trips or want to book a day, give us a call at the shop at 605-341-2450 or shoot us an email at email@example.com.
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