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GFP installs 15-inch bass minimum on Lake Mitchell, nixes requirement on Burke Lake

A 15-inch minimum length limit for largemouth and smallmouth bass was also removed from Burke Lake in Gregory County.

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SIOUX FALLS — Anglers on Lake Mitchell will now be subject to a 15-inch minimum length on any bass caught in an effort to help rehabilitate the lake’s natural population.

To avoid confusion among anglers and law enforcement, waters along the Minnesota-South Dakota borders were left as an exception to the policy change.

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission voted at their regular meeting — held Wednesday and Thursday at Good Earth State Park in rural Sioux Falls — to install the 15-inch minimum citing a positive impact on the fishery.

The original proposal, approved for further consideration by the commission at their July meeting in Spearfish, noted that the population of smaller, young fish is limited in the lake.

“Fish population surveys on Mitchell Lake in Davison County indicated that a 15-inch minimum length limit would positively benefit the fishery,” the original proposal read. “The regulation will protect smaller largemouth and smallmouth bass from harvest resulting in increased abundance and improved sizes of bass in a lake where recruitment of young fish to the fishery is severely limited.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, Jon Kludt, representing Lake Mitchell Bassmasters, spoke to the commission in favor of the proposal, saying the 2018 removal of a length limit led to a decline in bass population.

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“Since 2001, the Lake Mitchell Bassmasters have been working on a project to improve the bass fishing at Lake Mitchell. Over the years, we’ve noticed a decline in the trajectory [in bass population] and … through discussing with our club members, we aren't seeing catches of smaller bass,” Kludt said. “In 2018, it was decided to remove the lake’s limit. So with the decline in the bass population, we’re in favor of reinstating the 15-inch minimum lake limit to kind of support the bass we do have left in there and to address our concerns with the declining trajectory of the fishery.”

Kludt said the Lake Mitchell Bassmasters have spent years working on habitat restoration projects in the water body, including sharing the cost of creating habitat structures.

After investing in a loading dock and boat launch, seeing bass populations decline was a disappointment, especially since Lake Mitchell is difficult to stock.

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Tyson Allen, of Mitchell, competes in the 30th annual Poorman's Fishing Tournament on Lake Mitchell in 2018. The Poorman's tournament is the longest-running tournament on Lake Mitchell.
Mitchell Republic file photo

“I guess with the decline in the bass fishing out at Lake Mitchell, it’s hard to determine the cause of it, but we know it's hard to stock bass in Lake Mitchell because it’s a large body of water and it would take a lot of bass and a lot of money to stock,” Kludt said. “One of our members teasingly proposed a project where we would catch and transfer bass to Lake Mitchell. That's kind of a complex project that’s costly and hard to locate bass to put in the lake.”

Using the city of Mitchell’s plans to draw down the lake in coming years as an example, Kludt said he’s hopeful that various lake projects will improve the bass population, but that the limit remains a good step in the right direction.

“Things have changed since 2001. The timetable has moved up for habitat projects which will be taking place at Lake Mitchell,” Kludt said. “Eventually we’re hopeful there will be better habitat for bass at Lake Mitchell. As far as reinstating the 15-inch minimum, we just hope to continue to work with Game, Fish and Parks because we can’t do it without helpful habitat and the help of regulations and management of the bass population.”

The 15-inch minimum was adopted without opposition.

Minutes before the commission implemented the 15-inch minimum on Lake Mitchell, the group nixed a similar rule on another lake roughly 70 miles to the southwest.

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After conducting fish population surveys on Burke Lake in Gregory County, the commission determined the 15-inch minimum was having no biological impact on the fishery. The minimum was removed to provide more opportunity for anglers to harvest bass in the water body.

Another petition seeking the installation of a 15-inch minimum on Sheridan Lake, a reservoir in the Black Hills, was denied on the recommendation of the department. A summary explaining the commission’s decision to deny will be discussed at the commission’s next meeting, set to be held Oct. 6-7 in Rapid City.

Other business conducted

The Commission voted to finalize several proposals from previous meetings. To view them in their entirety, visit gfp.sd.gov/commission/information/.

Fisheries Proposal: Fish Importation

The Commission modified the language in the rule listing importation requirements of fish to better describe current definitions of pathogens or diseases of regulatory concern.

Fisheries Proposal: General Fish Provisions and Limits

In addition to adding a length minimum for bass on Lake Mitchell and removing a minimum for bass on Burke Lake, the Commission made two other changes to fishing limits and provisions:

Fisheries Proposal: Hoop Nets, Traps, Setlines and Floatlines

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The Commission made two changes to the hoop nets, traps, setlines and floatlines rules. They are:

  • Changed the check times for hoop nets, traps, and setlines from 72 hours to 24 hours.
  • Modified the language to allow someone besides the licensee to run hoop nets, traps, setlines and floatlines if the licensee is present.

Fisheries Proposal: Paddlefish Seasons

The Commission made two changes to the paddlefish snagging and archery seasons. They are:

  • Administrative rule clean up related to paddlefish preference points. Preference points will still be available for purchase from September 15-December 15 for all paddlefish seasons.
  • Added crossbows as a legal method of take for paddlefish during archery seasons. For the archery season below Gavins Point Dam, crossbows may be used downstream of the Hwy 81 bridge.

Fisheries Proposal: Persons with Disabilities

The Commission created a permit to allow an individual to assist a disabled angler with lawful fishing activities.

Wildlife Proposal: Peregrine Falcon Down-listing

The Commission voted to down-list the peregrine falcon from endangered to threatened on the state list of threatened and endangered bird species.

Wildlife Proposal: Spring Turkey

The Commission made several changes to their current proposal for the spring wild turkey seasons. Following are the proposed changes for the spring turkey season:

Changed the proposed season start date from the 3rd Saturday in April to the 2nd Saturday in April for the prairie spring turkey season. This would be a no change from the 2022 season.

  • April 8 – May 31, 2023
  • April 13 – May 31, 2024

Changed the proposed season start date from the 3rd Saturday in April to the fourth Saturday in April for the Black Hills spring turkey season.

  • April 22 – May 31, 2023
  • April 27 – May 31, 2024

For archery and mentored spring turkey licenses, season start dates would align with the prairie and Black Hills season, respectively.
For the Fall River hunting unit, removed the allowance to hunt within one mile of the Cheyenne River in the Black Hills hunting unit.

Wildlife Proposal: Custer State Park Turkey

The Commission modified their current proposal for the Custer State Park Spring Turkey Season to begin on the fourth Saturday in April.

  • April 22 – May 21, 2023
  • April 27 – May 19, 2024
A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021. After over a year in Mitchell, he moved to Milwaukee, where he now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on regional news that impacts the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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