An online piece I saw recently listed South Dakota as the country’s 43rd best state for fishing, and I wasn’t sure whether to be offended or pleased.
I should be pleased. I don’t fish at all these days, but I do a fair amount of pleasure boating on the Missouri River. I like it when I pull up to the launching area and I’m the only rig in the place. That means quick into the water and quick out at the end of the day.
When the fish are biting, it can be quite a wait to launch a boat and a long walk back from the parking area, which sometimes can be out on a street or access road. In my early days of boating in Pierre, few people were fishing on Lake Oahe, so the ramps were open. As walleye and salmon became incredibly popular, word spread and things got crowded. Having a national study rank us worse than 42 other states might reduce the crowds at the docks.
On the other hand, I am a South Dakotan, born and raised here and proud of it most of the time. We have pretty good fishing, and it’s kind of an insult to me and the whole state when somebody says our sport only better than seven other states. What? Come on. Whether you fish or not, you see what I mean. Be true to your state and all that. I’m tempted to write a parody song to the Beach Boys’ “Be True to Your School.’’ “Rah-rah-rah-rah, sis-boom-bah.’’
According to the study, Alaska is the best state for fishing. Yeah, I’m not going to argue with that. I’ve heard the stories. The next four best are Michigan, Maine, Rhode Island and Florida. I guess that’s possible. Each of those states is on the ocean or a huge lake – four Great Lakes, in the case of Michigan. Give credit where credit is due.
The worst state, this study says, is Nevada. Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas and Nebraska aren’t much better, the list shows. I can see that, too. Several of those states are basically desert, or desert and mountains. Kansas seems kind of a dry place. It’s been years since I’ve been anywhere in Nebraska except the sandhills. It’s a lovely region, but it doesn’t seem to have a lot of water.
So, we beat our neighbor Nebraska, but we rank behind neighbors Minnesota (11), Montana (17), North Dakota (25) and Wyoming (33).
I’d worked up a good case of indignation before I checked the source. It’s something called “Lawn Love,’’ a lawn-care blog. Before you ask, I have no idea why such a place would be ranking states for fishing. They did, though, and I read it, so they win. They say they ranked states based on “high levels of community interest in the sport, an abundance of water sources, easy access to gear and affordable fishing licenses.’’
Well, I’m not invested enough to do a lot of original research, but people tell me our licenses are relatively reasonably priced. The number of fishing boats I see day after day for about eight months of the year suggests community interest is high. I’ve been to Cabela’s in Mitchell, and I used to go past Carl’s Bait Shop on the road from Fort Pierre to Oahe Dam. Both appeared to give easy access for anyone wanting fishing stuff.
That leaves water sources. Well, the Missouri is a big, big water source for anglers. So are the northeast lakes and the Black Hills streams and reservoirs. I’m sure the study considered those.
I’ll bet what it missed is all of those “stock dams’’ where locals catch fish. You ask somebody who’s carrying a mess of fish where they had such great luck. “Stock dam out in Stanley County’’ is often the answer. It’s that way all over the state.
If we want to do better in the next study, anglers have to start telling the rest of us exactly where they go to catch fish. I might start fishing again if I knew which Stanley County stock dam to hit.