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South Dakota Fishing Licenses and Regulations

There’s much more than bass, pike, and catfish in South Dakota. Over 100 fish species swim in its waters. That’s why it’s an alluring Fishing destination for many anglers. But whether you’re a local or a visitor, you’ll need a fishing license to get a taste of South Dakota. Plus, to legally fish you’ll need to know the state’s regulations. So, let’s dive into both.

Types of South Dakota fishing licenses  

Resident fishing licenses: 

If you live in South Dakota, you can apply for a resident fishing license. Here is a list of residency requirements. Avid fishermen should purchase an annual fishing license. It’s the best bargain, priced at $28 for the whole year.

If you’re 16-18 years of age, you’re required to buy a junior combination license. It includes hunting and trapping at no extra cost. Fishermen 19 years of age and older may also buy a combo license. For them, it’s optional; whereas 16-18 year-olds must buy a combo license.

If you’re a resident under 16 years of age, you don’t need a license to fish. Residents 65 years of age and older need to buy a resident senior citizen fishing license. They cost $12.

If you don’t fish much, you can buy a 1-day fishing license for $8. Remember, this license is only valid for 24 hours.

Keep in mind that you will need a separate permit to catch fish with a spear gun or bow and arrow. The cost is $5.

Using setlines and hoop nets also require separate licenses. You must have a separate license for each setline and hoop net you use. There’s no cost for these licenses. 

Non-resident fishing licenses: 

If you’re visiting South Dakota, you can apply for a nonresident fishing license. You may apply online or in person.

If you plan to stay for a while or visit a lot, then an annual fishing license is best. For nonresidents, this license costs $67. Annual family fishing licenses are also an option. They’re $67, as well. With this license, the catch limit is lumped together per family.

You may also buy a 1-day or 3-day fishing license. These are ideal if you’re staying less than a week.

Non-resident youths under 16 years of age don’t need a fishing license. Their daily catch limit is included with their parent’s or legal guardian’s fishing license. But, if a young adult under 16 years of age wants to have their own catch limit, they’ll need a youth fishing license.

Commercial fishing licenses:

If you plan to sell your catch for profit, you need a commercial license. Both residents and non-residents may apply. There are a variety of commercial fishing licenses, including:

  • Retail bait dealer
  • Wholesale bait dealer
  • Raising baitfish
  • Export bait dealer

You can apply for these licenses online or in person. Keep in mind that there are also lots of commercial fishing regulations, as well.

South Dakota fishing regulations 

You’ll have to abide by the rules to legally fish these waters. This means learning the regulations.

Daily catch limit:

This is the number of fish you’re allowed to catch in one day. Each species has its own daily catch limit. For example, you’re allowed to catch four walleyes per day, whereas you’re allowed to catch five bass daily.

Additionally, some fishing locations are catch-and-release only. For example, you must release all rainbow trout you catch in Spearfish Creek.

There are also special rules when it comes to catching paddlefish. For a complete list of the South Dakota daily catch limit click here.

Possession limit:

This is the number of fish you’re allowed to have in your possession while fishing. The number includes dead or fileted fish.

To determine the possession limit of each species, it’s a very simple formula: just multiply the daily catch limit by two. For example, the daily catch limit for sunfish is 15. That means the possession limit for sunfish is 30.

Legally transporting fish:

When it comes to taking your fish across the water, there are some things you’ll need to know. Here are four basic rules you must obey:

  • You must make all filets easily countable
  • All frozen fish must be individually packaged
  • Any fish in public storage must be tagged and identified
  • Two filets equal one whole fish

Length limit:

There are rules that determine what the “keeping-size“ is for each fish species. There may be a minimum or maximum size limit. For example, you may keep only one walleye that’s 20 inches or longer. When it comes to catching muskie, they must be at least 40 inches long in order to keep.

The length limit may vary from location to location. You can find a complete list of length limits here. This list includes catfish and northern pike.

Using legal bait:  

Certain places don’t allow the use of live organic bait. For example, you can’t use organic bait in Rapid Creek–it’s an artificial-lure-only fishing spot. It’s the same way in Spearfish Creek–live bait within 100 feet of the stream is illegal.

Hook and line regulations:

  • When fishing the open water, you can use two lines and three hooks. When ice fishing, you may use up to four lines.
  • You may use only two lines in Minnesota/South Dakota border waters
  • A bow and arrow, crossbow, spear, or spear gun counts as a line
  • Only one end of each line can have hooks.
  • It’s okay to use umbrella rings, but only three liters may have hooks.

For a full list of line and hook regulations, click here.

Now that you’ve learned about South Dakota’s fishing licenses and regulations, go test the waters. You might catch a world-record walleye or king-size crappie!

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South Dakota Fishing Licenses and Regulations


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