Prairie Hot Holes

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There is much to be said for the lands of sky blue waters where stands of towering pines and birch give way to pristine wilderness lakes teeming with hungry fish.

I've spent my share of time exploring those bountiful waters of northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and southern Canada, where I even spent three years as a fishing guide.

Then I experienced the Glacial Lakes Region of South Dakota, where the wind-swept prairies embrace hundreds of inviting and fertile lakes just a short drive from my home in northwest Iowa.

God's country is wherever one finds it, and there's little doubt that counties like Clark, Marshall, Codington, Day, Hamlin, Brookings and Kingsbury in northeast South Dakota have been blessed by a heavenly touch. They are home to lakes like Waubay, Bitter, Blue Dog, Horseshoe, Antelope, Enemy Swim, Roy, Traverse, Pickerel and even Punished Woman's Lake.

Whether your species of choice is walleye, northern pike, crappie, bluegill, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass or perch, there is a destination in the Glacial Lakes Region that's short on frustration and long on satisfaction. And most offer quality fishing for a multitude of species, not to mention some fascinating lessons in Native American history and lore.

Some 20 years ago, only a handful of lakes in the region featured the depth, structure and habitat to sustain healthy populations of gamefish. However, a succession of major snow melts in the early 1990s helped many of these waters swell. Small sloughs that once stood alone joined together to create new fisheries, while the more established lakes in the area grew larger and deeper.

Water levels have stabilized the past few years or decreased slightly, but not enough to affect the fishing or an angler's ability to navigate these waters. And careful, far-sighted management by the South Dakota Department of Natural Resources is helping assure the future of what have become some of the most productive fisheries in the Midwest.

Daily and possession limits, for example, are modest enough to protect against overfishing but liberal enough to remain attractive to anglers.

Most Glacial Lakes Region waters allow anglers to take four walleyes per day. All must be at least 14 inches in length and only one can be longer than 20 inches. Some lakes, including Waubay, are more restrictive, allowing only two walleyes per day.

Preserving these resources, of course, is also the responsibility of the angler. Take enough for a good meal or two of fish, but return as many of the larger, female fish as possible.

Once you visit the Glacial Lakes, you'll want to return, anyway.

My species of choice is usually walleye, and one of the things I most enjoy about fishing the Glacial Lakes is casting jigs and crankbaits to these fish. It's the best way to target old marble-eyes because they frequently relate to wind-washed shorelines where reduced water clarity makes it easy for them to forage, or they hang around submerged structure where a well-placed

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