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    The Death of a Great Trout Lake

    There are few places that are as near and dear to my heart as Lakota Lake in the Black Hills. Located off of Iron Mountain Road, this lake is where I spent a lot of time growing up and even now as an “adult”. I feel almost as though Lakota and nearby Center Lake were as much home as the house in North Rapid that I grew up in.

    Lakota Lake was where stories involving my good friends Hammie and Ben, my old 1989 Plymouth Reliant K-Car, pine cone baseball, “The Jaw” and fishing from the Titanic originated. It was where I watched my mom dump my dad from a canoe. Was it malicious, or was it accidental? I guess we’ll never know. But it was funny. I spent my first holiday with my wife and oldest son at Lakota Lake. Lakota Lake was also the one and only place I ever got to fish with Kevin Woyjeck.

    Lakota is the place where I have caught some of my best fish. My absolute favorite species of fish has always been, and probably always will be, trout. During a fly-fishing outing with my dad in the late 1990s, I latched onto a huge rainbow trout in my float tube. It was a battle that seemed as though it took forever. That particular ‘bow on that particular day still stands as the biggest and best rainbow I have ever caught. It was an amazing place to trout fish.

    But sometime around 2001, many noticed that Lakota had started to turn. That’s when I really remember the pike showing up with regularity. It wasn’t long after that shoreline access became a little more difficult, especially on the West side, and that the moss and thick vegetation became worse. There was a period between 2010 and 2012 where I don’t remember catching a single trout.

    This isn’t to say that the fishing at Lakota was dead. I bettered my personal best pike at Lakota Lake last winter only to break it again at Oahe. My personal best perch is one that I caught there in February of 2013 and over the last year and a half I have pulled several decent rainbow trout from out in front of the dam. Still, it isn’t the same. I miss the days of rainbows and browns consistently pushing the sixteen to twenty four inch mark. I, and others like me, felt as though we had been witness to the death of a great trout lake.

    The project to improve Lakota along with Horsetheif and Bismarck Lakes has begun. All three lakes are to be drawn down and rehabilitated. Horsetheif is nearly completely drawn down while Lakota still has some room to go. While I thoroughly enjoyed dragging that big northern through the ice there last winter, I sincerely hope that Game, Fish, and Parks can restore Lakota to her former trout fishing glory. Many will argue that there are more than enough “trout lakes” left in the Black Hills. I would argue that there are also more than a fair share of waters stocked with fish, such as pike, that were not originally stocked with those species and that true “trout lakes” are fewer and farther between.

    On one hand, it’s a bummer to know that I won’t have the opportunity to fish Lakota for awhile. But I take solace in the hope that with her draining and rehabilitation that there is hope for the re-birth of a great trout lake. Regardless of what G.F.P. chooses to put back in the lake, I'm looking forward to the next chance to get up to Lakota and make more memories. 

    Gear Spotlight

    Quite possibly my new favorite lure for pike fishing is Windels Pike Harasser. Over the course of the spring and summer it was my go-to when I was after big fish. Now that the Black Hills waters have started to cool considerably and the northern are moving more toward shore and relating to weed beds, the Pike Harasser is absolutely at the top of my arsenal.

    The Pike Harasser is a big, heavy-duty bucktail type spinner. They feature a French blade in a variety of colors, with a prism, brass beads, and a 3/0 treble hook under a bucktail. The harasser makes quite a bit of noise to go along with its flash and vibration.  It’s heavy duty, doesn’t foul easily and it’s weight allows for long casts. Over the last month I have gone almost exclusively to the Harasser and caught a number of different species with it including pike, largemouth bass, and even a rainbow trout. Locally, they can be purchased at Scheels and retail beginning at $5.99. 

    Fishing Report

    As the water has cooled down, the fishing has picked up. Jenny Gulch has been good for pike recently. Creek chubs under a slip bobber are a very good bet as are the above-mentioned Pike Harasser in red, black, and white. Trout are hitting on several different presentations including spoons, jig and crawler and jig and minnow. We also got into bluegills and perch near the north marina with a jig and minnow or jig and crawler under a slip bobber.

    Sheridan Lake is a little more hit and miss, but when it’s hitting, it’s hitting big. Creek chubs and frozen smelt under a slip bobber worked well for us. The key seemed to be finding places where the vegetation is beginning to recede a bit and fishing the bait high in the water.

    Wherever you go in the Hills, the fishing is bound to be good. With the onset of hunting season, the number of anglers out is way down which affords some outstanding opportunities to catch fish and scout your favorite spots for the upcoming hard water season.

    In the next edition of Black Hills Bites I’ll talk about naming that favorite spot and share an idea for rigging your tip-ups. Until then, best of luck and fish on!

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