Fall Walleye Fishing in South Dakota: Tips and Tricks for Beginners

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As the leaves begin to change and the air turns crisp, fall walleye fishing in South Dakota takes center stage for anglers. South Dakota is known for its variety of waterbodies, including Missouri River reservoirs such as Lake Oahe, Lake Sharpe, Lake Francis Case, and Lewis and Clark Lake, all offering excellent walleye fishing opportunities. Each of these locations boasts unique features from upper river to lower lake qualities, making them perfect for catching the popular game fish.

Understanding the behavior of walleye during this season is crucial to a successful catch. Fall walleye are more active due to the cooling water temperatures, and the use of crankbaits can play a significant role in catching them, especially in early to mid-fall. Additionally, paying attention to factors such as wind and current in the selected fishing spots can greatly improve your chances of a successful day out on the water.

Key Takeaways

  • South Dakota offers various waterbodies for fall walleye fishing, including Missouri River reservoirs.
  • Utilizing crankbaits and monitoring water conditions can enhance your fishing experience in the fall season.
  • Familiarize yourself with South Dakota’s regulations regarding size and possession limits before embarking on your fishing trip.

Understanding Fall Walleye Fishing

Knowing the Fish: Walleye

Walleyes are found statewide in South Dakota, in large streams, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. They feed primarily on fishes, insects, and crustaceans, and have a unique torpedo-like shape with a large mouth filled with sharp teeth. One distinctive feature of walleyes is their large, white eyes, which are adapted for better vision in low-light conditions.

Fall Walleye Behavior

During the fall, walleye fishing in South Dakota can be incredibly exciting and rewarding. As the weeds begin to brown and die off, the season starts to pick up.

In fall, the best places to fish for walleye are often where there are a combination of weeds and rocks. The rocks provide hiding spots and warmth for smaller fish, while the weeds hold the forage that the walleyes hunt for, like bluegill, perch, or crappie.

Trolling crankbaits is a popular technique for targeting walleye during the summer months, but it remains highly effective during the early and mid-fall season as well.

Another advantage of fall walleye fishing is the potential to find biting walleyes at any hour of the day, thanks to their specially adapted eyes. The walleye’s eyes feature a tapetum lucidum, which allows these fish to see well even in the dark.

To make the most of your fall walleye fishing trips, keep these tips and behavioral patterns in mind. With a little patience and the right techniques, the beautiful fall season in South Dakota may just provide you with some unforgettable catches.

Famous Locations for Walleye Fishing in South Dakota

Waubay Lake

Waubay Lake, located in northeastern South Dakota, offers a great opportunity for walleye fishing. The lake is stocked with walleye, which makes for consistent fishing throughout the season. Remember to check regulations and any gear restrictions when you plan your trip.

Lake Oahe

Lake Oahe, stretching from central South Dakota to North Dakota, is known for its high-quality walleye fishing. Many experienced anglers, including Lund Pro Chad Schilling and Oahe Wings & Walleyes owner, recommend this lake for an enjoyable walleye fishing experience.

Missouri River Reservoirs

The Missouri River reservoirs provide excellent opportunities for walleye fishing, especially during the fall. Tailrace areas below the dams, like those found in Lake Francis Case and Lake Sharpe, are particularly productive.

Lake Poinsett

You’ll find a fun and productive walleye fishing experience at Lake Poinsett in eastern South Dakota. Offering great access points and a healthy walleye population, it’s no wonder Lake Poinsett is a popular spot for fishing enthusiasts.

Lake Francis Case

On the Missouri River in South Dakota, Lake Francis Case offers fantastic walleye fishing opportunities. The tailrace areas below the dams are known to be highly productive, making it an excellent choice for anglers.

Lake Sharpe

Another reservoir on the Missouri River, Lake Sharpe is a famous location for walleye fishing in South Dakota. Like Lake Francis Case, its tailrace areas below the dams are particularly bountiful.

Lake Thompson

Lake Thompson, situated in the east-central part of South Dakota, offers excellent walleye fishing. With abundant walleye and good water conditions, it’s a fantastic spot to try your luck.

Bitter Lake

A hidden gem in northeastern South Dakota, Bitter Lake provides a fantastic walleye fishing experience. With clear waters and a healthy walleye population, this lake is perfect for a relaxing day of fishing.

Lewis and Clark Lake

Last but not least, Lewis and Clark Lake, located along the border of South Dakota and Nebraska, is a sought-after destination for walleye anglers. At this large reservoir, you’ll find great opportunities for catching big fall walleyes, especially in colder water temperatures.

In these South Dakota lakes and rivers, you have plenty of chances for a memorable walleye fishing experience. Best of luck, and enjoy the beauty of the natural surroundings.

Walleye Fishing Techniques


Trolling can be an effective method for fall walleye fishing in South Dakota. By slowly moving your boat and trailing your lures behind, you can cover various water depths and locate fish more effectively. Use your trolling setup with a variety of baits and lures in the fall, as walleye are often aggressive during this time of year. It may be beneficial to vary your trolling speed between 1.8 and 3 mph.


Jigging is a popular and versatile technique for catching walleyes. For fall walleye fishing, it is important to use a light setup with a 7- to 8-foot rod. This allows you to feel the subtle bites from finicky fall fish. When jigging, work your lure slowly along the bottom, and remember to experiment with different weights and jig sizes to find what works best for the current conditions.

Some tips for jigging include:

  • Use minnows or soft plastic baits to entice walleyes.
  • Target areas with structure, like weeds, rocks, and drop-offs.
  • Adjust your jigging speed and cadence based on the fish’s activity level.

Using Crankbaits

Crankbaits can be highly effective in catching fall walleyes in South Dakota. As water temperatures cool, walleyes move closer to the shorelines, making them accessible to anglers using crankbaits. Depending on the depth you are targeting, choose shallow or deep diving crankbaits to imitate the forage fish that walleyes are pursuing.

To get the most out of your crankbaits, try the following:

  • Use a variety of colors, sizes, and actions to mimic the natural prey.
  • Troll crankbaits at varying speeds to mimic the movements of forage fish.
  • Experiment with different retrieval

Selecting the Right Bait

When fall walleye fishing in South Dakota, choosing the right bait is crucial to your success. In this section, we will discuss three types of bait: live bait, oversized baits, and spoons. With a friendly tone, we’re here to guide you through the process and help you make the best choice for your fishing adventure.

Live bait

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Using live bait is a popular and effective method for catching walleye in the fall. In South Dakota, live bait such as minnows and nightcrawlers can be especially attractive to walleyes as they seek to fatten up in preparation for winter. When choosing live bait, pay attention to the size and movement of the bait. Healthy, active bait will more likely entice walleyes to bite.

Here are some tips for using live bait:

  • Hook your minnows through the back or the lips to keep them alive and active
  • Use a slip-sinker or bottom-bouncer rig to help present your live bait at the appropriate depth
  • Adjust your hook size based on the type and size of live bait you’re using

Oversized Baits

Fall is a time when walleyes are eager to feed on larger prey, making oversized baits an ideal choice. In South Dakota, using larger hard baits such as crankbaits and jerkbaits can provoke aggressive strikes from hungry walleyes. When selecting oversized baits, consider the following factors:

  • Depth: Choose a bait that can dive to the appropriate depth where walleyes are likely to be found
  • Color: Bright colors like orange, yellow, and chartreuse can attract walleyes in stained or murky waters
  • Action: Look for baits with a good action or wobble to mimic the movement of injured or fleeing prey


Spoons can be an excellent option for fall walleye fishing in South Dakota. These lures are designed to mimic the appearance and movement of baitfish, making them highly appealing to walleyes. Choose different spoon sizes and colors based on the type of fish they represent, and vary your retrieval speed to create an erratic action that will catch a walleye’s attention.

When fishing with spoons, remember to:

  • Utilize a swivel to prevent line twist, as spoons tend to spin during retrieval
  • Experiment with jigging or trolling spoons if casting and retrieving doesn’t generate results
  • Match the color and size of the spoon to the type of baitfish present in the area you’re fishing

By selecting the right bait and using appropriate techniques, you’ll increase your chances of success in fall walleye fishing in South Dakota. So, grab your gear, and enjoy your time on the water!

Discussion on Ideal Conditions for Walleye Fishing

Understanding Water Temperatures

Water temperature is a crucial factor when it comes to fall walleye fishing in South Dakota. As the water cools down, walleyes become more active and easier to catch. Generally, the ideal temperature range for walleyes is between 55°F and 68°F. To improve your chances of catching walleye in the fall, pay attention to these temperature ranges when planning your fishing trip.

Recognizing Weather Patterns

In South Dakota, weather patterns play a significant role in walleye activity. Wind, in particular, drives the fishing conditions. A good “walleye chop” often results in a successful day of fishing – the waves break up sunlight penetration and displace smaller fish hiding in the rocks, making it easier for walleyes to feed. Being aware of the weather forecast before you go fishing can help you choose the right days and increase your chances of a fruitful catch.

Identifying Walleye Habitats

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Identifying productive walleye habitats is essential for a successful fall fishing trip in South Dakota. Walleyes tend to migrate during the fall and can be found in various areas, including:

  • Reservoirs: Look for areas near the bottom of the reservoir where walleyes tend to gather during the fall. Focus on points, humps, and drop-offs, as these features often hold walleyes during this period.
  • Dams: Walleyes congregate below dams during the fall, attracted by the high flow of water and available food sources. Pay close attention to eddies and current seams that form near the dam structure.
  • Streams and Rivers: In the fall, walleyes can also be found in streams and rivers as they follow the migration of their prey, such as minnows and shiners. Look for shallow, rocky areas and deeper holes where walleyes could ambush their prey.

By understanding the water temperatures, weather patterns, and walleye habitats, you’ll be well-equipped for a successful fall walleye fishing trip in South Dakota. Remember to adapt your fishing techniques according to the conditions, and soon you’ll be reeling in those sought-after fall walleyes.

Planning the Perfect Fishing Trip

Hiring a Fishing Guide

As you plan your fall walleye fishing trip in South Dakota, consider hiring a professional fishing guide for an enjoyable and successful experience. Fishing guides have in-depth knowledge of the local lakes and rivers, ensuring they know the best spots to catch walleye. They also provide helpful tips for using the right tackle and techniques specific to the season. Many guides operate out of the popular fishing destinations like Lake Oahe and the Missouri River reservoirs. Do your research and find a reputable guide with excellent reviews to make your trip one to remember.

Finding Lodging

When it comes to finding lodging for your fishing trip, South Dakota has plenty of options to suit any preference. You can choose from cozy cabins, comfortable lodges, and well-equipped vacation rentals near the fishing hotspots, making it convenient to hit the water bright and early every day. For a family-friendly experience, look for accommodations with additional amenities like playgrounds, swimming pools, and pet-friendly policies.

Some popular areas to consider for lodging close to prime fishing spots include Platte Creek Lodge, situated near the Missouri River, or accommodations near the Glacial Lakes region. By selecting the right lodging, you can enjoy both a peaceful retreat and easy access to the best walleye fishing in South Dakota.

Other Fish Species in South Dakota

While fall walleye fishing is popular in South Dakota, there are also various other fish species worth mentioning. In this section, we will discuss several other fish you might encounter while fishing in South Dakota: Northern Pike, White Bass, Bluegill, and Sauger/Saugeye.

Northern Pike

Northern Pike are abundant in South Dakota’s lakes and rivers. These aggressive predators are known for their appetite and sharp teeth. You’ll find them lurking in deep water, around submerged vegetation, and near rocks. To catch Northern Pike, try using spinnerbaits or crankbaits that mimic their natural prey, like smaller fish.

White Bass

White Bass are another popular sportfish in South Dakota. They are found in large rivers and reservoirs, particularly in the Missouri River system. These fish are known for their strong fight and can be caught using a variety of lures, such as jigs, spinners, and crankbaits. When targeting White Bass, look for schools of fish feeding on the surface or near structure.


Bluegill are a favorite among many anglers in South Dakota, found in various types of water bodies ranging from ponds to lakes. These panfish are often found near weed beds and rocks, as these structures provide shelter and forage. To catch Bluegill, try using small jigs, live bait, or even pieces of worms.


Sauger and Saugeye are closely related to walleye and can be found in some of the same waters throughout South Dakota. Sauger tend to prefer larger river systems, while Saugeye, a hybrid between the walleye and sauger, are often stocked in reservoirs. Both species are aggressive feeders and can be caught using similar tactics as walleye, like jigging with live bait or trolling with crankbaits. Keep in mind that Sauger have more distinct markings compared to walleye, featuring a more pronounced dorsal fin pattern.

As you can see, South Dakota offers an array of fishing opportunities beyond just walleye. So while you’re enjoying your fall fishing trips, don’t forget to try targeting other species like Northern Pike, White Bass, Bluegill, and Sauger/Saugeye.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the top spots for fall walleye fishing in South Dakota?

In South Dakota, you can find walleye in large streams, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. Some popular locations for walleye fishing include Lake Oahe, Lake Sharpe, and Lake Francis Case. Don’t hesitate to explore local spots and ask fellow anglers for advice!

When is the peak season for walleye fishing?

Though walleye can be caught throughout the year, fall is considered one of the best times to fish for them. The cooling water temperatures make walleye more active and aggressive, increasing your chances of landing a catch. Pay particular attention to the twilight period, as it often produces great results.

Which lures work best for catching walleye in autumn?

During fall, walleyes feed primarily on fishes, insects, and crustaceans. Try using crankbaits, spoons, and jigs that mimic the appearance and movement of their natural prey. Make sure to experiment with different colors and sizes to find the most effective lure for your fishing spot.

What techniques are most effective for fall walleye?

In autumn, walleye tend to be more aggressive and move closer to shorelines and structures. Try using techniques like jigging, trolling, and casting. Don’t be afraid to switch up your tactics—sometimes a simple change in approach can be the key to landing that trophy catch!

Are there size and limit regulations for walleye fishing?

Yes, there are size and limit regulations for walleye fishing in South Dakota. It’s important to check with the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks for the latest regulations and any changes before you head out. Following these rules helps ensure a sustainable and enjoyable fishing experience for everyone.

What are popular fishing events for walleye in South Dakota?

South Dakota hosts numerous fishing events and tournaments throughout the year, including some specifically for walleye. Be sure to check local listings and angler forums for upcoming events in your area. Participating in a fishing event can be a great way to connect with other enthusiasts, share tips, and improve your skills!


Hi, I’m Kurt and I’m the author of walleyemania. I’ve been fishing for Walleye since I was a kid and I love sharing my tips, tricks, and stories with other anglers. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you’ll find something useful and entertaining on my site. I cover everything from the best gear, baits, and techniques to the best spots, seasons, and recipes for Walleye fishing. Join me on my journey to catch more and bigger Walleye!

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