PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Boaters won’t see a larger no-wake zone at Cedar Shore. And people pursuing paddlefish won’t be banned from using cross-bows.
Two people from Sioux Falls petitioned the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission to make those changes, in both cases because of worries about safety.
But state Wildlife Division officials recommended Thursday that the commission deny them.
The commission decided to follow the division’s recommendations.
Jonathon Magyar of Sioux Falls wanted the larger no-wake zone around the Cedar Shore boat ramp and marina on the Missouri River at Oacoma. He described himself as a shore angler who likes to fish there.
“It creates an issue for us with our gear,” Magyar told the commission. He said the boats create four-foot waves. “They come through at high rates of speed, either leaving or returning to the marina.”
He said boaters coming in at cruising speed could lose control and hit the rocks where the shore anglers fish, causing an injury or death, especially during a tournament when there are 80 or more boats rushing to shore in a 20-minute span.
“It pretty much ruins our fishing as shore anglers,” he said. “We have a fair right to be there as much as they do.”
Magyar said he took his concerns to some of the resort’s management and to tournament directors. He’s fished there for 20 years. “It’s gotten worse every year, more boats, more traffic.”
GFP law enforcement chief Sam Schelhaas said no-wake zones with speed limits of 5 mph or less are typically for congestion, safety and erosion control. “The challenge in putting a no-wake zone in this area is the distance involved,” he said.
According to Schelhass, buoys would have to be placed in the middle of the river channel. “It’s a logistical challenge to try to maintain those buoys there,” he said. He said it also would create some challenges in the rule-making process.
Wildlife Division director Tom Kirschenmann said there’s a no-wake zone in the marina itself. He recommended denial. He asked rhetorically where the line should be drawn at the hundreds or thousands of places where boat wakes interfere with shore fishing.
Kirschenmann suggested instead that some of the division’s staff could promote the concept of respect — what he described as “water ethics” — through conversations with boaters, especially during tournaments.
Commissioner Jim White of Huron asked whether there is any minimum distance that a boater must stay from shore. Kirschenmann said no. Boats can be 20 yards or 200 yards away and the waves still eventually reach shore, he said; “It’s going to happen. It does happen everywhere with shoreline fishing.”
Magyar acknowledged he didn’t know of anyone who had been injured or had died. He asked whether signs could be posted on shore asking boaters to proceed slowly as they depart and return. He conceded that maintaining buoys out in the river channel would be a challenge. “You’re dealing with (river) current, you’re dealing with waves, you’re having to chase buoys down,” he said.
But, he added, “We have as much right to be there as they do, but we feel disrespected by them.”
Commission chair Stephanie Rissler of Vermillion said she was sensitive to shore anglers’ concerns but she also recognized the points brought up by the Wildlife Division staff. “Where do we stop?” She preferred that the division first try the outreach approach.
Commissioner Jon Locken of Bath said signage and conversations should be the preferred route at this point. “As a whole, boaters are a very polite group. I suppose in tournaments they’re coming in hot because they’re trying to beat a deadline,” he said.
On the paddlefish issue, the commission last year approved the division’s recommendation to allow the use of crossbows on the Missouri River downstream from the US 81 bridge at Yankton.
Rick Hoff of Sioux Falls, a member of South Dakota Bowhunters Inc., wanted the commission to reverse itself and ban the use of crossbows for paddlefish, other than by people who have disabilities.
Hoff said crossbows are constantly ready to fire, with the mechanism mounted on a rifle stock, often with a telescopic sight, and can shoot 100 yards or more. The use of a crossbow in bow-fishing for paddlefish allows the angler to have a shoulder-fired, cocked weapon at the ready the moment a paddlefish presents itself for a shot opportunity, he said.
That’s different than what he described as “vertical bow archers” who must either draw and hold their weapon at full-draw waiting for a fish to present itself or draw quickly when a fish is spotted. He said the use of a crossbow, and its “always-ready to fire” status, provides a significant advantage for anglers relative to paddlefish taken by traditional archery methods.
Kirschenmann said the division brought the crossbow recommendation last July and the commission finalized it in September for the 2023 season. The reasons for it, he said, were to align South Dakota with Nebraska regarding regulations on paddlefish and to provide more opportunities.
Kirschenmann noted that crossbows aren’t allowed in the Missouri River tailrace area directly below Gavins Point Dam. He said standardizing regulations to match Nebraska “made sense last summer and still makes sense right now.” He recommended the commission deny Hoff’s petition and said the division would continue to monitor the situation.
Commissioner Robert Whitmyre of Webster asked whether there was any feedback from bowhunters a year ago. He didn’t recall them weighing in at the public hearing.
Kirschenmann said the issue might have gone “under the radar” but he said the division tried to make the public aware through emails, news releases and posting information on the Game, Fish and Parks Department’s website. He acknowledged the message probably didn’t reach everyone but said the division did “our due diligence.”
Rissler asked whether any incidents involving injury or death occurred from crossbow use during paddlefishing. Kirschenmann asked Schelhauss, who said he hadn’t heard of any. Rissler asked how many people use crossbows for pursuing paddlefish. Kirschenmann said he didn’t know at this point. “Anecdotally, it appears to be fairly low,” Kirschenmann said.
Rissler said she was leaning toward denial because the crossbow use was new, but she added the division needs to see how many anglers use crossbows. She also acknowledged the desire for consistency with Nebraska.
White agreed. “It’s too new really to make a decision whether we would discontinue this,” he said. But, he added, it’s important that the division keep an eye on the situation.