Talk aside, non-residents didn’t flood in to buy more South Dakota fishing licenses this spring

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — So far in 2020, sales of South Dakota fishing licenses to people from outside the state’s borders have tracked in line with previous recent years, according to a report presented Thursday to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission.

That’s contrary to what’s been heard at times through the rumor mill. The increased fishing pressure has instead come from South Dakota anglers, who have been hitting the water in remarkably higher numbers.

The commission Thursday meanwhile turned down a citizen’s petition for a change to South Dakota’s fishing regulations.

The petition called for prohibiting non-residents from fishing for walleye and sauger in some stretches of the Missouri River during the months of January through April.

Minnesota’s statewide season for walleye, sauger and northern pike opened May 9 this year. South Dakota generally allows fishing year-round on most waters.

Andrew Rick of Hartford wanted the tail-race areas below Fort Randall Dam, Big Bend Dam and Oahe Dam to be closed to non-residents until May 1 each year.

His position was those areas draw large numbers of anglers during the months of late winter and early spring and the pressure reduces the quality of the experience for residents. He wanted the tail-races solely for residents, but leaving the rest of the river open for residents and non-residents alike.

Rick wasn’t able to participate Thursday. State Wildlife Division director Tom Kirschenmann recommended that the commission reject the petition.

Kirschenmann said angling pressure in those areas of the Missouri River has been highest May through July. “So it doesn’t really fit within the concept being requested here,” he said.

Enforcement would be difficult at times, such as a non-resident fishing with a resident from the same family, Kirschenmann said.

The commission without further discussion voted 8-0 to reject the petition.

Earlier in the meeting, one of the state Game, Fish and Parks Department’s top administrators spoke about fishing-license sales.

“They have been strong. They have been positive,” Kevin Robling said. He is the department’s deputy secretary.

Residents especially have been buying licenses that allow them to fish, according to the sales report on the last page of the commission’s meeting booklet. They’ve bought about 31,000 more combination and fishing licenses from January through May than for the similar period last year. Sales to residents this year have been the highest in at least five years.

Non-residents meanwhile have bought about 6,500 more fishing licenses. While that sounds like a lot, it’s more of a reflection of the rainy spring and summer last year that depressed license sales. The non-resident fishing license numbers were higher in 2015-2018 than for this year.

The boom has been good news for the Game, Fish and Parks budget. More than $1 million has been generated from the higher sales.

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