Great Plains Family Fishing Destinations for 2016
April 19, 2016
The Great Plains states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas all offer solid family fishing opportunities where kids and beginning anglers can get exposed to fishing. Of course, more-experienced anglers can get in on the fishing action as well. And a number of additional recreational opportunities and attractions in the plains states make great side trips for any family planning a vacation.
"Bobbers and worms," noted North Dakota Game and Fish Outreach Biologist Greg Gullickson. When it comes to casting and distinguishing a bite, the classic red and white bobber clipped a few feet above a small amount of weight and a plain hook baited with a piece of nightcrawler has the potential to catch just about any freshwater fish. How far to clip the bobber above the weight depends on the depth, but Gullickson recommends about three feet for most shore-fishing situations. Ideally, you want to adjust the bobber so that the bait rides about one to two feet off the bottom.
Now that you are armed with one of the deadliest presentations known to angling, it's time to take a look at some of the region's top destinations for a fishing vacation.
One of North Dakota's greatest fishing opportunities for kids also happens to be one of the most popular fishing destinations in the state. Devils Lake now encompasses nearly 200,000 acres of water and is regarded as one of the premier walleye fisheries in the nation. However, this lake doesn't necessarily have to be about big water and big walleyes. Several quality shore-fishing opportunities exist, with some of the more popular areas including the Highway 19, 20 and 57 embankments, particularly around the bridges. There is also a fishing pier located on the north end of Creel Bay, and new fishing piers are slated to be constructed this upcoming season on popular areas like Channel A.
Devils Lake can also be fished by boat and provides easy action for numbers of fish, particularly walleye, white bass and pike. Catching fish can be as simple as anchoring in flooded timber with slip bobbers and leeches. From shore, anglers can cast lures or use a bobber rigged with minnows to catch walleyes, white bass and pike.
Along the Way
When you get tired of catching fish on Devils Lake, there are several attractions close by. Sullys Hill Nature Preserve offers a scenic tour where visitors may encounter bison, elk and whitetails. The Sullys Hill interpretive center showcases the unique wildlife habitats of the area, and many kid-friendly events such as bird watching and kayaking are held throughout the summer.
The Spirit Lake Casino offers a large indoor swimming pool with a water slide. Several resorts offer boat rentals and camping options. The Fort Totten Historic Site and Theater reveals the fascinating history of the region. Grahams Island State Park offers overnight camping, picnic areas, playground and bike trails. Information on family friendly activities in the Devils Lake region can be found at www.devilslakend.com.
Minot State Fairgrounds
It's not too often that you can combine roller coaster rides and concerts with fishing, but the North Dakota State Fair in Minot would surely be an exception. North Dakota Game and Fish diligently manages the fair pond for high-traffic, kid-friendly fishing opportunities, and it is stocked with a variety of fish that include adult sunfish, bass and pike for extremely high catch rates.
This pond also features a fishing pier. During the week of the State Fair, volunteers from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and the nonprofit angling organization Lure 'Em for Life are on hand to offer equipment and assistance to all youth anglers.
"The goal of this opportunity is for making fishing as simple and accessible as possible for young anglers," explained Greg Gullickson of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Anglers typically don't wait long for the bobber to twitch from hungry fish at this well managed pond.
Along the Way
The North Dakota State Fair is held in late July each summer and is dubbed the "Entertainment Capital of North Dakota." There are concerts from some of the most popular country and rock musicians, and of course there is the long list of exhibits, carnival rides and vendors that all combine to create the festive fair atmosphere. Other popular activities include the Scandinavian Heritage Center and the Roosevelt Park Zoo. Find out more at www.visitminot.org.
Rapid City Urban Trout
The community of Rapid City boasts several high-quality urban fishing waters that feature very high success rates.
"For a community of 67,000 people, we are really lucky to have all of the great fishing access right in city limits," explained Area Fisheries Supervisor Jake Davis of South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.
Noteworthy hotspots include Canyon Lake, which is a reservoir created on Rapid Creek. Other good bets include the downstream Park Ponds, which includes a nice picnic area, and the Memorial Park Pond. These high-use waters are sustained with an aggressive stocking program that includes adult rainbows. Because Canyon Lake and the Park Ponds are fed by Rapid Creek, there is also an opportunity to catch the wild brown trout that Rapid Creek is widely known for. Fishing piers are available, along with shoreline access, to provide great shore-fishing opportunities.
Along the Way
Rapid City sits in one of South Dakota's most popular tourist destinations. Located in the heart of the Black Hills, nearby attractions include the famous Mount Rushmore National Monument along with the nearby Crazy Horse Monument. Other popular family events include the Reptile Gardens, Bear Country USA and the 1880 steam train that leisurely chugs a 20-mile round trip between the towns of Keystone and Hill City.
Custer State Park is famous for bison herds, scenic drives and historic sights. The Black Hills National Forest is breathtaking. To stay with the fishing theme, check out the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery. Additional information can be located online by visiting www.blackhillsbadlands.com.
Watertown Park Ponds
Northeastern South Dakota's Glacial Lakes Region is a premier fishing destination with some great walleye, smallmouth bass and panfish options that draw anglers from across the nation. Watertown has several put and take lakes that are stocked with adult fish to provide good fishing opportunities.
One of the most popular kid-friendly fishing destinations is the Third Avenue Pond. This urban fishing water is stocked with rainbow trout in the spring and fall along with stockings of bluegill perch.
Bramble Park Pond also offers a dock and is stocked with adult northern pike and some white bass. Lake Kampeska is located within city limits of Watertown and offers a fishing pier in Jackson Park. Kampeska offers a variety of fish, with crappie, walleye, smallmouth bass and pike as popular targets.
Along the Way
The community of Watertown is home to the Terry Redlin Art Center, an art gallery of original paintings by renowned wildlife artist Terry Redlin. The Bramble Park Zoo is home to over 800 animals and offers many kid-friendly activities like the new KidZoo and Ottertown. Cool off at the Watertown Family Aquatic Center, which boasts an in-water playground and lazy river for float tubes. Information can be found at www.visitwatertownsd.com.
Nebraska also has taken family fishing opportunities seriously and offers several urban fishing destinations. Many such fisheries offer Family Fishing Nights that provide necessary equipment, helpful volunteers and bait.
According to Lindsey Chizinski of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, one of the top opportunities is Holmes Lake, located in Lincoln. This lake offers a well-developed angler access around the lake with nearby playground, restrooms and walking trails. Holmes Lake offers sunfish, largemouth bass and catfish, with both numbers of fish and large fish a possibility. Holmes Lake is also stocked seasonally with rainbow trout.
Along the Way
The Lincoln Children's Zoo is touted as one of the nation's best zoos for children. The American Historical Society of Germans from Russia Museum offers a rich archive of this culture that transformed this region. For young athletes, the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame offers a glimpse of Nebraska's storied athletic history. Find out more at www.lincoln.org.
Omaha Urban Fishing
Omaha offers several quality bass fishing lakes in the metro area, and some of this water is managed more intensively for kids and beginning anglers. Notable is Halleck Lake. Halleck Lake is a popular fishing location that is heavily stocked with sunfish, bass and catfish. This lake features ample and easy shoreline access with nearby picnic areas, walking trails and playground. For more information on the free Family Fishing Nights on Omaha area lakes like Halleck Lake, go to www.outdoornebraska.org.
Along the Way
Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is home to the world's largest indoor deserts and largest indoor rainforest in North America. Hop aboard historic train cars at the Durham Museum. The Omaha Children's Museum offers a fun atmosphere for kids of all ages. The Mormon Trail museum depicts the 1846-1860 migration of 90,000 pioneers to the Rocky Mountains. More information can be found at www.visitomaha.com.
Kansas City Catfish
Urban Kansas City offers many fishing opportunities managed as high-use put and take ponds. Kansas fish and game officials stock them monthly with adult channel catfish, with lakes receiving between 75 to 200 pounds of fish with each stocking from March through September.
According to Lucas Kowalewski, the fisheries biologist for the Kansas City District, one of the best fishing ponds is Lake Lenexa. Besides catfish, other species caught by anglers at Lenexa include largemouth bass, crappie and bluegill.
Cedar Lake also offers great shore access, and besides regular stockings of catfish, along with largemouth bass, crappie and bluegill, this lake also has both saugeye and wipers. Both Lake Lenexa and Cedar Lake offer picnic areas and restrooms.
Along the Way
The Kansas City metro area offers many attractions, including the National World War 1 Museum and Memorial. The Kansas City Zoo gives visitors an opportunity to view over 1,000 animals.
Wichita Urban Fishing
According to Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Biologist Jessica Mounts, the Wichita area offers some great and easy opportunities for getting kids hooked on angling. More than 15,000 youths have participated in the wildly popular fishing clinics hosted in the Wichita area.
Top lakes include O.J. Watson Park and Sedgwick County Park. Most of these small ponds are frequently stocked with channel catfish and also offer numerous bluegill and green sunfish.
Throughout the summer, The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism will host several Family Fishing Nights at the Great Plains Nature Center. Pre-registration for this event is required by calling 316-683-8069.
Along the Way
The Kansas Aviation Museum in Wichita displays a growing number aviation related artifacts. The Sedgwick County Zoo is the seventh largest zoo in the nation. Learn more about native Kansas wildlife at the Great Plains Nature Center. More information can be found at www.visitwichita.com.