• An explosion of light as the sun strikes the waters of the Missouri National Recreational River


    National Recreational River SD,NE


Fishing on the Missouri River

Fishing in the Missouri River on a hot summer day

River Activities: Fishing

The Missouri National Recreational River includes the two reaches of the Missouri River, 20 miles of the lower Niobrara River, and 8 miles of the lower Verdigre Creek. Catfish, walleye, sauger, paddlefish, and many more game species await your angling skills in these bodies of water.

So, where are the fish biting? Bait shops and other anglers are your best sources, but they won't always share the best spots. Here are some helpful hints:

The best time is often in the evening and early morning as this is feeding time for most fish. Bass, walleye and trout feed all night.

Deep holes are good places and are often located under bridges, below dams, on bends in the river, and downstream of sandbars.

Fish can sense noise vibrations such as hitting the bottom of the boat or loud talking.

For walleye/sauger, the best times are May to June and mid-September through November. Just downstream of the Fort Randall and the Gavins Point dams seems to be popular with anglers for this fish species.

For small and largemouth bass, the best times are May, June, September, and October near Springfield (SD) and Niobrara (NE).

For crappie and northern pike, the best times are early April after ice out and in late summer near Springfield and Niobrara.

For catfish, the best times are late June, July and August near Springfield and Niobrara.

Enjoy yourself! Remember, the fishing is always good; the catching just makes it better.

Licensing: The Missouri River forms a good part of the state boundary between South Dakota and Nebraska. As the river here is considered "border waters," either state license (South Dakota and Nebraska) is acceptable and special seasons and laws apply accordingly. Waters of the Missouri River are defined to include all flowing portions and backwaters, sloughs and chutes that draw water from the Missouri River. Mouths of tributaries may only be fished in the state that the angler is licensed.

Live bait: Please use caution when using live bait. Follow all existing regulations. Please empty all bait buckets in the water they were filled from or on land.

Threatened and Endangered: The Pallid Sturgeon, a fish native to the Missouri River, is listed on the federal Threatened and Endangered Species List. It is difficult to differentiate the pallid sturgeon from the more common shovelnose sturgeon and the lake sturgeon, and the season is therefore closed year-round on all sturgeon species.

Did You Know?

Missouri River Delta at Lewis & Clark Lake

Before the 1950s, the Missouri River carried an average of roughly 140 million tons of sediment per year past Yankton. After closure of the dams in the 1960s, an average of roughly 4 million tons per year moved past the same location.