Friday, August 30, 2013

The Thrill of Exploring a New Lake

Lake Francis Case formed by the Fort Randall Dam at Pickstown, SD is one of four reservoirs along the Missouri River in South Dakota. With 102,000 acres of water the lake has a maximum depth of 140 feet.  With an approximate length of 107 miles and shoreline of 540 miles, the lake has the ability to produce some outstanding fishing.  My preference is not to fish big bodies of water.  Waubay Lake at Webster is about my maximum and even that lake can become dangerous with the high winds that sometimes roll across the plains of South Dakota.  Friends in the hunting club I belong to fished Francis Case with outstanding results and so my wife and I decided to give it a try.  The time was late July and the temps across the Midwest had been really high, but there had been a cool down and we decided it was worth the trip.  We should have been there earlier, but we had been up to Webster catching walleye, crappie and northern. Never disagree with results.

The road below winds down to the boat ramp.  This is a big body of water.
The trip up from Council Bluffs took about four hours and we both noticed again how green the plains of South Dakota looked.  The bean and corn fields looked exceptional.  Platte, South Dakota just a few miles from the lake was our destination.  Here is a community of 1,230 people.  Accommodations were excellent as we stayed at the Dakota Country Inn.  We met the owner who was very proud of his motel and the quality of the accommodations.  If you make the trip, the number is 605 337-2607.  The motel is located  on the east side of town on Highway 44.  If you go there to fish or explore and can't find it, you  have a serious medical condition and I would recommend you seek help immediately. In addition you should not be allowed to operate a motor vehicle.

At the lower edge of the water is the boat ramp area. The area is called Snake Creek Access
You are in a rural farm and ranch community in South Dakota.  There is not French restaurant within 250 miles of the town.  In fact, you basically have three to four places to eat.  We recommend Shorty's on the east side of main street.  If you miss main street, I recommend calling the authorities and have someone help you find your way home.  You do not belong in this part of the U.S. The prices are really cheap, and the food is just basic home cooking piled high on the plate and it is good. If you eat breakfast, you will not need lunch.  They open for breakfast at 6 AM and stay open till 9 PM.  This gives you the opportunity to stay on the lake for at least 12 hours if you can stand it.

We went to the Snake Creek access just west of town.  High above the lake the view is very beautiful, especially with the bright blue skies of South Dakota.  The parking lot and boat ramps are typical of when South Dakota does it up really right.  There is also a fish cleaning station, and a restaurant located near the boat launch.  We did not try it or question anyone about the quality.   Sailboats abounded in the bay.  With the size of the lake and the wind that South Dakota sometimes experiences, I am sure this is a great place to sail especially with a 107 mile length of the lake.

Two boat ramps and a really big parking area accommodates a lot of boats.
We had no idea where to go, so we did the logical thing by working the points and moving up river.  The graph was showing fish in the ten to fifteen foot depth and we ran the Flicker Shad rather quickly to get it down into the ten foot range.  It did not take long before we began picking up white bass, and we started picking them up constantly.  They were a nice size and all keepers, but we threw them back as we have enough white bass in the freezer. 

Bridge spanning the lake  Boats will secure themselves to the bridge pilings and vertical jig.  The water is 40 to 50 feet deep and they pick up nice size walleye.
A boat came along and the occupants asked how we were doing and where was the best place to fish.  We told them the truth that this was our first experience and we had no idea where to go.  This was also their first time.  They mentioned a spot called Red Rocks on the west side of the lake.  They were off to find it, and we told them we would look for them.  We continued to pick up white bass until we said, "Lets go find the two lost souls."  Please note that we did not consider ourselves as lost souls.  I should add that the weather could not have been more beautiful.  Clear blue sky, 5 to 10 mile per hour wind out of the south, and the forecast was to stay that way all day. One must always remember, that this is South Dakota, and conditions are subject to sudden changes. That is what makes it exciting when fishing in theses locations.

We worked point to point picking up white bass and a walleye periodically.
I don't like big bodies of water, but over across the lake we went.  Our boat is an 18 foot deep V, but I did not want to find out just how big the swells had to get before we were in trouble.  This day was nice.  We found the Red Rock sticking up along with about 6 boats all working in general area.  This must be the spot.  We started out in the ten foot range and picked up white bass which we promptly threw back.  Then we moved out to deeper water, and changed bait to a spinner with a crawler attached.  It was obvious the walleye had gone deeper.  They did not seem to be schooled and were spread out in 20 to 30 feet of water.   It was also important to note the surface temp of the water was 78 degrees.  That is really warm.  Pam picked up a couple of walleye, but they did not make the 15 inch minimum.  We ran into the two fisherman that were lost and they had mentioned farther up river a spot called the "plains." 

Fishing the "Plains" area produced white bass.  This is ranch country and the cattle have all come down to drink and cool off in the water. We find the rolling plains hold a beauty of their own.  This was the home of the Sioux.
We crossed over to the east side.  Where the lake bends about 45 degrees to the northeast we ran into the "plains."  It is just a submerged outreach of land in the lake that is about 6 to 10 feet deep and about 300 yards out drops into 45 feet.  It probably stretches 200 to 300 yards.  The interesting thing about the plains was the cattle all watering themselves along the shore.  We stayed in the deepest part of the plains at about 7 to 10 feet and again white bass was the catch of the day.  Then it went dead calm and got really hot. On a clear summer day with no breeze and dead calm water,  the heat became intense.  It was 3 PM.

Red Rock area where we picked up some fish and where most of the fishermen were located.
Enjoyment was leaving both of us and we stayed out only a couple of hours longer.  We went back and fished the red rock area and the area where we had caught the bushel basket full of white bass. We had lost all the spirit, and it was time to go. We got off the water by 5 PM totally burnt, tired and hungry. It was time to go to Shorty's.

When Pam puts on her hat, she had had enough. 

Hammacher Schlemmer 
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Good fishing, good hunting, and good luck.  Hank


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