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'You don't need a boat to catch good fish,' say anglers who find advantages of Missouri River shore fishing

"I like that I can just grab my poles and gear and head out here to fish after a day of work and not have to get everything ready like you do for a boat," said Dana Dozark, a Chamberlain area angler who fishes the Missouri River shorelines.

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Anglers fish the shorelines of the Missouri River near Chamberlain on April 20, 2022.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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CHAMBERLAIN-OACOMA, S.D. — As the sunset dimmed the sky on a mid-April spring day in Chamberlain, one by one, local anglers flocked to the shorelines along the Missouri River to fish for walleye.

While immaculate fishing boats filled with pro anglers were buzzing by to find the next spot to fish in preparation for the National Walleye Tour, Chamberlain area resident Dana Dozark was in paradise reeling in walleye from the same spot along the shore that he’d been fishing for several hours underneath the Chamberlain-Oacoma bridge.

“You don’t need a boat to catch good fish,” said Dozark, as he casted a line out into the river.

Although many anglers use boats to catch walleye on the Missouri River, there’s a huge portion of Chamberlain natives who stick to the shorelines. For some Chamberlain anglers, the biggest fish they’ve reeled in came while standing on the rocks of the shore.

“Some of the biggest fish I’ve ever caught came from fishing the shore,” Dozark said, as he casted a line from under the bridge.

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Scenes of shore fishing on the Missouri River near Chamberlain on April 20, 2022.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Known for its prime walleye fishing, the Chamberlain-Oacoma area brings anglers from across the country each spring and summer. The walleye fishing hub has hosted some of the nation’s biggest walleye tournaments in recent years that bring hundreds of pro anglers who fish from their boats.

But many Chamberlain natives have found that the shore provides just as good of walleye fishing as spots in areas only accessible by boat. Another major benefit of shore fishing is the costs of doing it.

From the costs of filling up a boat with a tank of gas to routine maintenance many boats require before hitting the water, shore fishing merely requires a pole, tackle and bait. Considering the big turnout of shore anglers that the Chamberlain-Oacoma area sees each year, the accessibility of it is helping keep the local fishing culture strong.

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"I like that I can just grab my poles and gear and head out here to fish after a day of work and not have to get everything ready like you do for a boat," Dozark said.

With the high wind gusts that have been blowing through the central South Dakota region, it can also be challenging to navigate a boat on the Missouri River.

“You can find spots with cover and don’t have to battle wind when you fish from the shore,” Dozark said.

Spring spawning makes for ‘great shore fishing’

LeRon Hohn is among the anglers who cast lines into the Missouri River from the shore during the spring. While Hohn has a fishing boat, he said the spring walleye spawning season makes shore fishing advantageous.

“I like shore fishing at the beginning of spring, and then I take my boat out in May,” Hohn said. “I come back out to shore fish in October.”

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Although Hohn says boat fishing has its advantages during mid-summer when the current isn’t so strong in channels away from the shore, spring is a time he takes to the shore due to the walleye spawn.

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Scenes of shore fishing on the Missouri River near Chamberlain on April 20, 2022.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

When spring weather warms up the river and currents are moving rapidly, Dozark said walleye typically gravitate closer to shore to avoid battling the strong river currents.

With the amount of locals who flock to the shorelines during the spring, Dit's no secret that spring time is prime shore fishing season in Chamberlain.

“It’s when everybody comes down to the shore to fish,” Dozark said of the spring spawning season.

For Chamberlain native Ron Simpson, shore fishing in the spring helped him land his biggest walleye the angler has ever reeled in.

“I caught a 9-pound walleye from the rocks right by Chamberlain,” said Simpson, who grew up fishing Lake Francis Case.

In his many years of fishing, Simpson has pinpointed some go to spots along the shore where he’s had success.

“During the spawn, it’s great. The walleye are starting to spawn now, and the males are starting to milk,” Simpson said. “As long as you’re in the current. The current goes along the shoreline and splits right over here by these rocks.”

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After recently selling his fishing boat, Simpson will be a familiar face along the shore this summer. He too understands there are advantages of fishing from a boat, but the thrill of catching walleye from the shore keeps him coming back.

“I love it. I disagree with the whole ‘you have to have a boat to catch big fish,’” Simpson said.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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