Fishing for Brown Trout in South Dakota

How Much Is a Fishing License in South Dakota? (Regulations and More)

Fishing has been the most popular outdoor activity in the US for centuries. It has helped many families, including mine, bond; fishing was the only activity I loved doing with my dad while young. He taught me most of the things I know about fly fishing and even made sure I accompanied him on most of his fishing trips. And the only time we had fun was during our several fishing trips throughout the country.

One of his favorite destinations was Spearfish Canyon. He made sure we visited once every year, particularly during my late granddad’s birthday. While in South Dakota, we saw several other destinations and had fun, but my favorite has always been Pactola Lake. But before adding Spearfish canyon to your bucket list, you need to learn more about fishing licenses and regulations. For more details on fishing in South Dakota, please read on.

  • Resident annual fishing license: $28.00
  • Resident senior fishing license (over 65): $12.00
  • Resident 1-day fishing license: $8.00
  • Non-resident annual fishing license: $67.00
  • Non-resident 1-day fishing license: $16.00
  • Non-resident youth fishing license: $0

To learn more, here’s a link to the South Dakota website.

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Does South Dakota Have Free Fishing?

Like most states, South Dakota has a free fishing weekend, an official annual event. In fact, in 2022, the free fishing weekend was held on the weekend of May 21 and May 23. During this weekend, all the state’s recreational areas and state parks, including the state-operated waterways, are open to everyone in the state.

The free fishing weekend is a unique opportunity for the state to kick off its summer events. However, the camping fees still apply during the free fishing weekend. (source) You can try casting your line in some of South Dakota’s tranquil waters.

Can Non-residents Fish for Free on Free Fishing Days?

Yes, during the free fishing weekend, a considerable percentage of the public waters are open to everyone without a license. And this includes non-residents visiting South Dakota. So you take advantage of the opportunity and test the great fishing destinations of South Dakota.

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TYpes of Fishing Licenses in South Dakota

Like all the other American states, South Dakota does have a wide range of fishing license packages for anglers. These licenses vary in price and duration; therefore, you can get a permit for a short-term fishing trip and even extend it if you stay there for more than three days. South Dakota does have a package for the elderly and the youth.

If you love fishing and hunting, you can get a combination license which gives you the right to catch small game and fish simultaneously. A combination license can be a bit cheaper than getting two separate ones. Therefore, before showing you the exact price of the licenses, we should elaborate more on the different fishing licenses in South Dakota.

Resident Combination License

This license is ideal for residents over 18 who plan on fishing and hunting all year round in South Dakota. With this license, you can hunt small animals like tree squirrels, cottontail rabbits, quail, partridge, grouse, and pheasants. You can also fish and even catch turtles and frogs.

You can also hunt for species that can be taken by folks with varmint/predator licenses, like a raccoon, skunk, gray fox, and prairie dog. Folks over 65 can purchase the senior combination licenses and enjoy fishing and hunting. (source)

Resident and Non-resident Annual Fishing Licenses

South Dakota has an annual fishing license for residents and non-residents, which varies in price. These licenses are ideal for folks over 18 years old and can allow anglers even to take turtles and frogs. But you have to operate within the legal possession and daily limits of every place you’re fishing.

Remember, every waterway has its unique rules and regulations. Therefore, make sure you do your research before leaving your home.

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Resident Senior Fishing License (Over 65 Years)

Like most states, South Dakota does have a package for residents over 65 years old. The senior fishing license allows anglers to fish and take turtles and frogs. Unfortunately, they don’t have a senior fishing license for non-residence; therefore, they must apply for the non-resident annual fishing license. (source)

Resident Setline License

Other than the annual or short-term fishing license, residents must also purchase a resident setline license. The resident setline license allows folks to fish in their home counties. But they must also purchase a separate fishing license.

Resident Hoop Net License

Unlike most states, South Dakota does allow anglers to use several loops while fishing. So if you plan on using several hoop nets when fishing, you should get a separate license for each one.

Resident Nursing Facility Group License

Another special license that stands out is the Resident nursing facility group license designated for nursing facilities. Therefore, the nursing facility license applies to all the permanent residents of the nursing home, not the employees or staff members. So the residents of the nursing homes can spend time together while fishing in all the public waterways.

Non-resident Youth Fishing License

Like most states, South Dakota has a package for non-resident youth under 18 that allows them to keep their daily fish limit. It will enable the non-resident youth to fish without adult supervision and no fishing license.

Table of fishing costs in South Dakota (1)

Annual fishing license$28$67
1-day fishing license$8$16
3-day fishing licenseN/A$37
Senior fishing license (over 65 years old)$12N/A
Setline license$5N/A
Hoop Net License$10N/A
Nursing Facility group license$35 
Youth fishing licenseN/A$0
Combination license (fishing and small game hunting)$55N/A
Senior combination license (over 65 years)$40N/A

Where Can I Buy a Fishing License in South Dakota?

Generally, there are two ways you can get a South Dakota license: visit some of the local dealers or simply purchase it online. To get it online, you must visit the following link on their official website. And apply for the correct fishing license. Remember, you can only apply once per season and get only one license in return.

Apply for different-priced licenses as the first and second options. You may receive a refund if you’re selected a cheaper option. (source) When applying for a resident fishing license, make sure you can prove that you have been in South Dakota for about 90 consecutive days. You can pay for the license using your visa cards and print it before going fishing.

You can also purchase your license at more than 400 agent locations across South Dakota. But make sure you carry your passport, driver’s license, or identification card when visiting the agent locations.

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How Much Is a South Dakota License at Walmart?

Other than purchasing your license online or at the local agent locations, you can also get your license at Walmart. All you have to do is visit their sports and outdoors section and get your license. Fortunately, the price of the licenses at Walmart is similar to that at the fish and hunt headquarters. But you will have to pay a processing fee.

You can also purchase it online from and pay for it using your debit card. If approved, you’ll get your license and print it.

Where can I get the fishing regulations in South Dakota?

Even though the youth under 18 years are allowed to fish for free, there are rules set by the government that they have to follow. Each fishing region has a bag limit and which species you can harvest at a particular time. Therefore, before visiting South Dakota, you should go to its official website and download its fishing handbook. (source)

The fishing handbook will have all the updated regulations and help you avoid penalties while fishing in South Dakota. It will even stipulate the suitable fishing methods you can use at a particular time and destination. And also specify when certain waterways are open to the public for fishing.

For more details on fishing regulations in South Dakota, please follow the following link.

What Is the Fishing License Age Requirement for South Dakota?

Generally, anyone over 18 needs a fishing license to cast their lines in South Dakota’s waters. The Game, Fish, and Parks department have licenses for different age groups. The most popular are the annual fishing licenses (residents and non-residents).

For residents, there is a senior fishing license for those over 65-year-old anglers. At the same time, non-residents have to apply for the regular over-18 fishing license. The elderly in the nursing homes have the resident nursing facility group license.

When Do South Dakota Fishing Licenses Expire?

All the annual South Dakota fishing licenses expire on January 31 of the preceding year. On the other hand, all the short-term licenses expire within the designated number of days. Fortunately, you can get another license to cover you for the extra days you will be fishing in South Dakota.

Can You Fish Without a License in South Dakota?

Beautiful South Dakota river that begs to be fished
Beautiful South Dakota river that begs to be fished

Yes, everyone, including the non-residents, can fish without a license during the free fishing weekend. But on the other days of the year, only those under 18 years old anglers can fish without licenses in all the state-operated water bodies. They don’t even need to be supervised by an adult or experienced angler.

Can You Fish on Private Property Without a License?

Yes, you don’t need a fishing license to fish on water bodies that are private property. You can even fish in natural waterways that are situated on private properties.

But you may have to get permission from the property owner or the manager to access the private property. After all, trespassing is illegal and can result in a jail term or heavy fines. Remember, you must follow all the rules the land owner sets, including the bag limit and the proper fishing method.

What Is the Fine for Fishing Without a License in South Dakota?

Fishing without a license is illegal, and if caught, you may end up paying the penalty or even lose your license. Failure to exhibit your fishing license can result in a fine of about $29. But if residents are caught fishing with no license, they can pay a fine of about $54, while non-residents pay $104. (source)

Therefore, even if you have a license, ensure you have it with you when fishing, or you may end up paying a fine. Fishing without a license is considered a misdemeanor. Still, if caught several times, you may end up serving a jail term and even paying huge court charges and fines. 

What Is the Fishing Season in South Dakota?

Generally, the fishing season in South Dakota is open all year round; therefore, at any given point, you can find several fishing spots available to the public. Unfortunately, most waterways have bag and length limits for the fish to which every angler has to adhere, no matter how much you’re on a catching streak. But some rivers and lakes are closed to anglers at a specific time of the year.

Before leaving your home, you should find out which lakes and rivers are open to anglers and which species you can harvest. After all, there are species that you have to release as soon as you have harvested them. Some of the waterways that are not open all year round to anglers include:

Lake Francis Case

Lake Francis has a wide range of restrictions. You can only harvest a walleye with a minimum length of 15 inches all year round except in July and August. Unfortunately, part of the lake is closed to anglers.

The area between the I-90 bridge causeway and Railroad Bridge in Layman and Brule counties is closed to anglers between December 1 and April 30. But you can still fish from the shores at Brule County’s side all year round, including when this part of the lake is closed. (source)

Blue Dog State Fish Hatchery Pond

The Blue Dog Pond is an incredible water body that produces muskellunge, yellow perch, and walleye for stocking some South Dakota waterways. (source) Therefore, it’s open to fishing only some year-round, and fishing here can result in some hefty penalties even if you have a fishing license.

Other waterways closed to fishing all year round include McNenny State Fish Hatchery Pond, Cleghorn Spring Fish Ponds, and the Gavin Point national fish ponds. These ponds are state-operated hatcheries that help stock some of the surrounding waterbodies in South Dakota.

Other Fishing Spots That Are Partially Open to the Public

As aforementioned, most of the waters in South Dakota are open to the public, but a few spots are usually closed for a few weeks every year. Unfortunately, South Dakota needs to specify which month they will be closed when the year starts since it will depend on the season.

Instead, they post on the official website when these places are closed to fishing. Therefore, you have to visit their official website and find out if they’re open for fishing. Some of these places include:

GFP Outdoor Campus Ponds

Generally, the purpose of the outdoor campus is to provide hands-on experience in fishing and hunting. (source) The campus has several ponds usually closed to fishing all year round, except when the GFP holds some fishing events.

Sturgeon and Muskellunge Fishing Season

Generally, most fish species are open to anglers all year round in South Dakota. Still, there is a species that’s closed to fishing all year round. Some species, like muskellunge, must be released as soon as caught. But the sturgeon is closed to fishing; there is no special permit for catching this species. (source)

SeasonOpening dateClosing date
General fishingJanuary 1December 31
TroutJanuary 1December 31
Muskellunge (catch-and-release)January 1December 31

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Can I Fish in South Dakota?

South Dakota is a perfect destination for anglers because over 985 of the state waters can be accessed by the public. Therefore if you’re looking for a trophy walleye, you should visit the Missouri River. You can also get your dream crappie and bass in the northeastern glacial lake known for its tranquil surroundings.

South Dakota has everything for everyone between the 56 state parks and a collection of lakes, rivers, and creeks. There is a lake in South Dakota with a beautiful ghost in its base. The Pactola Reservoir is this state’s version of Atlantis that will leave you amazed and glad you made the trip. Therefore South Dakota has everything for everyone, including campers and hikers.

Please click here for more details on South Dakota fishing spots.

Can I Fish at Night in South Dakota?

Generally, South Dakota still needs to specify the legal time to fish in their waters; therefore, you can fish at night. But you must check with the local anglers and authorities for regulations or anything you need to fish safely. Remember, proper lighting is mandatory for visibility when fishing at night.

How Many Fishing Poles Can I Have in South Dakota?

In South Dakota, anglers can legally use a maximum of 4 fishing poles when doing ice fishing. But you can only use two fishing rods when fishing in unfrozen waters. Unfortunately, there is no permit for extra fishing poles.

Do You Need a Fishing License in South Dakota if You’re Over 65?

Yes, South Dakota does have a fishing package for residents over 65 years old. The seniors can even fish and take frogs when exploring the lakes and rivers. But they don’t have a senior fishing license for non-residents. Instead, non-resident seniors can apply for a non-resident annual fishing license.

Are you looking for some great How To Fly Fish Articles? Checkout this list:

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  1. Games Fish and Parks Department Staff, license type and costs, accessed November 6, 2022.
  2. Games Fish and Parks Department Staff, Open house and free fishing weekend, accessed November 6, 2022.
  3. Games Fish and Parks Department Staff, hunting and fishing, accessed November 6, 2022.
  4. South Dakota game, fish, and parks fishing handbook 2022, accessed November 6, 2022.
  5. FY14 Fine and Bond Schedule for use by Clerk Magistrate, accessed November 6, 2022.
  6. Games Fish and Parks Department Staff, Blue dog state fish hatchery, accessed November 6, 2022.
  7. Games Fish and Parks Department Staff, Outdoor Campus- Rapid City, accessed November 6, 2022.
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