Black Hills winter fishing brings out hearty breed of angler

SPEARFISH (AP) – Spearfish resident Gavin Martz will tell you it takes a special breed of angler to try their luck during the winter months.

“Winter fishing is not exactly for the faint of heart,” Martz said. “The waters are really cold; you’re out in the middle of winter, and your hands are getting wet.”

Martz said winter fishing requires a large amount of dedication.

He added an advantage is that areas seeing a lot of traffic at other times are kind of empty during the winter.

A fairly large contrast exists between winter fishing and other types. The time of year is only one of those differences.

“In winter fishing, you’re not going to see very many rises,” Martz said. “There will still be times that fish feed on top, just not nearly as frequently.” He added a large majority of fishing is going to be done below the water.

Fishing is not as popular during the winter as at other times, according to Martz. He manages the Spearfish Creek Fly Shop and coordinates the guide staff to make sure all trips are going well.

Martz said Rapid Creek and Spearfish Creek are two of the area’s most popular fishing spots.

Spearfish Creek feeds out of Spearfish Canyon and goes to the Maurice intake, where it goes into an underground aquifer and redirects into Spearfish to the hydroelectric plant, the Black Hills Pioneer reported.

Anglers mainly catch brown trout and rainbow trout in Spearfish Creek, with whitefish inhabiting the northern end of the creek. The higher percentage of trout is brown, according to Martz.

“You can catch fish anywhere from two inches upwards of two feet out of the creeks,” Martz said. “A little bit more commonly, you’re kind of in that 12- to 13-inch range. It’s really going to depend on which area you’re in.”

Martz said Rapid City produces larger fish on average, and Spearfish Creek boasts a higher density of fish.

A fishing license is always needed, but a trout stamp is not required in South Dakota.

“One thing that’s new, as of this year, is you’re required to have a habitat stamp,” Martz said. That is added onto a fishing license and applies to fishing trips lasting longer than one day. Annual fees are $10 for residents and $25 for nonresidents.

Licenses may be purchased at any outdoor shops or online. A resident annual licenses costs $28, with youth ages 16 to 18 required to buy a Junior Combination License.

“I enjoy the attachment to nature. It really makes you pay attention to little things that you would have overlooked in the past,” Martz said in describing fishing’s appeal to him.

The 21-year-old started fly fishing at age 12 and said standing in a river outdoors is a type of medicine.

What would Martz say to someone who wanted to give winter fishing a try?

“My biggest advice is to wear proper clothing,” he said. “Don’t get overly focused on catching a fish. The biggest thing is having a little more patience.”

Martz recommends a good pair of waders is recommended for winter fishing. He also suggests a down coat and dressing in layers to keep the bulk as low as possible.

Anglers who wear gloves prefer different types. Martz wants dexterity in his hands, so he keeps his hands in pockets located in his jacket.

Martz said the COVID-19 pandemic created higher interest levels in fishing this year. He accompanies anglers on trips through the summer and into October, but his final trip in 2020 was on Dec. 1 or 2.

He described ideal winter fishing conditions this way: an occasional warm snap, and fishing between 8 and 10 a.m. The water begins to heat up during those times, according to Martz.


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