July 25, 2018

South Dakota "Atlantic" Salmon?

The barrage of daily emails can sometimes be overwhelming. I really need to hit the "unsubscribe" button rather than just automatically delete the messages that show up in my inbox each day. Most of them are just trying to sell me things, but sometimes you see one that stops you in your tracks...

Looks interesting right? It's especially novel considering it was sent from South Dakota Game, Fish, & Parks. (I receive their emails because I bought a fishing license while on vacation there in 2016.)

Image: Finygo.com

Now... I'm no expert, but something tells me that Atlantic salmon and South Dakota really shouldn't go together. I mean there's no way for the fish to naturally get there. This is not a case of re-establishing a native species. I even double checked a map...

In reading this email release, it appears that 86% of South Dakotans polled are in favor of stocking Atlantic Salmon in Lake Oahe, a 370,000-acre man-made reservoir just about smack-dab in the middle of the state. 

Evidently, Chinook (King) salmon which also don't naturally belong in South Dakota, have been stocked in Lake Oahe since the mid-1980s.

Perhaps this is just an innocent way to get more unique sport fish in the water. Is it something that needs to be reviewed more closely as a large-scale case of "bucket biology?" Or should we not care since this already goes on in the Great Lakes and this particular large body of water is not exactly natural to begin with?

Beats me. I'm personally not a huge fan of putting any non-native species where it doesn't belong, at least in this day and age. Over the past 200 or so years a ton of that has been done in the United States, particularly out West, but does it need to continue happening? There always seems to be unintended consequences.

On the flip side, I'm sure the local anglers would benefit, and perhaps the State would as well from the sale of Atlantic Salmon stamps or special licensing fees. I really am not educated at all on South Dakota game & fish politics or policies to make an educated statement.

I tried to look for any online feedback, positive or negative, and the most I could find was a few comments on the article on the SDGFP's Facebook page. Unfortunately, they were all about people debating a deer tag issue (no clue) and using this topic to create an analogy to push their agenda forward. So really, I found nothing.

Well, that's a lie, I found this video from 2014:

I did happen to send a note via email to SDGFP to ask them why they feel they need Atlantic salmon in South Dakota. Will be interested to see if I get a reply.

In the end, they're going to do what they're going to do. I just found the whole concept of South Dakota Atlantic salmon interesting. Thought you might as well.


  1. Biologists and politicians doing what they do best???????

  2. As a former SD resident, I find this proposal interesting but unnecessary and probably foolish, given all the trouble we've had with transplantation. I'm also being hypocritical, perhaps, because I enjoy fly-fishing for transplants, i.e., Pacific salmon and steelhead in the Great Lakes. What a world....

    1. I hear you Walt... I guess if you turn back the clock far enough, most of the fish I catch aren't "natives" either. I look at it this way, what's done is done, but why continue to add to the mismatched fishery problem.

  3. Happened upon your article and wanted to comment. I am from S.D. and am an avid salmon fisherman. S.D. does not require special licensing for salmon fishing. The reason salmon are being stocked, both chinook and atlantic is because the building of Oahe Dam in about 1960 created a multi-story fishery. The depth is about 200 ft. and the cooler water below about 50 ft. was not being utilized by sport fish. The food forage which is comprised mostly of smelt and lake herring is very available and my question has to be "why not utilize this water and forage for a good purpose. Both species of salmon are non-native but if ecological issues arise, by simply not stocking them would fully eliminate either species in about 5 years. The chinook salmon releases are based on available forage base and are currently at significantly high levels due to a high base of available forage. Man created the reservoirs for many reasons, why not capitalize on what they can do for sport fishing.