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The Best Fishing Spots in the Black Hills

John currently works in the Department of Community Development for the City of Rapid City as a Land Use Planner. In his spare time, John enjoys being outside and exploring the Black Hills with his fiancée, Stephanie, and their two dogs.

August 02, 2022

The cool, clear waters of our local Black Hills streams and lakes provide anglers with a myriad of fishing opportunities a short drive outside of city limits. Whether you are pursuing wild Brown Trout on Rapid Creek, chasing trophy Lake Trout on Pactola Reservoir, or exploring the backcountry for out-of-the-way fish, the Rapid City area is a great spot to start your angling adventure!

While there are many different opportunities for anglers in the region, the following list includes some of the best that the area has to offer: 

Rapid Creek

Fall colors lining Rapid Creek in Rapid City
Rapid Creek @Wes Eisenhauer

Rising from high elevation aspen parkland several miles west of Rapid City, Rapid Creek is the largest creek in the central region of the Black Hills. Below Pactola Reservoir, Rapid Creek is a classic western tailwater fishery with reliable flows and cool temperatures that produce very large trout. Anglers fishing Rapid Creek can expect to find a healthy population of Brown Trout, some growing as large as 18 inches, in the three miles between Pactola Dam and Placerville Church Camp.

Below Placerville, the best public access to the creek is within Rapid City itself. The entire course of the creek through the city is dedicated as part of a large park system, providing the rare opportunity to catch feisty Browns in an urban setting. In Founder’s Park, you can go from casting to wary trout under the iconic “M Hill” to indulging in one of several food trucks parked near the creek each summer evening.

Spring Creek

Spring Creek in the Black Hills National Forest
Spring Creek in the Black Hills

Spring Creek offers a great spring and fall fishing opportunity with excellent access southwest of Rapid City.  Below Sheridan Lake, the Spring Creek/Tie Flume trail system gives easy access to several miles of creek full of Brown, Rainbow, and the occasional Brook Trout. The half mile below the dam is especially good water for trout due to recent improvements in the outflow system of Sheridan Lake.

Little Elk Creek: This creek offers one of the most scenic Black Hills fishing experiences in the area as it dramatically cuts through a limestone canyon west of Piedmont.  The Little Elk Creek Canyon Trail follows the creek several miles up the canyon to Dalton Lake, providing plenty of public access to small, but beautiful Brook Trout. An early October evening in the limestone canyon with the full fall colors as a background is hard to beat.

Pactola Reservoir

Brown Trout Found in Pactola Reservoir
Brown Trout Found in Pactola Reservoir

The largest and deepest lake in the Black Hills is home to a wide array of cold and warmwater fish. With year-round fishing opportunities in a truly stunning setting, Pactola is a local favorite. Anglers fishing from shore or from a boat can expect to catch Rainbows, Browns, Bluegill, and other sunfish. But the main draw for Pactola is the large Lake Trout swimming in its deep waters. The state record was caught here, leading anglers from all over the region to target trophy fish that can exceed 30 inches in length.

Sheridan Lake

Foggy light at Sheridan lake in the Black Hills of South Dakota
Sheridan Lake @Keenan Angel

The second largest waterbody in the area is Sheridan Lake, a medium sized impoundment of Spring Creek located 15 miles southwest of Rapid City. Most of the same species that swim in Pactola are also found in Sheridan Lake, with the notable exception of Lake Trout. Although not as large or deep as Pactola, Sheridan Lake provides excellent shore fishing opportunities throughout the season, in addition to some great swimming beaches on the north side of the lake.

Whether you’re looking for solitude on a secluded stream or the chance to catch a trophy on a large reservoir, fishing opportunities abound in and around Rapid City. If you're new to the waters consider booking a guided tour with Dakota Angler & Outfitter or attend a free class at Outdoor Campus - West! Looking for more ways to experience the beauty of the Black Hills? Check out these top 10 hiking trails, or go for a fun drive through the forest on these ATV trails found near Rapid City.