Fishing opportunities on Ellsworth
By John Morgenstern, 28th Civil Engineer Squadron
/ Published September 14, 2012
ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Fishing in the base lakes - Gateway, Heritage, and Bandit - is open to everyone on base, however there are some base-specific rules that anglers need to follow.
Anyone age 16 or over wishing to fish on base is required to have a South Dakota state fishing license and adhere to all catch and size restrictions of the state.
In addition to state licensing requirements, a special base permit is required for anyone age 16 or over, with the exception of senior citizens (65 and older) and the physically handicapped. DoDD 4700.4 Natural Resources Management Program and AFI 32-7064 Integrated Natural Resources Management require this special base permit. The base fishing permit can be purchased at the 28th Force Support Squadron Outdoor Recreation office for $2 and is good for the calendar year in which it is purchased. Fishing is also open to visitors who obtain a base pass, or are sponsored by a servicemember, provided that all state and base permit licensing requirements are met.
Gateway Lake - the lake nearest the main gate - presents a good fishing opportunity for bass, bluegill, perch, crappie and green sunfish. Several years ago, the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks stocked red-eared sunfish in Gateway Lake as a study project to see how well they would do in our area. The red-ears responded very well and if one should catch any, it could be entered for consideration as a state record. Ellsworth is believed to be the only place in the state with this species. Fishermen are encouraged to utilize Gateway Lake. Fish from all base lakes are safe to eat.
A few years ago Heritage Lake underwent some major renovations, which is good news for base fisherman as the lake is now considerably deeper and provides a much improved fish habitat. During the renovation, most of the existing fish were removed and the lake was stocked with rainbow trout by the SDGF&P. The objective for Heritage Lake was to manage it as a trout fishery, and stocking of rainbow trout, which has continued annually. Most of the fish are more than nine inches long and some are 16 to 18 inches long. The few bass and panfish that remained also prospered from the improved habitat, and now bass and bluegill are abundant.
Bandit Lake was also partially drained and deepened with the removal of silt. Many of the fish were moved to Gateway Lake, but enough remained that a healthy population of bass and bluegill are present. Bandit also has some red-eared sunfish.
For more information about fishing in Ellsworth lakes, call John Morgenstern, 28th Civil Engineer Squadron natural and cultural resources manager, at (605) 385-2609.