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South Dakota Jumbo Perch

Well, I call them cinder blocks, these perch can be that impressively large. Broad across the back, all the way back—and deeply bodied from dorsal fin to belly. Truly impressive fish to hold in your hand. Two of them make a meal, so you don't need many. We harvest selectively, so 13.5-inchers can grow to 14 or 15.

The lakes in the area are mostly shallow bodies of water that have grown the last 25 years or so via gathering groundwater into large bodies of water. Dry Lake #1 is just north of Clark. Indian Springs is just south of Clark. Dry Lake #2 is a bit farther south, just north of Willow Lake.

Those are perhaps the best-known options, but there are many more smaller bodies of water, some no more than sloughs, many privately owned and requiring permission to fish. Some area guides have access to these private waters and those, like Jarrod Fredericks, tell me they often begin the day on a smaller slough, catch close to a limit (15) of nice-average 11- and 12-inch fish, and then spend the remainder of the day on a lake like Dry Lake #2, looking for those 13-, 14-, and 15-inch monsters.

I have not fished Dry Lake #1. Dry Lake #2 has impressive fish, but it can be difficult to find them in the expansive basin running 9 to 12 feet deep. We've done best in January, but others prefer fishing in early March, just before the ice usually gets iffy about the middle of that month.

We've also filmed on Indian Springs, and it also has some monster perch, but right now it is blossoming with fish at 9 and 10 inches. Indian Springs has a new and very accommodating baitshop—Black Claw Bait and Tackle—right on the lake (northeast shore). Along with perch, all off these lakes also have good populations of walleyes, and Dry Lake #2 in particular has plenty of pike, with some large fish surpassing 10 pounds.

Although we're featuring the bodies of water near Clark, they are by no means the only options in this general area. Bitter and Waubay in particular also produce big perch in the Webster area, just north of Clark. Sportsmans Cove in Webster puts out a good fishing report for anglers to consider right over the phone. Farther south and east, Lake Poinsett, at Arlington, also often produces fine fishing for perch.

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When we fish the Clark area we usually stay in Watertown, about a 40-minute drive from the access on the south shore of Dry Lake #2. Both the Hampton Inn and the Holiday Inn Express are comfortable and have restaurants nearby. Or head downtown and get a steak at Charley's.

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