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Local man wants temporary spear fishing expansion on Lake Sharpe

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Oahe Marina and Resort owner Steve Rounds asked the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission, Thursday, to allow spearfishermen to take game fish such as walleyes in Lake Sharpe between Oahe Dam and the John C. Waldron bridge between Pierre and Fort Pierre.

Rounds said he’s planning a fundraiser Aug. 13 for the Make-a-Wish organization. As part of that event, he wants to hold a spearfishing tournament. Rounds said he believes he could attract more people to the tournament if they had the chance to spear walleyes and smallmouth bass.

Right now, spearfishermen aren’t allowed to shoot gamefish above the Waldron bridge. They can, however shoot rough fish, such as carp.

Two years ago, in 2014, a similar effort failed. The idea then was to open all of Lake Sharpe to game fish spearing for two weeks. The effort was fiercely opposed by local anglers. Eventually, Game, Fish and Parks officials cited safety concerns as a reason not to allow the temporary expansion of spearfishing on Lake Sharpe.

"It blew me away," Rounds said of the 2014 decision.

For Rounds, spearfishing represents a much-needed business opportunity. He said he’s suffered mightily since the 2011 flood. The flood itself caused hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage to the Oahe Marina and Resort, which is the privately run concessions vendor at the state owned Oahe Downstream Recreation Area.

The damage has since been repaired, but the loss of rainbow smelt in Lake Oahe has meant salmon fishing, which brought Rounds many of his late summer visitors, has collapsed.

"The salmon fishing is gone," Rounds said. "It’s the salmon fishing that’s killing me."

He’s a scuba diver himself and said the portion of Lake Sharpe between Oahe Dam and the Waldron bridge is one of the top five freshwater dives in the country. Being able to reliably hold spearfishing tournaments in that area could be a boon to his business, Rounds said.

"There are big organizations that would like to use this area for spear fishing," Rounds said.

Allowing game fish spearing above the Waldron bridge requires a resolution from the Game, Fish and Parks Commission, not a new rule. That means it doesn’t need to go through the formal rulemaking process, which requires a proposal and 30-day public comment period.

Rounds will need to submit a formal, written request to the commission asking for the temporary change. The commission then would put the request on the agenda for its August meeting in Pierre.

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