Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: South Dakota
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

South Dakota Project

Impact of climate driven water-level fluctuations on recreational fisheries in the Northern Glaciated Plains

October 2022 - September 2025


Participating Agencies

  • US Geological Survey - CASC

The Northern Glaciated Plains (NGP) of the upper Midwest, USA is an area where fishing generates millions of dollars a year for local and state economies. Maintaining these resources requires angler-desired fish populations and angler access to fishing sites (boat ramps, public land access). Fisheries throughout the world are currently undergoing unprecedented changes due to water level fluctuations and altered water quality resulting from climate change. The consequences of climate change to NGP fisheries are unknown but pose an immediate challenge for resource managers as angler access and opportunities can be jeopardized when boat ramps become inaccessible due to changing water levels and altered water quality could negatively affect desired fish species. This project aims to provide fisheries managers with information about how climate change will alter the hydrology of NGP lakes and subsequent changes in fish communities, angler access, angler behavior, and angler expenditures. A hydrologic model will be used to predict changes in lake size and water quality based on weather conditions under climate change. This information will then be used to predict changes in fish communities, identify current angler access locations that are at risk of becoming inaccessible, determine whether anglers will change the amount of time they spend fishing, and how these changes ultimately affect the amount of money anglers spend. By understanding which lakes will undergo these changes, fisheries managers will be able to make proactive decisions at state or regional levels about infrastructure development (number and location of new boat ramps) and ecosystem management (species and locations of fish stocking) that will maintain angler satisfaction and the economic benefits of recreational fisheries.