GF&P reports high numbers of visitors and licenses

Visitation numbers to state parks as well as hunting and fishing licenses numbers are significantly higher than 2020. Pioneer photo by Wendy Pitlick

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WATERTOWN — Hunting and fishing license sales are up significantly this year, officials with the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks reported this month.

Tom Kirschenmann, wildlife director reported that resident and nonresident licenses combined were up by almost $500,000 more than last year, with more than 2,500 more licenses sold. Resident hunting licenses are up slightly this year, particularly for combination and small game licenses. Last year, the department sold 41,392 combination licenses to residents, while sales in 2021 were at 42,629. Small game licenses were also up, from 1,586 last year to 1,754 in 2021. However, he said, for some reason overall annual fishing licenses for residents has been down to 46,579 this year, from 58,739 last year.

Kirschenmann said the agency is working with its marketing department to try and target more resident anglers, to encourage them to get out on the water.

“We are doing some very pointed outreach efforts and marketing,” he said.

On the non-resident side, Kirschenmann said the department has seen an influx in small game hunting and fishing this year. Last year, the agency sold 2,951 small game licenses to non-residents, while this year that number jumped to 5,709, which is well over the agency’s three-year average of 2,660. Annual fishing licenses also saw an increase, from 22,228 last year to 25,349 this year.  

“(This is) in response to the fact that South Dakota is open and our fishing is fantastic,” Kirschenmann said. “There are a lot of good fishing opportunities in the northeast part of the state. Overall, things are looking very good right now.”

The summer tourism season has also been very busy, officials say, as visitors take advantage of South Dakota’s continued “open” status. Al Nedved, assistant park director reported that the state is up by 11% in year to date camping numbers, and visitors to Custer State Park have been right on par with last season, which was a banner year. The seven-day pass for the state park is up by 83% from last year, with motorcycle passes up by 59%.  

“Custer State Park is really experiencing a lot of increased use for people who just want to get out on the water and out on the trail,” he said. “The Custer State Park daily permits are indicative of what’s going on. There are droves of people coming in. They’re having a huge year.”

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