Bait Shop Business Picks Back Up

For Sportmans Cove Owner, Doug Johnson, business is back to normal in Webster

WEBSTER, S.D. – It’s the first weekend after South Dakota legislators passed a bill allowing the public to access 30 lakes and non-meandered waters that were temporarily closed off, due to a Supreme Court decision that sided with land-owners back in April.

And a local bait shop owner says he can tell a big difference between then and now.

For Sportmans Cove Owner, Doug Johnson, business is back to normal in Webster.

“In the last week there was a definite increase,” says Johnson. “The attitudes have gotten better and people feel like the war is over.”

The war between fishing enthusiasts and land-owners, that is.

Anglers can now access public water that is on someone’s property, like Swan Lake, to reel in some catch.

But it hasn’t been that way for the past month and a half, and Johnson says the lack of bite, punctured his business.

“The negativity that surrounded it, the black cloud that was definitely noticed, no doubt on that,” he says.

Johnson has seen a $40,000 difference in his gross receipts.

“A lot of that is revenue from licenses of course,” he explains.

And they will likely not bounce back.

“When a weekend is gone on a limited basis, no I don’t think we’ll see that,” says Johnson. “Maybe a little bit of that will come back, but with weekends, there’s only so many and people get obligations. They just have other things going on.”

While the waves are now fair game

Johnson says the latest legislation doesn’t answer all the questions.

“The buoy thing; we don’t know to what degree that’s going to get involved in our area, how many people will participate in that,” says Johnson.

Landowners have the option of petitioning to keep the waters on their land closed — keeping boaters away with marked buoys.

“That can be difficult in a business standpoint to explain to customers, but at this point we’re not dealing with it at the moment so we’ll see when it comes up,” says Johnson.

The owner says he’s been floating with the ‘we’ll see’ attitude for years now.

“We’ve always had this massive gray area on what was the right or correct way to enter these bodies of water, and what wasn’t,” says Johnson. “So in some ways, [the legislation] does seem a little more defined now.”

The waters bill passed on Monday with an amendment.

The “sunset” clause was changed to July 1, 2018, meaning the legislature will have to take up the issue during the next session.

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