Photo © Chad Coppess

Open Waters Compromise

The Open Waters Compromise (HB 1001) was signed into law by Gov. Dennis Daugaard on the evening of June 12, 2017, after a special session was held. The bill immediately reopened 27 bodies of water to the public while also providing landowners with the ability to post and close certain areas of nonmeandered waters. 

As of June 16, 2017, GFP removed all cables that previously restricted access to 27 nonmeandered lakes. Full services were also restored at those access sites.

Contact Information

Recreation and Respect

The Open Waters Compromise strikes a balance between the public’s interest in recreation and respect for private property rights. The bill that passed was crafted by sportsmen and women, landowners, attorneys and policy experts.

Default Rule:: Open Unless Posted

The bill opened all nonmeandered waters to recreation unless marked by the owner of the property underlying the water. This does not include those waters previously closed by court injunctions (Duerre Slough, Jesse Slough, Schiley Lake, Long Lake and Parks Slough).  Those waters remain closed without permission unless the injunctions are lifted.

  • Open by Agreement. Authorizes agreements between the state and landowners to open nonmeandered waters that are marked closed. No agreement may exceed a term of 10 years.
  • Open with Permission. Marked areas are open to recreational use with permission from the owner of the property underlying the water.

The allowed recreational use of an open nonmeandered body of water does not include wading, standing or operating a motor vehicle on the bed of a nonmeandered body of water without permission from the landowner. Trapping and hunting on the frozen surface above private property also requires permission from the landowner.

Posting and Marking Requirements

A private property owner must notify the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks when posting any nonmeandered body of water overlying private property as closed. Landowners must install signs provided by the department or buoys that meet the requirements provided by the GFP Commission rules, to identify the area of nonmeandered water that is closed to recreational use without permission. Learn more about these marking requirements.

When the water is properly posted as closed it will be added to the online closure map.

No Access Fees

Per statute, landowners cannot charge a fee for fishing nonmeandered waters that are marked as closed. Violations related to charging for fishing closed waters will be investigated by law enforcement. Fees may only be charged for fishing waters that are not marked as closed; such as a private boat ramp on an open water, a boat ramp located within the boundaries of a state park or recreation area and some lakeside use areas along the Missouri River 


Nonmeandered water over a road right-of-way that has not been vacated is open to recreational use and cannot be closed by marking. 

The law now specifically prohibits "recreational use" of marked (closed) waters. Casting a lure into marked (closed) waters is a recreational use of those waters and is a violation of SDCL 41-23-5.

Any contact between recreational equipment and private property underlying any unmarked (open) nonmeandered lake incidental to a lawful recreational use is not a criminal trespass. Casting into unmarked (open) water from a legal point of access is legal.

Rules and Petition Process

The Legislature gave the GFP Commission the authority to hear requests to restrict recreational use on the 27 nonmeandered lakes identified in Section 8 of HB 1001.

Petitioning landowners must first complete and submit the petition form.

Upon submission of the form, the Commission will schedule and post a hearing date based on the availability of the landowner and the Commission. The hearing agenda will be publicly posted and the hearing will be open to the public. 

Following the hearing, the Commission will adopt a resolution that grants the petition in part or full, or denies the petition stating its reasons for partial or complete denial. State law requires the Commission to consider privacy, safety and substantially affected financial interests of the landowner as well as history of use, water quality and quantity and the public’s interest in recreational use of the water.