Today, the only visible piece of the town is a cabin that remains above water downstream. But underneath, scuba divers report finding remnants of the mining town, including old construction equipment, the railroad bed, a mining operation’s dynamite bunker, and part of a structure from the CCC camp.
Of course, there are also the underwater residents: the turtles, frogs and fish. With an average size of 16 inches (and many coming in longer than 18 inches), the rainbow trout keep anglers coming back to Pactola every year. Pike are also plentiful, meaning your chances of landing a 20+ lb. fish are pretty darn good. Underwater, spearfishing folks go looking for the bigmouth buffalo, a type of fish that can reach up to 80 pounds. In the winter, ice fishermen drill their holes in the lake, hoping to emulate the success of others that have pulled record-breaking fish from Pactola.
“Between the beautiful scenery, a great marina and fantastic fishing, Pactola is my favorite place to fish,” says pro fisherman Craig Oyler. “With catch-and-release becoming more of the norm than just an idea, my favorite fish—lake trout—are the healthiest they’ve ever been in the lake. The state record is 30 pounds, but I don’t see that standing for much longer.”
What was once a thriving and semi-lawless town is now a popular outdoor South Dakota destination. If you’re looking for a place to enjoy some water recreation, great fishing or just a relaxing piece of beach to sprawl out on with a good book, Pactola Reservoir is your spot. There are plenty of beautiful lakes in the area to choose from, but only one hides a history of lawlessness and prosperity underneath its beautiful waters.