Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area

Photo by Steve & Bobbi Olson

Trophy Fishing in Nebraska

The Merritt Reservoir is a man-made wonder amid the giant oasis of the Nebraska Sandhills. The second deepest lake in Nebraska surfaces south of Valentine, just miles south of Snake River Falls and the Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest. The Reservoir is surrounded by gentle bluffs, 44 miles of tree-lined shores baked in sugar-sand beaches, with 3,000 acres of preciously pure waters for swimming, water skiing, fishing and other aquatic adventures.

This land is a siren’s call to hunters, bird-watchers, nature and wildlife enthusiasts and of course, hopeful anglers. Dozens of master angler awards and state records have been recorded here. The lake is known for its largemouth, smallmouth and white bass, as well as perch, crappie, bluegill, channel catfish, muskellunge, northern pike and walleye. The depth and size of this lake with its numerous coves and pure waters creates habitat for young fish which provide forage to the lurking giants every angler hopes to hook into.  

Merritt is so distant from city lights that astronomers of all skill levels gather here by the hundreds each July for the renowned “Nebraska Star Party.” The park is open year-round. Camper spots with electrical hookups are available and there is plenty of open acreage for primitive camping, along with handicapped accessible showers, restrooms and picnic areas. (402) 376-3320.

The Merritt Trading Post sits lake side and has fuel, cabin rentals, bait, fishing tackle, groceries and supplies and is near 200,000 acres of public land.

For more information about Valentine and area attractions, contact the Valentine Visitor Center at (800) 658-4024 or visit