While drifting across the turbid waters of Arcadia Lake one early August morning, I spent a blissful few hours catching catfish. My fishing buddy and I were trying desperately to beat the scorching heat. Knowing the temperature would soar to nearly 100 degrees around noon, I insisted on an early start. We were on the water by 6 a.m. and fishing on that 80-degree morning — aided by an occasional southern breeze — was nice.
A few casts of the shad net yielded enough bait to get us through the trip. I impaled a freshly cut piece of shad and let my 1-ounce egg sinker take my offering down to catfish country. When my line reached bottom, I reeled up a few turns and then kept a firm grip on the rod. Our boat hadn’t drifted very far when my taut line got jerked with a vengeance, nearly taking the rod out of my hands. I set the hook and soon found my bass gear was terribly inadequate for the big blue catfish that angrily fought at the other end. After 10 minutes of carefully manipulating the big whiskerfish and letting it run, I managed to coax the blue into the net.
My catfish weighed only 12 pounds, yet it fought as hard as a 20-pound striper I’d once caught. I can truly say that catching a big catfish on a rod and reel is one of the most challenging forms of fishing.
Our state boasts some incredible spots for taking some rod-busting catfish. Read on for a rundown on some of my favorite catfishing spots. But first, let’s take a closer look at the fish we are talking about.
Three species of catfish — blues, channels and flatheads — thrive in Oklahoma waters. Four, if you count black bullheads.
The blue catfish is easily identified by its slate blue body color fading to white on the lower body. Its diet consists solely of fish; the preference is for shad, minnows and sunfish. In some lakes, blues have grown to more than 100 pounds.
The channel catfish’s colors vary from greenish brown to slate blue, fading to silver-white on the lower body. Its deeply forked tail is a dead giveaway.
According to biologists, channel catfish are nonselective and will eat almost anything. However, after growing to 6 or 7 pounds, channels prefer live fish as their main diet.
Flathead catfish exhibit a relatively slender body with a wide, flat head, hence their common name. They are yellowish-brown in color with a mottling on the upper body, their bellies ranging from white to yellow. Their main diet consists of live fish.
Catfish in general are tolerant of higher temperatures; their metabolisms speed up and they feed actively when the water warms. That’s one reason so many Oklahoma anglers pursue them with such vigor during summer months.
Now, here’s where to find the fish this month.
Arcadia is one of the finest lakes in the state and overlooked by way too many anglers, asserted Leon Mixer, who works with the city of Edmond overseeing the fishing and wildlife at the lake.
“Arcadia is a great lake for catfishing and the home of some real heavyweights,” he asserts. “There have been several habitat enhancements, as well as the addition of an indoor fishing dock offering opportunities for all anglers as well as for the physically challenged.”
Just north of Oklahoma City in Edmond, Arcadia Lake serves as a water supply for several communities. The lake features easy access for shore-bound anglers, as well as indoor and outdoor fishing docks. In short, whether you prefer bank fishing or boat angling for catfish, this lake is a good bet.
With an incredible shad population, this fertile impoundment is teeming with blues, channels, and flatheads. I’ve logged many August trips on Arcadia, and never failed to bring home enough filets to feed several families — all within the legal limits, of course!
Though channel cats averaging 2 to 5 pounds are the primary catch, lately the blue catfish have made their mark on the fishery. The blues caught now are bigger on average than channels, weighing 3 to 8 pounds, and some real bruisers lurk beneath the sometimes turbid waters. Darron Robinson pulled a 67-pound blue cat from the lake in 2006. Four days later, ODWC personnel officially certified the huge blue. By then it weighed only 53 pounds after regurgitating much of its stomach contents while in a holding tank. Even at that reduced weight, it established a new lake record.
The lake catfish spawn when water temperatures reach 80 degrees. For that, they prefer the shallow rocky areas with the dam’s riprap being a favored location. Some of the favorite fishing spots of the steady lake anglers are the rocky riprap areas by the 15th Street boat ramp and the dam area. For anglers with a boat, I suggest drift-fishing the deeper areas of the lake.
The combined daily limit on blue and channel catfish is 15, with only one blue over 30 inches, while the limit on flatheads is 10, with a 20-inch minimum. The lake prohibits fishing with trotlines, juglines, limblines, and yo-yos.
Grand Lake is a Green Country gem in the northeast that is loaded with blue catfish. In fact, after perusing the ODWC’s Web page, I learned that Grand has yielded some impressive blue cats to the Lake Records Program. To qualify for the program, minimum weights are set for a number of game fish species. For blue catfish, the minimum weight is 40 pounds. For the program, blues have been certified weighing 64.8, 54.0, 44.0, 43.0, and 40.1 pounds.
Catfish guide Jeff Williams, who catches some huge blue catfish there, knows Grand to be home to incredible numbers of larger-than-average blues. Knowing it takes a long time for a blue cat to reach lunker size, Williams is a believer in photographing and releasing all blue cats over 10 pounds.
The lake harbors a mixed bag of catfish, Williams says, but he prefers to target trophy blue cats specifically. “Although I do catch some channel cats and flatheads,” he offered, “95 percent of my catch is blue cats.”
Williams, who has guided on Grand for the past 10 years, thinks that many guides and anglers statewide are over-harvesting trophy blue cats. He recommends that during August, which he regards as a prime month for catching Grand Lake catfish, anglers target the shallow mudflats near Sailboat Bridge as well as the areas around Twin Bridges State Park. Williams also mentioned the fishing platform at Bernice State Park as a good bet for bank anglers.
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