Oklahoma's Hottest Catfishing
October 05, 2010
Even in the midst of a heat wave, you can count on these locations to turn out good catfishing action. (August 2007)
At 121 1/2 pounds, this is the largest blue catfish ever taken on rod and reel at Lake Texoma. Cody Mullinex (left) caught the former world-record blue cat while fishing from shore. Josh and Jason Holbrook had to help pose the huge fish.
Photo courtesy of Cody Mullinex.
The dog days of August roar into the Sooner State with a vengeance, driving most outdoorsmen indoors to the comforts of an air-conditioned room and a cool beverage. Temperatures are certain to reach triple digits this month, and shady areas are scarce. Unless you're in a swimming hole or getting a suntan, August is an oppressive month. If you enjoy fishing, you know that the action for most species slows, and is best early and late.
However, if you enjoy catfishing, the action is as hot as the mercury in the thermometer -- and for the whiskerfish angler, the time is now!
It's true: The warmer the weather, the hotter the catfishing seems to get. According to Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation fisheries expert Gene Gilliland, these fish actually prefer warm water. "Catfish in general are more tolerant of warmer temperatures, and their metabolisms speed up when water temperatures warm, making them more active feeders," he noted.
Our state is blessed to have a seemingly endless supply of waters teeming with catfish -- so regardless of where you live, a catfish hotspot near you is bound to be heating up right now. So dab on the sunscreen, grab your tackle and head to one of the following hotspots to catch a mess of whiskerfish.
Arcadia Lake 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 said. "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-anglers as well as indoor and outdoor fishing docks. In short, whether you prefer bank-fishing or boat angling, this lake is a good bet.
With an incredible shad population, this fertile impoundment is teeming with whiskerfish -- blues, channels, and flatheads. I've logged many August trips on Arcadia with Norman Miller, my catfishing mentor, 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. Darren Robinson pulled a 67-pound blue cat from the lake last year. 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.
Carl Jones, who owns Brandon's Bait & Tackle -- (405) 359-9886, in Edmond -- weighed the gigantic catfish initially; he still gets a glimmer in his eye when he recalls the experience. "The fish was huge," he said, "one if the biggest blue cats I have ever seen!"
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 anglers are the rocky riprap areas by the 15th Street boat ramp, the dam area, and for anglers with boat access across to drift-fish the deeper areas of the lake.
The ODWC has built and placed several brushpiles that are clearly marked with buoys. These serve as magnets for the lake's prolific shad population and good places for finding catfish.
The combined daily limit on blue and channel catfish is 15, 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 O' THE CHEROKEES
One of the real gems in the northeast is Grand Lake, near Afton. This huge, clear, rocky lake was one of the first built in the state, and still serves Tulsa and the rest of the state as a premier outdoor destination. A favorite of many amateur and professional bass anglers, Grand is an outstanding catfish fishery.
An expert catfish angler himself, having won five national catfish tournaments, 15-year veteran guide Jeff Williams ( www.teamcatfish.com) believes that Grand's a great spot in August, offering action for both bank-fishermen and boat anglers.
"Generally, anglers can catch good numbers of catfish in Grand anytime," said Williams, "but in August I do exceptionally well. I've caught and released some monster blue cats in Grand, and the future looks excellent."
So what areas on the lake are best for taking catfish? "If I want to target blue catfish, I head to the Bernice area," said Williams. "The best bait to use for blues is cut shad and the catch will average 5 to 20 pounds. The area offers excellent access for bank-anglers, as well as those fishing from a boat."
Williams said that anglers catching blue catfish over 10 pounds should consider releasing them, keeping only the smaller ones to eat. "According to a catfish management report I just read, a catfish grows about a pound a year," explained Williams. "So it takes a long time to grow a real heavyweight catfish."
Grand catfish anglers targeting channel cats should target the mudflats in 6 to 30 feet of water with cut shad as bait. The average channel catfish will weigh between 2 and 8 pounds.
"For anglers seeking flatheads, I think night is the best time to go," opined Williams. "I like to fish in the Port Arthur area of the lake and up the Neosho River, targeting mudflats where cover is available. I have found that flatheads prefer live bait such as shad, perch, or bluegill."
The daily limit on blues and channel cats is 15 combined, and the limit on flatheads is 10 with a 20-inch minimum.
On the Grand River system just be
low Grand Lake is Lake Hudson -- a sleeper of a catfish lake, according to Williams. In fact, he said, the fishing at Hudson is stellar, and worthy of recognition.
"Most people go from Grand Lake to Fort Gibson to fish, and in the process they drive right past Lake Hudson," he said. "I believe the fishing at Hudson is as good as at Grand Lake, except Hudson gets less fishing pressure.
This green-water river lake offers all three species of catfish, Williams stated, and has some nice blue catfish. The blue catfish weigh 5 to 20 pounds on average, he said, while the channel cats will weigh 2 to 10 pounds. His favorite tactic for taking blue catfish and channel cats is to drift-fish with cut shad.
He offered this bit of advice based on his many hundreds of hours of catfishing: "When you are drift-fishing, it is very important that you use a drift-sock to control the speed you're drifting. If you drift naturally, many times the boat drifts too fast, and your bait never stays in an area long enough to present an opportunity for a hungry catfish."
According to Williams, a large park near Salina offers good bank-fishing access; many anglers like to fish from the Highway 82 bridge there, he reported.
The daily limit on blues and channel cats is 15 combined, and the limit on flatheads is 10 with a 20-inch minimum length.
Lake Texoma is known by many names, like "Sand Bass Capital of the World" and "Striper Capital of the World," and is the home of several record catfish, including the state-record blue cat, a former world-record blue cat, and the unrestricted class (trotline) state-record blue. Pretty impressive catches from this huge impoundment shared by Oklahoma and Texas!
Texoma also has been named the site of the Bass Pro Shops' Big Cat Quest catfishing tournament in August.
Cody Mullenix held the world-record for blue catfish with a 121-pound, 8-ounce brute he pulled from Texoma in 2004. The huge blue was caught on the Texas side of the lake in Big Mineral Creek. Mullenix baited his line that morning with gizzard shad and then waded into the lake before propelling his bait 100 yards farther offshore with his 14-fool surf rod. Hooked shortly after 10 a.m., the behemoth blue fought like the monster it was for all of the 30 minutes required to bring it in near the shore and land it.
"It blew my mind when I saw him," Mullenix remembered. "I've certainly caught some big fish in my lifetime, but this catfish was massive."
Buncombe Creek, the Washita Arm, and Cardinal Cove were named as excellent spots for catfishing according to Mullenix, no one-hit wonder. In fact, he has won two catfish tournaments and placed in several others. He holds the tournament record for the heaviest stringer -- seven catfish weighing a whopping 134 pounds!
This world-class angler is hanging out his shingle and starting a guide service named Trophy Catfishing Adventures -- (903) 337-0537 -- in hopes of parlaying his whiskerfish knowledge into a thriving business.
Mullenix relies heavily on his depthfinder to find spots where big catfish lurk. Like Williams, Mullenix prefers to release all catfish over 10 pounds.
The daily limit on blues and channel cats is 15 combined with a 12-inch minimum; the limit on flatheads is 5 with a 20-inch minimum.
Waurika Lake, in the southwest part of the state near the town of the same name, is another great spot for catfish. According to ODWC biologist Larry Cofer, Waurika's channel catfish will average 2 to 5 pounds. Most fishing is done by boat since there is little bank-fishing access. Best spots to fish are off windy points using cut shad. The blue cats, which will vary from 3 to 30 pounds, also seem to prefer cut shad.
"Waurika Lake is one of the best up-and-coming blue catfish lakes in southwest Oklahoma," Cofer confided. "It's also one of the most fertile lakes due to the run-off it receives from area agricultural operations. Combine that with a good shad forage base and all you need are anglers willing to make the long drive to get their rods bent."
The daily limit on blues and channel cats is 15 combined, and the limit on flatheads is 10 with a 20-inch minimum length.
The state has rivers and creeks flowing from border to border and feeding into lakes and other rivers. These waterways are good bets for catfishing and most hold good numbers of fish.
"The Cimarron River is a great place to fish, and the catfish there will bite anything that gets in their way," said Leon Mixer, a veteran catfish angler. "If you are fishing with cut or prepared baits, you will probably catch more blues than channel cats. Live bait works great for flatheads."
Though a confirmed noodler, Mixer loves catfishing, and still finds time to dunk some bait each year. His biggest river cat was a 40-pound blue, although he has taken some flatheads in the Kiamichi River that weighed 40 pounds as well.
Jeff Williams suggested that anglers bent on river fishing should experience the mighty Arkansas River. "I really enjoy fishing the Arkansas River because if you know where the secret spots are, you can do well. The spots I am referring to are oxbows, bayous, and small coves where catfish generally congregate to stay out of the river's current."
Williams said he usually accesses the Arkansas River off Highway 66 between Catoosa and Claremore, where it is realistic to catch blue cats ranging from 5 to 15 pounds, with the chance always of taking a 50-pounder. Flatheads caught there generally weigh from 10 to 30 pounds.
Delmer Shoults, striper-fishing legend and veteran guide, has caught numerous big catfish in the Arkansas between the confluence of the Lower Illinois and Robert S. Kerr Reservoir. Shoults boasts of legendary catfish he has hooked in his lengthy tenure on the river that were too big to boat. Nevertheless, when he's not striper fishing, Shoults guides many of his clients to good catches of catfish in the navigational waterway.
Though space doesn't permit us to cover numerous other lakes and rivers, I'd be remiss in my duty if I didn't name at least a few of those. In the northwest, Canton Reservoir and Great Salt Plains are both excellent spots to take channel catfish. Though the average-sized cat in these two lakes is smaller than that in the waters written about earlier, these are worthwhile destinations. Regional biologist John Stahl said that both lakes are good bets for a mess of channel catfish, which will on average weigh 3 to 7 pounds there. He suggested that cat anglers use cut shad, earthworms, or large minnows.
Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City has the low-water woes brought about by drought, heavy water usage, and scheduled repairs to the dam. The lake has been an annual favorite for catfish anglers, mainly because of the dam's long riprap offering
numerous bank-fishing opportunities. Most anglers catch the abundant channel cats that average 1 1/2 to 3 pounds. Those catfish can be caught on a variety of baits including homemade dough baits, cut baits, minnows, shrimp, liver, and blood bait.
Carl Jones, who's logged many hours angling for Hefner's catfish by means of his favored method, slip-corking, considers the fishing there to be excellent most of the time. He believes that anglers will catch more cats by using his approach than by fishing, as so many seem to do, on the bottom.