Oklahoma'™s 2007 Fishing Calendar

In a great state like Oklahoma, a serious angler could easily fish 365 days a year. To prove it, here's 12 months' worth of the finest fishing action the Sooner State has to offer. (February 2007)

One of the things I like best about Oklahoma: no shortage of fishing holes. The whole eastern half of Oklahoma is full of reservoirs both large and small, plus several sizable rivers and many streams, almost all of which offer topnotch fishing for one or more species. And even in the semi-arid western counties, the reservoirs, watershed lakes, streams and farm ponds suffice to provide more fishing opportunities than many comparable areas can boast.


If you're a fisherman, Oklahoma's a good place to live.

Let's look at a few of the options available to Sooner State anglers throughout the coming year.


JANUARY

That the Lower Illinois River can be a tremendously rewarding fishery in January -- especially if the weather's really cold -- we owe to an abundance of trout.


The first nine or 10 miles of the Illinois River after it comes out of the Tenkiller Ferry Dam is a designated trout fishery into which rainbow trout are stocked. Because trout need water in a certain temperature range, water is pulled from the middle depths of Lake Tenkiller to keep a steady flow of 60-degree water coursing down the river. Thus, the Lower Illinois is cooler than are other area waters in the summertime, and so draws lots of game fish into the river from Kerr Lake and the Arkansas River.

During very cold winters, when other area waters' surface temperatures plunge into the 30s and begin to form ice, the Lower Illinois still remains within what for fish is a comfortable 50- to 60-degree range. It's then that striped bass and white bass typically congregate en masse in the lower Illinois. You might find them anywhere from that area of the Arkansas River around the mouth of the Illinois all the way upstream to Tenkiller Dam. But most of the best action usually occurs from the Highway 64 bridges downstream to the mouth of the Illinois. That mile-plus stretch sometimes teems with stripers and sand bass.

I've had midwinter trips on the Lower Illinois where two or three of us might catch more than 500 pounds of fish. Live shad, big shiners or even live or cut rainbow trout can work. But fishing with 1/16- to 1/4-ounce jigs dressed with feathers, bucktail or plastic can prove the most effective technique.

You might find stripers anywhere in the river, but stripers seem to gather to feed with special regularity in some particular areas: just upstream from the large island; below the big powerline that crosses the river; just below where the river's two channels converge below the bridges; and a few more.

Most fishermen plying this area use the Gore Landing boat ramp just east of Gore on the Illinois. It can also be reached by launching at the Webbers Falls ramp on the Arkansas River and motoring a short distance downstream and across the river into the Illinois.

FEBRUARY

Grand Lake is subject to a considerable amount of pressure. Anglers come from many states to catch black bass, catfish and other species there, because the nearly 70-year-old lake just keeps on growing bounteous crops of game fish -- including crappie.

Grand Lake also has thousands of artificial brushpiles. Some are made of dozens of big cedars; others are as small as an individual branch, or maybe a discarded Christmas tree. The majority of the brushpiles will probably have been intended to attract bass, but they bring in crappie, too. And at this time of the year -- before crappie move toward the banks to prepare to spawn in April or thereabouts -- lots of crappie are gathered around brushpiles built on structure 10 to 25 feet below the lake's surface.

Minnows or jigs fished vertically in and around those brushpiles can yield pleasing results until the crappie start migrating toward the shallows to spawn.

MARCH

March can frustrate Sooner anglers. Ol' Man Winter often delivers a couple of snow events and ice storms on his way out for the season, and the weather can shift radically from day to day, playing heck with the process of locating and catching fish. But farm pond bass fishing can be very good at this time of year, as can the chances of catching trophy bass in the form of truly big egg-laden females.

Achieving pond-bassin' success can be as simple as carrying around a small thermometer that you can dip in the water. Find the warmest water, and chances are good that you've found the spot where the bass are biting.

Here's a typical scenario: A couple of days of sunshine and breezes from the south warm the waters of a farm pond. The breezes push the sun-warmed surface water toward one side of the pond. The colder water thus displaced is eventually pushed up on the upwind side of the pond, cooling that area. Check the surface on the upwind and downwind sides of a pond at this time of year, and you may encounter temperature differences of 15 degrees or more. It's not always that extreme, but the spread can be that much or more.

Active bass tend to move into the warmer shallows to feed, and when they do, a small spinnerbait or a jig-and-grub fished in the sun-warmed shallows can set off lots of action.

APRIL

Grand Lake has already put in an appearance as a hot February crappie spot -- and it just might be the place for black bass in April. Last year, Grand produced some of the best bass-tournament stringers it'd given up in several years, so here's hoping that this year sees that trend continue.

The pattern that I'd recommend for use on Grand's pre-spawn bass -- throwing suspending jerkbaits -- may prove effective as early as mid-March, but it typically works best from late March through mid-April. A weighted Rogue or similar jerkbait that you pull down sharply in order to make it work and move 8 to 10 feet below the surface can take a toll on pre-spawn females suspended or cruising just offshore, there waiting for the spawning urge to start them nesting.

I've seen days at Grand on which two guys might catch a dozen or more good bass -- 4-pounders and up -- on this pattern in early spring.

Carolina-rigged lizards can get results, too, but the jerkbait pattern has helped win numerous early-season bass tournaments and brought lots of fun to Grand Lake anglers at this tim

e of year.

MAY

Smallmouths are my favorite fish, but I don't necessarily mean those bigger Tennessee River smallmouths that've been widely transplanted and stocked in reservoirs like Texoma and others -- I'm really talking about the native "brownies" that prowl the streams of the Ozark and Ouachita highlands in Eastern Oklahoma.

They rarely grow large -- a 2-pounder is a big one and a 3-pounder is a trophy -- but they fight hard, jump often, and sparkle like gold when they're pulled flopping and fighting from the water.

Topwaters, spinners, crankbaits, jerkbaits or just about any kind of lure you might imagine can yield results, but if you want to catch lots of these little battlers day after day, use light tackle and small jigs and plastic grubs: easy to fish and demonstrably effective. Jigs weighing 1/16- to 1/8-ounce are usually best; fish them on 6- or 8-pound-test line on a spinning or spin-casting rig. Many colors of grubs can do the trick, but in general, go with bright and light-colored lures on sunny days and with dark lures on cloudy days. My all-time favorite grub for this kind of fishing is a 2-inch smoke-colored curlytail grub with no glitter; on sunny days I'll sometimes go with a grub with silver or red glitter in it.

Fish it slowly, but keep it moving, and don't pass up an opportunity to throw it around any midstream boulder. Bass anglers who fish lakes tend to concentrate more on shoreline areas. But when you're out for stream-dwelling smallmouths, midstream areas can prove even more profitable.

JUNE

Fishing for bluegills, redears, green sunfish and other common sunfishes can be a rewarding effort at this time of year. Anglers often argue about whether this or that fish makes for the best table fare. Walleyes and crappie are often the two tastiest choices among freshwater fishes. But as for me, I don't believe there's a tastier fish in inland waters than the bluegill. I especially like 'em if you can catch 'em big enough to fillet, so that you wind up with nice, boneless morsels.

May and June are, in my opinion, the best times to fish for bluegills. You can catch 'em throughout the mild and hot months in this neck of the woods. But during May and June, especially around full-moon periods, bluegills tend to concentrate in certain areas to spawn, often in shallow water; if the water's clear, you can see the nests, fanned clean of algae and debris.

But they can also nest in water more than 10 feet deep. In fact, I've found them nesting in deeper water just as often as in shallower; it's just a little tougher to find them there. A slip-cork rig -- adjustable so that you can probe the pond or lake until you find the magic depth in a nesting area -- is really a valuable tool for deeper bluegills.

I use the smallest cork and the smallest split shot that I can, usually on 6-pound-test line, to catch bluegills and redears at this time of year. I want my rig set so that the bait falls not to the bottom, but to a point within 6 inches of it. With such a rig you can sometimes fill a big ice chest full of bluegills or other sunfish in short order.

My favorite bait critters (when I can get them) are gray crickets from the bait shop. But worms, scented baits and other live baits work also. A small jig tipped with plastic or dressed with hair or feathers too can get the job done.

JULY

Most any of our large Eastern Oklahoma reservoirs can offer first-rate sand bass action, but Fort Gibson has long been a favorite destination for many Green Country sand bass anglers, who can find schools of white bass roaming the reservoir anywhere in the stretch from the low-water dam at the upper end of the lake on the Neosho River down to the lake's big dam near Fort Gibson.

Many troll, either with small spinners or spinnerbaits, or with shad-colored crankbaits, to identify the whereabouts of schools of sand bass; some then prefer to stop to cast jigs or other lures at the schools. Many at Fort Gibson, though, prefer to keep trolling through the schools.

AUGUST

What's perhaps the nation's premier inland striper lake is big Lake Texoma, where 100 or more fishing guides make a living by taking anglers out to catch stripers. It's not unusual for a guide to take two and even three different parties of fishermen out to fill limits each day.

Watch for seagulls feeding on shad -- often an indication of stripers marauding beneath schools of baitfish -- or just follow the flotilla of fishing boats that converge on the areas where stripers are feeding each day.

Many of the guides use live bait -- chiefly shad or shiners -- but jigging spoons, crankbaits or jigs can get results as well.

SEPTEMBER

The Kiamichi River above Hugo Lake can be one of the finest bass fishing spots in the state at this time of year. Late each summer, largemouth and spotted bass seem to move in big numbers up into the river above the Highway 93 bridge and all the way up to Rataan Landing and beyond.

Hugo bass guide and Salt Creek Camp resort owner T.J. Switzer reported that many late-summer/early-autumn tournaments are won "up the river" at the lake. According to him, spinnerbaits, plastic worms, and occasionally jigs and plastic grubs are among the top baits to try for fishing the Kiamichi at the lake's headwaters.

JULY

Most any of our large Eastern Oklahoma reservoirs can offer first-rate sand bass action, but Fort Gibson has long been a favorite destination for many Green Country sand bass anglers, who can find schools of white bass roaming the reservoir anywhere in the stretch from the low-water dam at the upper end of the lake on the Neosho River down to the lake's big dam near Fort Gibson.

Many troll, either with small spinners or spinnerbaits, or with shad-colored crankbaits, to identify the whereabouts of schools of sand bass; some then prefer to stop to cast jigs or other lures at the schools. Many at Fort Gibson, though, prefer to keep trolling through the schools.

AUGUST

What's perhaps the nation's premier inland striper lake is big Lake Texoma, where 100 or more fishing guides make a living by taking anglers out to catch stripers. It's not unusual for a guide to take two and even three different parties of fishermen out to fill limits each day.

Watch for seagulls feeding on shad -- often an indication of stripers marauding beneath schools of baitfish -- or just follow the flotilla of fishing boats that converge on the areas where stripers are feeding each day.

Many of the guides use live bait -- chiefly shad or shiners -- but jigging spoons, crankbaits or jigs can get results as well.

SEPTEMBER

The Kiamichi River above Hugo Lake can be one of the finest bas

s fishing spots in the state at this time of year. Late each summer, largemouth and spotted bass seem to move in big numbers up into the river above the Highway 93 bridge and all the way up to Rataan Landing and beyond.

Hugo bass guide and Salt Creek Camp resort owner T.J. Switzer reported that many late-summer/early-autumn tournaments are won "up the river" at the lake. According to him, spinnerbaits, plastic worms, and occasionally jigs and plastic grubs are among the top baits to try for fishing the Kiamichi at the lake's headwaters.

OCTOBER

Smallmouth bass fishing in Southeastern Oklahoma streams is a fine thing in the spring, but I like it even better in the fall. It's good at either time of the year, but autumn, especially in the general vicinity of October, brings topwater action that can prove fantastic. And anyone who's ever caught a 2-pound Oklahoma creek "brownie" on a topwater plug and watched the bass jump completely free of the water -- thrashing and rattling its gills as it leaps into the air two or three times -- knows how much fun topwater fishing can be.

Just about any chugger, popper, propeller bait or stick bait will work. I prefer smaller baits on light tackle. Another option: a buzzbait fished on a regular baitcasting rig. In the long, deep, slow-moving holes in rivers like the Mountain Fork or Glover, sail the buzzbait straight down the middle of the river as far as you can throw it, and then buzz it right back upstream. And hang on!

NOVEMBER

Brown trout spawn in the autumn, and as you can often find browns stacked up beneath obstacles to upstream migration, fall fishing in streams swum by browns can be pretty darned good. If a rock ledge, low-water dam or even just a shallow riffle or row of boulders should block upstream movement in a stream, browns may gather there in the fall. And in the lower Mountain Fork River's designated trout stream area, you could find several places like that in which browns may be holding.

Flyfishermen have a chance to catch trophy-sized browns there in the fall, as do anglers using other types of tackle. If I'm not fly-fishing, I prefer a lightweight spincasting outfit and small jigs. I'll sometimes use a small Rapala, usually in a count-down (sinking) version.

The lower Mountain Fork River below Broken Bow dam is partitioned into sections, each subject to different sets of rules, so check the regulations before fishing. And don't forget that, no matter the kind of fishing license you hold, you'll need a current trout permit to fish here.

DECEMBER

If you want to fill your freezer with tasty catfish filets, a trip to Lake Texoma in the wintertime can help you reach your goal. This big lake is teeming with tons of big blue cats, and those blues love shad -- live shad, cut shad, even shad gizzards. You can either drift the flats or anchor near structure like submerged channel bends. I recommend tight-lining or using a drift rig -- a weight on the end of the line heavy enough to keep the line down while you're drifting over the flats, with a 4/0 or 5/0 hook baited with whole small shad or pieces of larger shad.

It's not unusual to catch several fish over 10 pounds on any given outing.

* * *

As you can see, Oklahomans have lots of angling opportunities throughout the year. Very few states have as many kinds of fishing as what we enjoy here.

Find more about Oklahoma fishing and hunting at: OklahomaGameandFish.com

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