December 21, 2017
What's better than a fine day on the water or in the woods with friends? Two or three fine days on the water or in the woods with friends, of course! Stringing together a few days in an area adds efficiency to your approach and allows you to work that area much more thoroughly. Add evenings in a cabin, grilling venison steaks from a previous outing, trading stories by the fireplace, and a hunting or fishing outing transforms into the sort of trip you look forward to all year and continue to look back on after it is done.
If you're looking for sporting lodge type destinations in Oklahoma, some of the finest opportunities can be found in our state parks system. Several parks in different parts of the state offer cabins or lodge rooms that are lakeside to fine fishing, or that are convenient to public lands that offer good hunting prospects — or both. Some have facilities such as a marina or a restaurant that simplify planning, and costs tend to be reasonable.
With such thoughts in mind we've selected three parks, all in different parts of Oklahoma and differing in the character from one another, that lend themselves to serving as base camps for hunting and/or fishing outings.
BEAVERS BEND STATE RESORT PARK
Tucked away in the mountains of Southeastern Oklahoma, Broken Bow Reservoir differs in character and in the fishery it supports from most other Oklahoma lakes. Broken Bow is deep and clear with rocky shores, and its water doesn't warm as much as other Oklahoma lakes do through the summer. Consequently, in addition to the regular mix of fish, this lake supports a strong walleye population. Plus, because water released into the tailwater below the lake stays cold enough it supports a high-quality trout fishery.
Beavers Bend State Resort Park, a combination of multiple facilities, offers a lakeside lodge with great views from every room, a marina, rental boats on the lake and river, rustic and modern cottages along the river, and much more. The park also includes the banks of a significant part of the trout fishery, creating very good stream access for trout fishing.
Steep-sided and forested, Broken Bow undoubtedly ranks among the most scenic lakes in Oklahoma. It's a very good fishing lake, and the variety of species certainly add appeal. Bass fishermen can catch largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass in the same day. Lacking fresh intel, a good strategy for bass or walleyes on this lake is to focus on rocky points and transitions of rock types along the shore, paying attention to slopes, depths and bank makeup whenever you do get bit.
Below the spillway, the lower Mountain Fork River offers 12 miles of trout waters that get stocked 12 months a year, with plenty of good access for wading. It's a complex fishery, with a powerhouse a few miles below the spillway, vastly changing water levels, a low-water dam breaking the flow, and fishing regulations that vary by section. Spend time looking at maps and the river before stepping in. Also, be aware that parts of the river offer extremely challenging wading, even with modest flows.
The brown trout limit throughout the tailwater is one fish, with a 20-inch minimum size. In "red" sections, which are clearly mapped out with signs, rainbow trout also fall under a one-fish limit and 20-inch minimum, and only barbless artificial lures are allowed.
Although fishing is the main sporting attraction at Beavers Bend, the park's cabins or lodge could also serve as a base camp for hunting nearby. Roughly 6,000 acres of land around the lake is managed as a WMA, with deer and turkeys the main attractions. The river above the lake and the lake's headwaters cut through the rugged and expansive McCurtain Wilderness, which provides additional opportunities, albeit only for controlled hunts for deer and turkeys.
To the south, the Red Slough area offers nearly 6,000 acres that are dominated by wetlands, scrub habitat and bottomland forest and provide opportunities for good waterfowling in season.
- 5350 S. Highway 259A - 580-494-6300
- Lodging: Forty-seven 2-, 4- or 6-person cabins, with small kitchens. (Prices vary by cabin and season); Lakeview Lodge, 40 rooms with lake views, including four suites ($110-$180).
- Campground: More than 400 sites, including RV and tent sites, in eight different campgrounds ($12-$25).
- On-Site: Marina with boat rentals, forest heritage center, golf course, restaurant, grocery store.
- Nearby: Ouachita National Forest (Oklahoma and Arkansas).
SEQUOYAH STATE PARK
The largest lodge in the state parks system, Sequoyah State Park & Lodge is on the shore of Fort Gibson Lake and in the heart of what could be dubbed the fishiest part of Oklahoma, with multiple rivers and lakes close by. A former private resort, the lodge itself offers 104 guest rooms and suites, and 45 cabins with kitchenettes. With a restaurant in the lodge and a full-service marina within the park, you have everything you need for a few days of fishing at a single location.
Largemouth bass and crappie compete for top billing at Fort Gibson, an impoundment of the Grand (Neosho) River that spreads over approximately 20,000 acres at normal pool. A very fertile lake, Fort Gibson supports strong populations of bass and of black and white crappie. Rocky shores provide good natural habitat. Riprap and docks add shoreline cover. Sunken brush is plentiful. Stumps and some timber can be found up tributary arms.
Bass and crappie offer year-round opportunities, but the most dependable and easiest action occurs during spring and fall. You can do well then by simply working the banks up the creek arms and fishing visible cover with a jig, a spinnerbait or a square-billed crankbait. During the summer and winter, the fish move away from the banks and structure becomes much important for finding fish.
Special regulations apply to bass and crappie at Fort Gibson. The combined bag limit for largemouths and smallmouths is six fish, with a 14-inch minimum length. The crappie limit is 15, with a 10-inch minimum.
Spring prompts the white bass to run upriver from Fort Gibson, sometimes serving up furious action. Through mid-summer and mid-winter, the same white bass commonly congregate on structural features like humps and points in the main lake, creating more opportunities for fast action. Winter fishing mostly involves vertical jigging with spoons. During the summer, the white bass are apt to school on the surface, creating fun topwater action.
If the fishing at Fort Gibson isn't enough for you, or if you find tough conditions or simply a slow bite and want to try something else, several other excellent destinations are within easy reach. Hitting a few fisheries in a few days without having to pull up the stakes and move can make for a fun fishing adventure, and given the variety found in the waterways nearest to Fort Gibson, you could fish for a variety of species and mix up the experiences if you wanted to do so.
The Arkansas River, less than a half-hour's drive from the park, offers a true big-river experience, with fish relating to current and often completely different conditions from what you find at the lake. By traveling 45 minutes in different directions you can get to Hudson Lake, which is one pool up from Fort Gibson, or Tenkiller, which offers deep, clear water and fine smallmouth fishing. A little farther out but in range of a Sequoyah stay are Grand Lake to the north and Eufaula to the south.
- Highway 51, 918-772-2545
- Lodging: 104 lodge rooms and 45 cabins.
- Campground: 3 RV campgrounds, 3 tent campgrounds that offer a combined 128 RV sites and 150 tent sites.
- On-Site: Full-service marina, golf course, riding stables, nature center, restaurant, swimming pool.
- Nearby: Tulsa (45 minutes).
ROMAN NOSE STATE PARK
Roman Nose State Park, one of the original seven Oklahoma state parks, is set in a canyon and offers recreation ranging from canoeing and paddle boating to horseback riding and golf. Park facilities include 11 cabins and a 22-room lodge. The lodge, constructed in 1956 but fully renovated, retains the character of its mid-century design but is modernized inside with comfortable, well-equipped rooms.
Although there are two lakes on park property and fishing opportunities include trout fishing in season, Roman Nose State Park really isn't a fishing destination on its own. Instead, we're viewing its cabins and lodge rooms as nice lodging options for hunting in northwestern Oklahoma.
Canton WMA, located on the banks of Canton Lake northwest of the state park, offers nearly 15,000 acres of public hunting land in Blaine, Dewey and Major counties. It mostly consists of floodplain habitat, although the western part of the area contains some upland areas. Specific habitats range from post oak/blackjack Cross Timbers type at the east end to sand sage grasslands interspersed with sand plum, eastern red cedar, American elm and black locust at the west end.
White-tailed deer and Rio Grande wild turkeys are available in good numbers in the area. It's worth noting, though, that both receive quite a bit of hunting pressure. Cottontail rabbits are common and quail are available in good numbers. Duck hunting can be good on Canton Lake and on cutoff oxbows of the Canadian River that are on the WMA.
Northeast of Roman Nose State Park, Drummond Flats WMA provides another 4,653 acres of public land in western Garfield County. Drummond Flats is a historic overflow basin at the confluence of three creeks and is made up mostly of wetlands, but with some upland habitat breaking up the wetlands. Eight water-control structures are used to maintain wetlands and to carry out moist-soil management to provide the best habitat for wildlife.
Drummond Flats is best known as a duck hunting area, and duck hunting is good. That said, the area's character varies based on the amount of water, and water conditions impact the amount of ducks. Geese can be present but are less abundant. Sandhill cranes sometimes use Drummond Flats during fall migrations. Pheasants are normally around in fair to good numbers and will use all parts of the WMA not covered by standing water. Quail and Rio Grande turkeys provide some opportunities but are less common that some other species.
Two small wildlife management areas, Dewey County and Major County, offer limited additional hunting opportunities in the same part of the state. Private lands in the area offer plentiful and good hunting prospects for a variety of species, including whitetails, pheasants, geese, quail, rabbits and Rio Grande turkeys.
If you want to do some fishing as part of a trip to this area, it's permitted in the lakes at Roman Nose State Park, and trout season runs from November through April so it lines up nicely with some hunting seasons and could be part of a cast-and-blast agenda.
- 3236 S. Highway 8A, 580-623-7281
- Lodging: 11 cabins with full kitchens, 22 lodge rooms.
- Campground: 37 RV sites and 33 tent sites.
- On-Site: Swimming pool, golf course, horse stables, rental canoes, kayaks and mountain bikes.
- Nearby: Canton Lake, North Canadian River.