There are an amazing number of fish and fishing locations spread around our state. Here are some that surely deserve your angling attention this year.
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Oklahoma anglers are blessed with a plethora of angling choices to fuel their favorite pastime. It's true: Our state is blessed with so many fisheries that sometimes the hardest decisions an angler has to make is which fish to target and where to go catch it!
Well, I've got good news. After polling some of the state's top fishing experts, I have their suggestions on the top fishing picks and destinations for each month of the year. No need to wonder any longer; here's where the action is heating up near you.
Largemouth Bass - McGee Creek
Lunker bass aficionado Chuck Justice says McGee Creek is one of the best big-bass lakes in Oklahoma. In fact, this true big-bass expert has caught numerous largemouths weighing 10 pounds or better there, and many of them were caught during the winter months. This savvy angler's familiarity with this southeast hotspot's bass lets him know just where to find and catch them at this time of year.
"The big bass will be found in deep water in small confined areas," says Justice. "I catch most of my big fish on a 6-inch soft-plastic jerkbait, Gene Larew shaky head worm, or on a Justice jig."
One of Justice's favorite January techniques is to locate bass near ledges in deep water and use a shaky head worm. Justice cautioned anglers to be patient and let their baits get to the target depth before working them slowly. Anglers pitching jigs should target brushy areas. Best bait colors include pumpkinseed, motor oil, black/blue, and June bug.
Hybrid Bass - Sooner Lake
Sooner Lake, a 5,000-acre warm-water lake owned and operated by Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company, is in the northern part of our state, near the town of Perry.
Sooner is smaller than most hybrid lakes, but don't let the size fool you. Actually, Sooner was the original stocking point for hybrids in our state, and has produced several state records in the past.
The northeast corner of the lake can be very productive when the generators are pumping. The lake contains numerous points and islands that can yield very serviceable fishing as well.
Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Fisheries Supervisor Gene Gilliland recommends that artificial bait enthusiasts try jigging shad-colored slabs and spoons in the deepwater areas.
Bank-fishermen can enjoy success fishing the warm-water discharge area at the northwest end of the lake. To reach this coveted area, anglers should park in a special parking area beside Highway 177 near the lake. They get to the discharge area by making a mile-and-a-quarter trek -- but at the end of that well-worn path is some fantastic fishing.
Best bait choices are large YUM Fat Money Minnows in pearl and pearl/chartreuse, spoons, and live shad.
Smallmouth Bass - Lake Murray
Pro angler Jeff Kriet is an expert on Lake Murray, and that's no surprise; the successful bass pro grew up fishing the clear Ardmore lake. Kriet worked as a guide there, and now spends a significant amount of time plying its waters. He regards it as an excellent lake in March, a month during which he's caught some of his largest bass. "Murray is infested with smallmouth bass," he said. "I have caught several there over 6 pounds."
Kriet's favorite tactic in March involves fishing a Jewel Bait Company 5/16-ounce Eakins jig in green pumpkin color, to which he attaches a plastic trailer. "This bait is deadly on Murray," Kriet asserted. "The lake is absolutely full of 1- to 2-pound smallmouth bass. You can literally catch and release 50 or more a day."
Kriet noted that the lake has some huge smallmouths and advised anglers to try the Three Fingers area, Marietta Landing, and the Quarter Mile Dock area.
Kriet prefers to use relatively light line in the 10- to 12-pound-test range, and to cast jig-and-pig combinations in waters 15 feet deep or less.
Largemouth Bass - Arbuckle Lake
Arbuckle Lake is a beautiful clearwater lake nestled in the Arbuckle Mountains, just north of Ardmore. The lake is becoming popular with anglers after a big bass.
Mark Jefferys operates The Basszone (www.basszone.com), one of the Internet's unique bass fishing resource sites, and rates the fishery as a fantastic spot.
"Arbuckle is a great place to catch a giant bass in April," he opined. "It's nothing to catch a 6- to 7-pound bass there, and I know of several 10-pounders that have been caught there as well."
Jefferys gets enthused when he mentions the lake's newly grown hydrilla, an aquatic plant known to be a favorite spot for big bass to hide while they wait to ambush prey. "This vegetation is not coontail moss or any other kind of underwater plant," he exclaimed. "It is hydrilla!" This savvy bass angler knows when you find hydrilla, you have the right habitat to catch a heavy stringer.
Best baits are football jigs like Booyah's in Molting Craw color, YUM Dinger shaky head worms in green pumpkin, and crankbaits like the XCalibur One Knocker in Foxy Shad color.
Hybrid Bass - Waurika Lake
Waurika Lake is located 20 miles south of the town of Duncan in south central Oklahoma. The lake is 10,100 acres of both open-water areas and heavy timber. Though Waurika offers some tremendous fishing opportunities, it is an especially fantastic spot for taking hybrid bass.
The popular bait for hybrids is live shad. However, many times the fish swallow the bait and can't be released. Due to the high mortality rate associated with live bait, lake expert Frankie Phelps suggests anglers use artificial lures so that more fish can be released unharmed.
Phelps says it's not uncommon to catch Waurika hybrids in the 5- to 12-pound range; he has taken a 16-pounder there.
Phelps points to the main body of the lake down to the lower end as a good area to find hybrids. He recommends using bass gear with 15-pound line. His favorite bait is a 4-inch Sassy Shad in pearl or chartreuse.
Striped Bass - Lake Te
Lake Texoma is a border impoundment shared with Texas that offers fabulous striper fishing. It's no wonder the lake is called Oklahoma's Striped Bass Capital. Lake Texoma anglers are coming in with bigger stringers, and the resurgence of the once nationally recognized striper factory is once again making its presence known.
Though the average catch weighs 2 to 5 pounds, striper guides are now toting in linesides that approach 20 cpounds, just as they did back in the 1980s. The stripers are larger, on average, and when guides pull up to the docks, there are plenty of curious onlookers to inspect their catch.
"June is a prime month on Texoma as the fish have definite patterns," says guide Lloyd Jennings. "The stripers have favorable areas where they stack while consuming huge amounts of the shad population."
Jennings, who has been guiding on Texoma for years, says most anglers probe the waters using live shad, large topwater baits like Zara Spooks, or spoons. He suggested anglers target the areas near Washita Point, Platter Flats, and near Alberta Creek.
Hybrid Bass - Fort Cobb Lake
Located in the southwest an hour's drive from OKC, and once known for incredible crow hunting, is Fort Cobb Lake. This lake has received a lot of attention lately due to its tremendous hybrid fishing. Lake guide Dale Eagon claims the lake is a real sleeper for quality hybrids.
"The average size hybrid I catch is 6 to 7 pounds," Eagon said, but noted, "the lake has some real trophies, that's for sure."
Eagon suggests newcomers key on the area near the old marina, the area near the new marina, and Bird Island. Sonar will locate active hybrids off long, rocky points and stacked on ledges. Most anglers use live shad for bait, but success also comes from jigging spoons.
Striped Bass - Lower Illinois
The Lower Illinois holds some of the largest stripers found in Oklahoma waters, and was home to the current Oklahoma state-record striper -- a 47-pound, 8-ounce fish caught by Louis Parker on June 10, 1996.
So what makes the Lower Illinois so special for stripers? Gary Peterson, a fisheries biologist with the ODWC, believes it's the water temperature. "Stripers like to congregate in these waters," he replied, "due to the water being 20 degrees cooler in the late-summer months. The flowing water triggers their feeding instincts."
Trout are caught and used widely by live-bait fishermen, Peterson reports, adding the cautionary note that anyone using or catching trout in the designated trout area, which is the stretch below Tenkiller dam to the Highway 64 bridge, must have an Oklahoma trout stamp.
Unlike Lake Texoma, the river generally does not yield large numbers of stripers daily, however the average fish caught will be much larger. The chance for an angler to catch a striper over 30 pounds is realistic, though not a daily occurrence.
White BassGrand Lake O' The Cherokees
Sited in the northeast quadrant of the state, an hour's drive northeast of Tulsa, is Grand Lake O' The Cherokees. This clear, rocky lake is a superb sand bass fishery that boasts incredible schools of surfacing sand bass nearly year 'round. My trips to Grand have been nothing short of spectacular.
One option for fall fishing is to watch for surface activity and then make long casts with spoons. The average-sized sand bass caught there will be close to 2 pounds.
Lake guide Ivan Martin likes to use small, shad-colored crankbaits and enjoys success fishing off rocky points. The entire lake offers great fishing but I personally like Duck Creek, Governor's Island and the area near Monkey Island.
Crappie - Canton Lake
According to crappie expert Donnie Jinkens, a 40-year resident, Canton Lake is a great place in October to catch a basket of crappie. Located 75 miles northwest of Oklahoma City and best known for the annual Walleye Round Up, Canton Lake offers 7,910 acres of great fishing.
Jinkens suggested anglers try the Indian Cove area near the southwest part of the lake, or the cattails or "tule" area located on the northwest end of the beautiful lake. Another good spot for slabs lies in the Canadian area of the lake, where there is bank access from a jetty. The dam is 3 1/2 miles long and is a likely spot for casting a pair of jigs or dunking some minnows. Jinkens advises there are three pull-off areas by the dam, and they are near places where crappie pile in. The ODWC has enhanced the lake habitat with numerous brushpiles that, though unmarked, can be located with sonar equipment.
Jinkens' favorite artificial bait is a 2-inch Bobby Garland Baby Shad in chartreuse, Red Thunder, pearl and white, and pink and white. Minnows and jigs also are top choices.
Blue Catfish - Kaw Lake
Catfish expert Jeff Williams says that Kaw Lake is a dandy spot for anglers wanting to tangle with a big blue catfish. Sited in the northeast and part of the Arkansas River system, Kaw has a reputation for producing some of the state's biggest blue catfish.
Williams suggested that anglers focus on the mid-lake area and fish the Arkansas River channel. Using sonar, locate the river's ledges and the deeper water below. Most catfish will be found in depths of 30 to 65 feet. Williams said that generally, the worse the weather, the deeper the catfish will be.
Anglers should do well using cut shad. Williams also encourages anglers to release all blue catfish weighing more than 15 pounds. "It takes such a long time to grow a big blue catfish," he pointed out.
Rainbow Trout - Lake Watonga
The state has several designated trout waters that attract legions of anglers each winter. One of the most popular of these venues is Lake Watonga, located in the northwest part of the state near the town of the same name. Each year the ODWC stocks trout in this 55-acre lake, providing for some outstanding winter angling.
Anglers fishing Watonga during trout season must have a trout stamp and the daily limit is six trout. The west side of the lake offers good access for bank anglers and a boat ramp is available for anglers wanting to fish from a watercraft.
The average-sized trout caught will be under a pound, although larger trout are occasionally stocked. I have seen trout approaching 5 pounds caught there.
Best baits are traditional trout offerings -- salmon eggs, cheese, corn, small worms, small minnows, jigs, small spinners and Berkley Power Bait. Trout anglers are limited to only one rod.
Regardless of where you live in our state, there is great fishing near you every month of the year. With the myriad of opportunities -- too exhaustive to cover completely in this brief article -- Sooner anglers are blessed. So try some of these hotspots and maybe you'll find a new "fav
orite" fishing hole this year.