Summer vacation is approaching, and it coincides with some of the year's best fishing in Oklahoma.
You can catch black bass, brown bass, stripers, hybrids, crappie and trout right now within an hour of any of our largest cities and towns.
From the mountain regions to the Arkansas River Valley to the Red River, the Sooner State has a fishing vacation to suit any family. Here's a sample.
Its actual name is Tenkiller Ferry Lake, but everyone calls it Lake Tenkiller. Whatever name you prefer, this 13,000-acre impoundment of the Illinois River is one of Oklahoma's cleanest and most scenic lakes.
It's also one of our best and most diverse fisheries, with excellent populations of largemouth, smallmouth and Kentucky bass, as well as catchable white bass, catfish, crappie and bream.
The upper Illinois River above the lake is an excellent canoeing stream that supports healthy numbers of smallmouth bass, and the tailwater below Tenkiller Ferry Dam contains rainbow trout and giant striped bass.
For boat anglers, Lake Tenkiller is defined by deep, rocky structure punctuated by sheer bluffs and pea-gravel flats. In May and early June, black bass are in late spawn and post-spawn phases, and so you should be able to catch bass staging in deeper water after their time on the beds.
Smallmouth bass are in deeper water, and you can catch them on jig combos that imitate crawfish as well as soft-plastic grubs on Carolina rigs and on relatively light football jigs.
White bass form huge schools on Tenkiller, and you can catch them any time of day on small crankbaits, topwater plugs, and small spoons.
You'll find crappie near artificial brushpiles, and you can catch them with small soft-plastic baits that imitate shad fished on light 1/8-ounce jigs. Electric chicken is an excellent color.
Youngsters and non-boaters can fish from the bank at any of the 14 parks that dot the Lake Tenkiller shoreline. Bank fishing is very good for bream and catfish, but in May it's always possible to catch a big bass or even walleye in the morning and evening.
Bank fishing for stocker-sized rainbow trout is good below Tenkiller Dam. They are plentiful and easy for youngsters to catch with corn niblets, PowerBait and worms.
There also is a kid's fishing pond at Lake Tenkiller State Park where youngsters can catch bream and channel catfish.
Along The Way
Nestled in northeastern Oklahoma's rolling Cookson Hills, Lake Tenkiller has about 1,400 acres of camping opportunities spread among private campgrounds, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds and, of course, Lake Tenkiller State Park.
The park is eight miles north of Gore on State Highway 100 has a volleyball court, basketball court, swimming pool and two playground areas.
Campers have their pick of 10 campgrounds containing 85 RV sites and 144 tent sites. For more privacy, the park also has 39 cabins that are furnished with dishes, linens, full kitchens, heat, air conditioning and satellite television. Some cabins are pet friendly.
There are 10 courtyard cottages, which are motel-style with interconnecting rooms and a shared porch. Each room features heat and air, a refrigerator, linens and bedding.
Hikers may enjoy two multi-use trails and one nature trail. The Tenkiller Multi-Use Trail is a handicap-accessible paved trail 1.5 miles in length. Children age 16 and under can fish for free in the kids' fishing pond at Tenkiller State Park.
The park's Pine Cove Marina offers fuel, snacks and boat rentals, as well as the floating Clearwater CafÃ© For more information, call 918-489-5641.
GREENLEAF STATE PARK
For a family fishing vacation, a visit to Greenleaf State Park near Muskogee, offers almost more than an angler can do in a week.
Greenleaf Lake, a 930-acre impoundment of Greenleaf Creek, is the park's centerpiece and offers excellent fishing for largemouth bass, channel catfish, bream and crappie. It's an excellent place for kids because the banks offer generous access to the water. A kid's fishing pond offers additional fishing opportunities for guests at no extra charge.
Bass fishing in Greenleaf Lake is good enough to entice serious bass anglers, but the proximity of the Arkansas River expands fishing opportunities exponentially. Just minutes from the park, it offers excellent fishing for largemouth and Kentucky bass, white bass, striped bass, crappie and trophy blue cats and flathead catfish.
Lake Greenleaf resembles a miniature version of Lake Tenkiller, and anglers can fish it successfully with the same lures and methods as they would at big highland reservoirs. In May and early June, bass will be shallow, and you can catch them on plastic worms, crankbaits and jerkbaits.
Bream will be near the bank, too, and you can catch them on crickets and worms.
The Webbers Falls Pool of the McClellan-Kerr Navigation System is just downstream from Greenleaf Lake. That's a whole different world, and it is a great bass fishery that is perennially popular with tournament anglers.
A short boat ride upriver to Spaniard Creek will take you to a remote, narrow backwater lined with big beds of water willow. That is prime largemouth bass habitat, and you can catch them this month by swimming jigs over the tops of grass, with buzzbaits along the edges, or with jig/chunk combos on isolated cover.
Along The Way
Lake Greenleaf State Park, one of Oklahoma's original seven state parks, was built in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. Its original structures are built of native stone and are similar to most New Deal projects in this part of the country.
Off the water, Greenleaf State Park offers a wide array of amenities and features that are conducive to family recreation.
Families can stay in 14 cabins with bathrooms, kitchens, heat and air, dishes and linens. All cabins have satellite television. The "Cabin on the Lake" is handicapped accessible. In addition, the park offers RV and tent camping, various pavilions, swimming pool, swim beach, horseshoe pits, playgrounds, nature center, amphitheater, basketball courts, volleyball courts, hiking trails and an 18-hole miniature golf course.
The park naturalist presents astronomy programs, campfire programs, party barge tours of Greenleaf Lake and hay wagon rides, as well as arts and crafts, storytelling and nature hikes. Personal watercraft are not allowed on Greenleaf Lake. For more information, call Greenleaf State Park at 918-487-5196.
BROKEN BOW LAKE
This McCurtain County paradise made this list last year, but its combination of great fishing, beauty, and diversity of family-friendly water activities make this one of Oklahoma's best vacation getaways.
You can fish for largemouth bass, Kentucky bass, smallmouth bass, crappie and walleyes in Broken Bow. You can fish for brown trout, rainbow trout and walleyes in the lower Mountain Fork River below the lake, or you can float-fish for smallmouth bass on the Glover River and the upper Mountain Fork River.
Beavers Bend Resort Park, on the southwest side of the lake, has another portion in the tailwater area. It is the perfect headquarters for your family fishing vacation. Covering 14,200 acres, Broken Bow Lake is known for its deep, clear water. The lower part of the lake is a good place to target smallmouth bass in May with shaky head jigs. You can also catch a surprising number of good-sized largemouth bass in woody cover in coves and inlets. A great spot is directly down the hill from the lodge at the park.
The upper part of the lake, from Bee Creek into the Mountain Fork River, is highly regarded for its good to excellent largemouth bass fishing. This area contains a lot of shallow flats and inlets that harbors a diversity of shallow cover with quick access to deep water.
Trout fishing is excellent throughout the tailwater, and you can wade-fish the shoals and runs. The stretch below the re-regulation dam is gentle and easy to fish from the bank. Remember that the water is cold, especially so in May and early June, and so hip boots or waders will keep kids comfortable.
Float-fishing the Glover River is an unforgettable experience that is best suited for experienced whitewater paddlers. It contains about 33 miles of runnable water that drops about 12 feet per mile. In high water, that can produce Class III-IV rapids.
Floating the upper Mountain Fork is safer and more enjoyable for kids.The rewards can be magnificent, though, because you'll float through remote pools and shoals that are chockfull of big smallmouths. Any soft plastic lure in watermelon/red or pumpkin/red is suitable.
Along The Way
Beavers Bend & Hochatown State Park is very family friendly, with a range of amenities. You can stay at the lodge with its great restaurant, or you can camp on the lakefront, or along the tailwater.
You can rent all manner of boats, including canoes, kayaks, personal watercraft, pontoons and houseboats.
Activities include cycling, horseback riding and children's programs. The park has a golf course, and you can rent horses. A narrow-gauge train takes guests on a scenic tour through the park, and that is always popular with kids.For more information, Beavers Bend & Hochatown State Park, 580-494-6300.
Known as the "Gentle Giant," this sprawling, 102,000-acre impoundment of the North Canadian and South Canadian rivers is a great, family-friendly fishing destination in McIntosh County near McAlester and Eufaula.
Lake Eufaula is a multi-tiered fishery that contains excellent populations of largemouth, smallmouth and Kentucky bass in the lower portion. It supports large numbers of big crappie everywhere, and it supports excellent numbers of blue, flathead and channel catfish.
Bream are everywhere and accessible to bank fishing youngsters at all the Corps of Engineers campgrounds, private campgrounds, and at Lake Eufaula State Park.
The area below the Chute, just north of Longtown, offers the best and most consistent fishing for largemouth bass. Deep, clear and rocky, it supports the largest numbers of bass, and also the best numbers of big bass. The best fishing is from Eufaula Cove and Duchess Creek to Eufaula Dam.
That's also where you'll find the big smallmouths that have enhanced Eufaula's bass fishing reputation over the last 15 years. Work crankbaits, stickbaits and swimbaits around isolated rock cover, both deep and shallow for post-spawn fish. Jigs, soft-plastic lizards and 10-inch worms will do the trick, as will soft-plastic swimbaits, grubs and leeches on drop-shot rigs and suspending stickbaits.
In the upper part of the lake above the chute, work jigs and soft plastics close to the shore and along riprap.
Lake Eufaula contains a lot of brushpiles, and that's where you'll find crappie this month. Tube jigs on light jigs are popular and effective, but you might have to experiment with colors until you find a combination that fish will bite.
Along The Way
Camping and swimming is available at Corps of Engineers campgrounds around this massive lake, but Lake Eufaula State Park contains all the amenities you need for an enjoyable family getaway. In addition to RV and tent campsites, you can rent yurts for more privacy. The park has a swimming area with a beach, multiple boat ramps, marina and a tackle shop.
The Deep Fork Nature Center is within the park, along with hiking, mountain bike, and equestrian trails. Also, the park has an 18-hole golf course, disc golf course and 3D archery range. A stable rents horseback rides on the park's trails. For complete Lake Eufaula State Park at 918-689-5311.