Why do I drive to Grand, McGee Creek or Arbuckle when apparently there is good bass fishing in my backyard?
I would have never guessed a 10-pound largemouth bass would come out of Oklahoma City’s Lake Hefner, but it happened Tuesday.
Kevin Barnicoat of Oklahoma City landed the 10-pound, 6-ounce largemouth from a spawning bed, one of the biggest black bass ever caught from Hefner.
Bob Martin, fisheries biologist for Oklahoma City since 1982, said he can’t remember the last time a 10-pound largemouth was caught at Hefner.
“It’s been several years,” he said. “That’s a good fish for Hefner Lake. That’s a good fish for any lake.”
Hefner is known as a walleye, crappie and catfish lake. It’s not normally a destination for bass anglers.
Barnicoat, a member of the North Oklahoma City Bassmasters and other bass fishing clubs, fishes Hefner frequently because it is close to his home and he doesn’t have to pay a vehicle or launch fee there like at other lakes, such as Arcadia and Wes Watkins.
He admits he was shocked by the size of the fish.
“I’ve caught several fish in the 5 and 6 pound range in the last five years (at Hefner), but I have never heard of anything that big coming out of there,” he said.
Barnicoat was fishing with a homemade brown and green jig with green pumpkin trailer, a lure that he’s had success with at Hefner and Grand.
“They chew it up there (Grand) pretty good, too,” he said.
Barnicoat has fished Hefner every day since April 19 and caught more than 30 bass in the 5-pound range before landing the big one Tuesday evening.
He had seen the fish on the spawning bed the day before but couldn’t get a bite. He caught the fish the next day, then weighed her on the scales in his boat (he admits the weight might be a half-pound off either way), took photos then released her to spawn.
He thinks the fish has since laid its eggs because she wasn’t back on the spawning bed Wednesday.
Barnicoat’s personal best is a 12-pound, 6-ounce bass caught at Mountain Lake five years ago.
He thinks Hefner is an under-rated lake for bass fishing.
“It’s a good lake and it’s close,” Barnicoat said. “If guys would actually get out there and get to fishing on it a little bit, they would see how good a lake it is.”
Man, Tuesday was a good day to be striper fishing.
A Norman man caught a 35-pound, 3 ounce striper on the Red River below Lake Texoma and on the lake itself a 28-pounder was landed by local angler Billy Brooks on a Chug Bug lure.
The Red River has produced some nice stripers this year and anglers on Lake Texoma already are starting to see some surfacing action.
“The good top water action is just a couple of weeks off,” said Matt Mauck, fisheries biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “It gets better when the shad start spawning, bringing those stripers closer to shore.”
Here is a link to the story on the 28-pounder caught Tuesday evening on Lake Texoma. The story and photo was posted on the sixoldgeezers Web site: www.sixoldgeezers.com/discus/
Below the lake, Scooter Proctor, son of former University of Oklahoma assistant football coach Bobby Proctor, landed a 35-pound, 3-ounce striper that morning while fishing with guide Norman O’Neal.
Proctor already had landed a 24-pound striper fishing earlier this year with O’Neal, but Tuesday’s fish was the biggest O’Neal has caught on the river in recent years.
O’Neal has been guiding Red River striper fishermen since 1992 and this is becoming one of his best years ever on the river. Of course, some days are better than others, but O’Neal has been catching 17 to 28 pounders more frequently this year, and he always sends me the photos as proof.
The big Texoma flood of 2007 – where water breached the spillway and the flood gates were opened – sent a lot of fish downstream and likely is one of the reasons for the excellent fishing in the river, Mauck said
“I’m sure the flood put a lot of fish in the river,” Mauck said. “Fishing (in the river) after that flood was tremendous and it continues to be good.”
On Tuesday, O’Neal said Proctor and his group started out early in the morning by catching some nice box fish using small threadfish shad for bait and popping corks.
After using up most of the small bait, they went on the hunt for big fish by drifting down the river, using balloons and 6- to 10-inch gizzard shad suspended in 4-feet of water.
They had some huge blow ups, but never could get one to take the bait, so O’Neal, who uses an airboat on the river – headed to a rock pile and parked on top of it. He started chumming some stunned bait that already had been used.
“It wasn’t but a few minutes, and we were hooking up with big fish,” he said.
Proctor lost the first six fish he tied into, but after baiting up with an 1-inch gizzard shad and dropping it back in the ambush zone, he hooked the big one.
“The fish made several hard bursts up river and finally made its way back towards us,” O’Neal said.
At the same time, another angler hooked into a 17-pound striper.
“I always turn all big fish back, but (Proctor’s) fish took a hook in her upper gill and was bleeding very bad,” O’Neal said. “Unfortunately, we had to keep her. She will go on Scooter’s wall, though.”
To reach O’Neal, who lives in Denison, Texas, call (903) 624-4900 or visit www.striperguidetx.com.
Darryl Overstreet of Norman heard about Choke Canyon Lake in south Texas producing big bass this spring, so he and a few friends decided to give it a try last week.
The 8-hour drive from Norman was worth it. Overstreet, a bass tournament angler who fishes Hawg Haven and other trails in Oklahoma, was rewarded with a 13.44-pound largemouth bass that measured 27 inches in length and 22 inches in girth.
Overstreet says he’s having a hard time believing his luck.
“I have fished for most of my life and only dreamed of a lunker like this,” he said.
Choke Canyon, a water supply lake for Corpus Christi, has vaulted to the top of best big bass lakes in Texas this year. Located three miles west of the south Texas town of Three Rivers, Choke Canyon has coughed up at least nine 13-pound plus bass this spring, counting Overstreet’s fish.
Choke Canyon has six fish this year on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Sharelunker list, a program where the agency takes 13-pound plus fish from Texas lakes and attempts to reproduce their trophy genes in a lab.
Three of the nine big bass caught at Choke Canyon- including Overstreet’s – died so they are not officially listed as part of the Sharelunker program. But even with six, Choke Canyon has more Sharelunkers than any other Texas lake this year.
Those six fish on the Sharelunker list weigh in at 15.45 pounds (the new lake record), 15.27 pounds, 15 pounds, 13.30 pounds, 13.17 pounds and 13.12 pounds.
Producing three fish more than 15 pounds in the same year is unprecedented, Texas officials said.
Choke Canyon is a 26,000 acre lake that is just 20 years old. It’s always been a productive lake when it had water, but drought has kept it up and down for much of its existence.
But after being down from 1997 to 2002, the lake has been taking on water and has been virtually full since. With a large percentage of Flordia bass in the lake, the rising water has created a “new lake effect,” according to Texas biologists, and the bass have had more cover, more to eat, and the population has exploded.
Overstreet said the water temperature was around 78 degrees most of last week on Choke Canyon. He and his fishing partners got up April 22 and began fishing one of the main lake points and had caught several fish using Terminator Spinnerbaits.
The night before, Overstreet had met Steve Parks of Rage Tail Baits, who was testing baits on the lake. He gave Overstreet one plastic worm to try – a 10-inch anaconda junebug-colored worm.
Once the spinnerbait action slowed that morning, Overstreet decided to give the worm a try. He pitched it into some grass off the point and got the bite of a lifetime.
Choke Canyon is on the upswing and biologists think the fishing will remain this way for several years.
In addition to black bass, there also is good fishing for catfish, white bass and crappie.
For more information on Choke Canyon State Park and the lake, visit http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/choke_canyon/
There are still a couple of good months of trout fishing left on Oklahoma’s premier trout stream, the Lower Mountain Fork River in McCurtain County,, before the fish tend to get lethargic in the hot, summer months of July and August.
Sean Baker, a fly fishing guide out of the Three Rivers Fly Shop in Hochatown, reports fishing has been good in zone one on the river as of late.
“Fishing pressure has been high in Evening Hole and Lost Creek but I’ve never seen as many fish, nor as many big fish there before,” Baker said.
“If you are trying to break into a 20-inch fish, you have a chance in that area. With the pressure, the fish are getting more sensitive to bad presentations and poor drifts. So, make sure you are able to present and mend properly. We are seeing quite a few caddis as well as some lingering March brown. We have had excellent success using a powder floatant on size 18 hare’s ear soft hackles, CDC caddis sizes 16-20 and elk hair caddis sizes 16-18.”
March Brown dun patterns sizes 12 & 14 also are working and Baker says nymphing is really good right now as well.
Anglers have been having success using a new fly in the shop called a Realistic Caddis Pupa.
“As always, make sure you go armed with aray of colors and sizes of egg patterns (cheese, salmon & chartreuse particularly) as well as San Juan worms various sizes and colors,” Baker said.
In zone two, fishing has been hit and miss. The high water in Broken Bow Lake has resulted in sporadic generating schedules and zone two has been tough to fish, he said.
Anglers have had some success using caddis sizes 16 and 20 and the occasional March brown.
On the Upper Mountain Fork, Baker recommends these flies: chartreuse clouser, white clouser and Lefty’s Deceiver.
“All three seemed to appeal to sand bass and smallmouth,” Baker said. ” Now, is that all I would take? Probably not. I probably take a variety of woolie buggers and other streamer patterns too.”
For more information or to book a fly fishing trip on the Lower Mountain Fork River, call Baker at (580) 494-6115.
Lake Hudson in northeastern Oklahoma is the best bass lake in the state, according to 2008 bass tournament reports.
Wes Watkins was second with Sooner and Eucha tying for third.
Rounding out the top 11 were Lawtonka, Grand, Sardis, Murray, Thunderbird, Arbuckle and Broken Bow.
Even though Arbuckle finished 10th in the rankings, it produced the heaviest five-bass stringer in a bass tournament (28.73 pounds) and the largest bass reported from a tournament (11.55 pounds), according to the report.
The lake produced seven other bass that weighed more than eight pounds, but Arbuckle fell short in the overall rankings because of two categories: average weight of bass and percentage of successful anglers.
The rankings are based on bass tournaments that are voluntarily turned into to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Five categories are used to determine th rankings: average winning weight in tournaments; average number of hours it took to catch a 5-pound bass; average number of bass caught per hour; average weight of bass; and percentage of successful anglers (anglers weighing in at least one fish).
Arbuckle also was hurt in the overall rankings by the fact it has a 13 to 16 inch slot limit, meaning no anglers at Arbuckle can keep bass of that length, unless it is a spotted bass.
To see the complete bass tournament report, visit http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/bassreports/2008report.pdf
Looking for something to do this weekend. April in Oklahoma offers a bevy of outdoor opportunities.
For one, it’s casting and blasting time. Turkey season continues through May 6 and after three weeks of cold and windy weather, it finally feels like spring which should work to the turkey hunters’ advantage.
Expect more gobblers to be harvested the second half of the season.
Crappie are biting and sand bass are running. It’s later than usual this spring, but crappie have been moving into the shore the past week at places like Thunderbird and Eufaula. Grab a crappie pole and go.
How about snake hunting? In southwest Oklahoma, the largest rattlesnake festival in the state begins Friday in Mangum.
The Mangum Rattlesnake Derby lasts through Sunday and includes a carnival, snake pit, butcher shop, huge flea market and guided snake hunts if you are brave enough.
If you are looking for a festival a little less extreme, the Cherokee Birding and Heritage Festival is this weekend at the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge.
Some events are also being held at the nearby Byron Fish Hatchery and Great Salt Plains State Park.
Bird watching tours are planned along with booths on bow making, geo-caching, wildlife photography, blacksmithing and more. Youth archery, casting and trapshooting contests also are being held.
In addition, the refuge has announced its selenite crystal digging area will re-open Saturday after being closed two years.
The crystal dig area had been closed to the public since April 2007 when a Boy Scout unearthed a World War II chemical vial.
The area was then cleaned up and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers found 171 vials, which were training tools used to help troops identify chemical agents.
To see a complete schedule of activities at the Salt Plains this weekend, visit http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/oklahoma/saltplains/
Take a kid fishing.
How many of us have heard that before? It’s important, no doubt. But how about take a parent fishing?
That’s an advertising campaign I’ve never heard of, but the message is just as important.
A friend of mine, Alan McGuckin of Skiatook, recently emailed me some photos of his parents and their recent fishing trip together on Skiatook Lake.
Ken and Carole McGuckin visit Oklahoma three times a year, driving the 18 hours and 1,018 miles from their home in Beaver County, Pa., to Skiatook Lake to see their son.
Ken, 71, and Carole, 73, love to fish but rarely get the chance unless it’s with Alan, who left their Pennsylvania home years ago to attend the University of Oklahoma and stayed in the Sooner state because the fishing is so good.
The family just spent three days around Easter having a blast on Skiatook Lake, boating some nice striped bass hybrids, with mom catching 4-pounders with night crawlers and a bobber.
“They told me it was one of their best visits ever — and the ‘catching’ was a huge part of that,” Alan said.
Alan is smart enough to cherish these times with his parents. His friends whose parents are already gone constantly remind him how important it is.
So take a parent fishing, while you still can.
The bear season is now official.
Gov. Brad Henry last week signed HB 1464, legalizing Oklahoma’s first black bear hunting season.
State wildlife commissioners had alreadly voted 5-2 to approve bear hunting contingent upon the bill becoming law.
Hunting will be archery and muzzleloader only. Hunting will be allowed in four counties: Le Flore, Pushmataha, Latimer and McCurtain.
The archery bear season will open Oct. 1. Only 20 bears can be harvested.
If bow hunters hadn’t killed 20 by the time the deer muzzleloader season opens, then muzzleloader hunters also could hunt bears.
The bear hunting license will be $100 for residents and $500 for non-residents…
Paddlefishing should start to slow
The paddlefish runs are winding down in eastern Oklahoma.
Already this year, more fish have been checked in at the state Wildlife Department’s fish cleaning station at Twin Bridges State Park on Grand Lake than all of last year.
Through the end of last week, more than 5,000 paddlefish had been processed at the station, where state wildlife officials are cleaning fish for free and packaging the meat in exchange for getting the eggs from female paddlefish to make caviar.
Last year, approximately 4,200 fish were cleaned at the station so the state wildlife officials are well ahead of last year’s pace, which resulted in $1.5 million in caviar sales.
But they don’t expect to make as much money this year on caviar sales even with more production. Prices for spoonbill caviar are down this year.
The caviar program has been a hit, but I wonder if spoonbills are being overharvested as the result?
New largemouth lake record
Sardis Lake has a new largemouth bass record. Charles Carter of Ada landed an 11.2-pound lunker that is the newest member of Oklahoma’s lake records program. The fish was caught April 14 on Cigar Island.
The crappie fishing is about to bust loose at Lake Eufaula. The spawn is late this year across the state but the fishing is really starting to pick up on Oklahoma’s best crappie lake.
Dalvin Sukenis of Lexington, who was raised in Hartshorne, knows how to catch crappie on Lake Eufaula about as well as anybody and just returned Friday from spending three days on the lake, landing a bunch of nice slabs.
“I spent parts of three days fishing for crappie in shallow water with chest waders and an innertube seat on the Gaines Creek area at the south end of Lake Eufaula,” Sukenis said.
Sukenis was fishing with a grub called the Electric Chicken with 1/8th ounce Gamakatsu jig head and crappie nibbles. He uses an 8-foot Wally Marshall rod spooled with 10-pound test.
“(April) 16 was my best day. I caught 37 crappie in 5 hours, the largest weighed 2 pounds,” Sukenis said. “The 37 weighed a total of 40 pounds. Three-fourths of the fish were males so I think they are about ready to turn it on, with a few warm days the spawn should be in full swing.”
On the other two days, Sukenis added 44 more crappie to his stringer – 22 fish each day - for a total of 81 in three days.
Kevin Deal of Tulsa holds a state record hybrid or a Canton Lake record striper
Canton Lake nearly produced the state record hybrid bass last year. On Wednesday, it was thought the lake had actually did it this year.
Kevin Deal, 32, of Tulsa landed this 24 pound, 1 ounce fish on Wedneday that originally was thought to be a striped bass hybrid. The state record is 23 pounds, 4 ounces that was caught at Altus-Lugert Lake by Paul Hollister.
Canton Lake is stocked with striped bass hybrids and Deal’s fish was assumed to be one. But on closer inspection, John Stahl, state fisheries biologist, said Thursday that he thinks the fish is a striped bass, even though stripers are rarely caught at Canton.
However, another fishery biologist thinks it might be a hybrid of a hybrid.
“The fish looks funny,” said Jeff Boxrucker, assistant chief of fisheries for the state Wildlife Department.
Hybrids are hatchery crosses of striped bass and white bass and similar in appearance. The tongue patches are the same on stripers and hybrids. Telling the difference requires measuring the thickness of the fish, Stahl said.
Hybrids have deeper bodies and shorter heads than stripers, but this fish appears to be split in those categories.
It’s going to take a tissue sample and a DNA test to determine if it is a hybrid or a striper. If it is somehow a hybridized version of a hybrid – such as a hybrid cross with a striper – it would still be considered a hybrid for the record books, unless state wildlife officials want to create a new species of fish.
So Deal either has a lake record striper or a state record hybrid.
Deal is hoping it’s a hybrid.
“The lake record would be a neat deal,” he said. “But it don’t compare to a state record.”
Oh, and the fish is still in the lake. When it was thought to be a state record hybrid, Deal was going to donate to the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks.
But when suspicions turned that it was a striper, Deal returned the fish to Canton Lake on Thursday.