It’s blasting and casting time in Oklahoma.
April is perhaps the best month of the year for outdoorsmen in Oklahoma. The crappie are spawning, the paddlefish are running and the turkeys are gobbling.
The youth turkey season opens Saturday, the regular spring turkey season opens April 6 and the fishing is heating up across the state with the warmer weather.
April is when the crappie spawn in Oklahoma and on Lake Eufaula, Oklahoma’s most popular crappie spot, the fish are already on the banks. That means it’s doodle-socking time.
Crappie move into shallow water to spawn. They gravitate towards gravel banks with downed logs, stumps and willow bushes.
When that happens, you don’t need a boat to catch a mess of crappie. The fishing on the banks will be fantastic.
Many crappie fishermen on Eufaula like to doodle-sock, wading the shoreline with a long pole and dabbing a jig around brush.
It is a popular method of catching crappie when they are spawning. The wade fishing is usually good for two or three weeks once it starts.
Crappie is Oklahoma’s most popular fish because they are arguably the best to eat.
For my money, there was no better meal growing up than fresh fried crappie, cornbread, fried potatoes and a purple onion from my daddy’s garden. And a gallon of sweet tea to wash it down.
Crappie lake records
The crappie fishing must be picking up because two lake records have been established this week.
On Tuesday, Shanon Pack of Hinton landed a 2.5-pound crappie that is the new lake record for Fort Cobb.
On Monday night, Cory Gray of Choctaw caught a whopper at Wes Watkins near the 74th Street Bridge. He also tells a whopping good fish story.
Gray said he decided at the last minute to take a dozen minnows and one pole rigged for crappie down to Wes Watkins to see if the crappie had come finally come in.
The moon was full but Gray fished for 45 minutes without a bite. He moved to his last spot and made a cast around structure when his lighted bobber disappeared in the moonlight.
“The fish fought hard, diving, pulling, and even taking out a little drag. I was convinced that I had either hooked a small largemouth or a sand bass,” he said. “I wrestled the fish onto the bank. Much to my surprise, gleaming in the moonlight was one of the largest crappie I have laid eyes on. I guess it just reaffirms that you can’t catch ‘em at home.”
The fish weighed 2.7 pounds and is the new crappie record for Wes Watkins Reservoir.
Big Hefner smallmouth
The walleye fishing also is picking up at both Canton and Hefner lakes.
Donnie Jinkens at Canton Lake said the walleye are on the rocks and the fishing has been super there lately, although most of the catches have been small.
On Hefner, an Oklahoma City angler caught a lake record while walleye fishing Monday night, but it wasn’t a walleye.
Brian Suchy of Oklahoma City was fishing a crankbait for walleye along the dam when he landed a 6.5-pound smallmouth bass.
Big McGee Creek bass
Largemouth bass fishing also is getting better. Chuck Justice, who guides on McGee Creek in southeast Oklahoma , reports two 11-pounders caught in recent weeks at McGee and on Saturday, a fisherman landed a 12-pound, 5-ounce largemouth bass. “The warm weather we have been having is starting to turn things around,” he said. “The big fish are really starting to move.”
On Wednesday, the arrows will be flying in the Cox Convention Center for the annual Archery in the Schools state shoot.
Archery in the Schools – a national program where archery is taught in physical education classes across the country – continues to grow in popularity in Oklahoma.
It started six years ago in eight pilot schools in the state. The first state meet had 100 shooters at the University of Central Oklahoma fieldhouse.
Archery is now taught in 225 schools in Oklahoma through the program administered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Of those, 120 schools are bringing 1,787 students to the Cox Convention Center on Wednesday for the state meet.
In the Oklahoma City area, 25 schools are teaching archery in elementary, middle school and high schools in physical education classes.
Among them are public schools in Bethany, Edmond, Moore, Yukon, Western Heights, Putnam City and Mustang along with several private schools.
Every physical education instructor who sings the praises of the program say the same thing. It gives kids who are not as gifted athletically or at risk students a sense of belonging, pride and self-confidence.
“The popularity of the program is due to the fact that it is set-up so students experience success,” said Colin Berg of the state Wildlife Department. “It often reaches students who are not involved in any other school activity.”
Archery in the Schools has grown every year in Oklahoma despite shrinking school budgets.
It takes anywhere from $2,800 to $3,300 to buy the bows, arrows, targets and other equipment necessary to teach archery.
The state Wildlife Department covers about half of the cost and the school has to find money to pay for the other half.
The state Wildlife Department annually distributes about $50,000 in grant money for schools, Berg said.
“That is enough money to get 30 new schools going each year,” he said. “However, the program grew by 45 schools this last year. Some schools offer the program as a two-week unit, some more.”
Top individual shooters and top teams at Wednesday’s state meet qualify for the National Archery in the Schools Tournament in Kentucky. Last year two Oklahoma students were crowned national champions.
The shooting begins at the Cox Convention Center with the first flight at 8:45 a.m.
A new flight of 260 new shooters starts every hour. It culminates with a shoot-off of the top individual scorers at 4:30 p.m.
Outdoor Oklahoma magazine is accepting entries for its annual “Readers’ Photography Showcase” contest through March 31.
Selected photographers will have their work featured in the July/August 2010 issue of Outdoor Oklahoma.
“This is a great chance to see your own outdoor photography in print, as well as the work of other Oklahomans who enjoy the outdoors, but time is running out for submitting an entry,” said Michael Bergin, associate editor of Outdoor Oklahoma.
The special summer issue gives both professional and amateur photographers the chance to have their digital photos displayed in a magazine nationally recognized for its photography.
Each participant may submit up to five digital images. Each submission must include a description of the photo, including the location taken, name and hometown of photographer, names and hometowns of subjects and what it took to get just the right shot. Photos should be in sharp focus, and images should be at least 300 dpi (dots per inch). The canvas size should be about 8 inches by 11 inches.
All submissions must be digital and slides. Print images will not be accepted. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation reserves one-time publication rights for images selected for the “Readers’ Photography Showcase,” and images remain the property of the photographer.
CDs and other file storage devices mailed to the Wildlife Department as part of submissions to the contest are not returned.
“We’ve received many great entries to the contest already,” Bergin said. “And we hope that anyone else interested in making a submission remembers to do so by March 31.”
Photographers can mail their submission on disk to: Outdoor Oklahoma magazine, Oklahoma Dept. of Wildlife Conservation, P.O. Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152. Readers may also e-mail their entries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Backwoods, the outdoors store in north Oklahoma City, is holding several special events in the next few days.
On Thursday night, the store is offering a “ladies only night” with giveways and free wine and cheese from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Featured at the event will be the newest gear just for women, said Tom Adams, general manager of Backwoods, 12325 N. May Ave.
On Saturday, the store is holding a lightweight backing seminar for hikers who want to lighten their load on the trails. The class begins at 1 p.m. and ends at 3 p.m.
On April 3, Backwoods is offering a class on map and compass reading.
“We’re teaching the old school ways, Adams said.
The class is from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m.
On every fourth Tuesday night of the month, Backwoods and the Prairie Fly Fishers in Oklahoma sponsor a fly tying meeting for fly fishermen. The public is welcome.
For more information on these events, call Backwoods at 751-7376.
Oklahoma’s state record largemouth bass is 14 pounds, 11 ounces.
Fifteen states can beat it. Most are southern states where it is warmer and the growing season is longer.
Georgia has the world record, the famous 22-pound, 4-ounce largemouth caught in 1932 that was tied last year by an angler in Japan.
Next comes California at 21 pounds, 12 ounces. Texas is third with 18.18 pounds, Mississippi at 18.15 pounds and Florida at 17.27 pounds.
States with record largemouth bass exceeding 16 pounds are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Virginia and South Carolina.
States with 15-pound plus record largemouth bass are Lousiana, North Carolina, New Mexico and Massachusetts.
The only other state that tops Oklahoma is Indiana’s 14 pound, 12 ounce record.
Indiana and Massachusetts are the two states that don’t seemingly belong on this list. I doubt those states consistently produce trophy bass.
To see a complete list of state largemouth bass records, click on http://assets.espn.go.com/winnercomm/outdoors/bassmaster/pdf/bb_state_Large_20100107.pdf
Stumbling across this list made me wonder. What is the ceiling in Oklahoma for trophy bass? Could an Oklahoma lake produce a 17, 18 or even 20 pound largemouth bass.
Probably not, said Gene Gilliland, fisheries biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
“We’ve got the genetic component. We probably have the habitat and forage base,” Gilliland said. “It’s just that our growing season isn’t long enough for those fish to reach the full genetic potential.”
Gilliland thinks Oklahoma at best could produce a state record largemouth bass on the upper half of 15 pounds and possibly even 16 pounds. But who knows?
“That’s something that no one has ever really figured out,” he said. “If all the right components come together, you could get a freak of nature that is considerably bigger than everybody else.
“And then somebody has got to catch it. That’s the intangible.”
For 41 years, Oklahoma’s state record largemouth bass was 11 pounds, 15 ounces until it was broken in 1983 at Lake Lawtonka by a 27-year-old dairy farmer from Elgin named James E. Porter, who landed a 12 pound, 1 ounce largemouth.
His fish was from the Florida strain of largemouth bass, which state wildlife officials began stocking in Oklahoma lakes in 1972.
The Florida bass grow larger and more rapidly than native bass. The Oklahoma state record has been broken several times since, but not since 1999.
Gilliland said Oklahoma lakes that typically produce trophy bass are the lakes where Florida bass have been stocked on a regular basis.
In the ‘70s, state wildlife officials put Florida bass in many Oklahoma lakes, but only a handful have consistently produced trophy fish.
Now, they put the Floridas where they get the biggest bang for their buck. Lakes such as Broken Bow, McGee Creek, Murray, Lawtonka, Arbuckle and Sardis.
The Florida bass have been more successful in southern Oklahoma lakes, which have a longer growing season than those in the north.
“Where we typically see really big fish are places we have stocked Florida bass on a regular basis and we have lots of food and lots of forage, and for the most part it’s been in the southeast part of the state,” Gilliland said.
Lakes are stocked every other year with Florida fingerlings grown at the Durant Fish Hatchery.
Where will the next state record be caught? Arbuckle is the hottest lake at present, producing numerous double-digit bass the past three years.
Allen Gifford of Davis missed the state record by three ounces just two years ago with his 14 pound, 8 ounce fish from Arbuckle.
Gilliland would bet on McGee Creek, even though the lake currently doesn’t have a fish among the state’s top 20 largemouth bass.
McGee Creek has a lot of deep water that doesn’t get fished very often, giving bass more opportunity to grow before they ever see a hook, he said.
McGee Creek, however, is currently over-populated with largemouth and spotted bass and the “growth rates are lower than they could be because of the competition,” Gilliland said.
When, and if, the Oklahoma state largemouth bass record is broken again, Gilliland doesn’t think it will be shattered.
“I think we might beat it by a matter of ounces,” he said. “I don’t see us jumping by pounds.”
Dwight and Dawn Tannehill of the American Rodsmiths Tournament provided some photos of the big fish caught in last Sunday’s tournament on Lake Eufaula.
The big largemouth went 9-plus pounds and the smallmouth was 6-plus pounds.
Those Eufaula bass were trumped, however, by the lunker caught Sunday at R.C. Longmire. David Kinard of Maysville caught one the biggest bass ever in the state when he landed at 13-pound, 4-ounce beauty from the lake near Pauls Valley.
Read more about Kinard’s catch Sunday in The Oklahoman newspaper.
Water temperatures are colder than normal for mid-March so the fishing across Oklahoma has yet to really take off, but fish are starting to bite.
Sand bass fishing has been good in southern Oklahoma on the Hickory Wildlife Management Area near Marietta.
Crappie reports have been sketchy and the bass fishing has been hit and miss. But there were a few big bass caught over the weekend.
A 13-pound largemouth bass was reportedly caught Sunday at Longmire Lake near Pauls Valley. State wildlife officials are trying to confirm the catch to establish it as a lake record.
On Lake Eufaula Sunday in the American Rodsmiths Bass Tournament, the big bass weighed more than 9 pounds and an angler weighed in a 6-pound smallmouth, said tournament director Dwight Tanneyhill.
The winning stringer in the Eufaula tournament was 17.56 pounds, anchored by a 7½-pound largemouth.
The latest additions to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s lake records this month is 2.9 pound crappie from Grand Lake, caught by Carl Cortiana from Broken Arrow and a 55.6-pound blue catfish caught from Lake Fort Gibson by Johnny Smith of Chouteau.
Bass Tournament on Friday
There will be a bass tournament Friday (yes, on Friday) on Konawa Lake. Take off is at the city ramp. Entry fee is $60 which includes big bass and it is a team tournament.
Registration begins at 6 a.m. with fishing starting at 7 a.m. The weigh-in will be at 2:30 p.m. The tournament is sponsored by “Fishing 4 the Future Foundation” which encourages youth to go fishing.
For more information, call 405-205-7490 or email email@example.com.
I didn’t mean to slight the folks in northwestern Oklahoma with my column Sunday on my five favorite outdoor destinations in the state.
Hey, I was raised in eastern Oklahoma, so I am partial to green, rolling hills and muddy waters.
U.S. District Judge Tim Leonard in Oklahoma City, who was raised in Beaver, noticed that I didn’t include anywhere in the Panhandle among my five favorite places.
He mentioned this in open court Monday during my “voir dire” examintion to determine if I could be a competent juror. I think that was a strike against me.
The judge wasn’t the only one who noticed the omission. Donny Carter, who doesn’t even live in the Panhandle, also e-mailed me to brag about the western Oklahoma landscape.
The Stratford resident said he couldn’t argue with my five choices, but that the Black Mesa should be added to the list.
“That’s some of the most interesting country I’ve seen,” Carter said, noting that the mule deer out there are some of the largest deer he’s ever seen.
On a camping trip several years ago at Black Mesa State Park, Carter also said he saw a small mountain lion.
I’ve never spent much time at the Black Mesa except during quick detours on trips to and from Colorado, but it is interesting country.
Black Mesa State Park is Oklahoma’s highest point. The park got it’s name from the layer of black lava rock that coated the mesa about 30 million years ago.
The Nature Preserve is 15 miles from the state park and is Oklahoma’s highest elevation at 4,973 feet above sea level.
I threw myself on the mercy of the court and told the judge that if I had compiled a top six list, it would have included the Black Mesa.
Never break a promise to a person who makes a living by sending people to prison. So my five favorite outdoor destinations in Oklahoma are now my six sensational outdoor destinations. Make Black Mesa No. 6.
I found this interesting story from Salida, Colo., on The Outdoor Wire.
An apparently malnourished young mountain lion entered a residence Thursday afternoon, killing one dog and briefly trapping a mother and her two children inside the house until Chaffee County Sheriffs Deputies evacuated them.
Colorado Division of Wildlife officers were able to tranquilize the lion, which appeared to be significantly underweight for its age, according to DOW Area Wildlife Manager Jim Aragon. After evaluating the lion’s condition, a decision was made to euthanize the animal.
It is highly unusual for a mountain lion to enter a building. “We will know more after we get the results of the necropsy, but this animal was not demonstrating normal behavior,” Aragon said.
The incident began just after 4 p.m. when the lion chased a small dog through a pet door into the home, which is located about nine miles northwest of Salida.
Michelle Bese and two children, ages two and five, were in the house when the lion entered. The two-year old was asleep in a bedroom, and the five-year old and Mrs. Bese were sitting at the kitchen table when the animal came in the house. There were also four other small dogs in the home.
Bese said that at first, she did not know if it was a coyote or lion until another dog confronted the lion and she could tell what it was. At this point, she took her five-year old and ran to the back bedroom where the two-year old was sleeping.
She shut the door behind her and called 911.
Chaffee County Sheriff’s deputies arriving at the scene and helped the woman and her children escape through a bedroom window. They also opened the home’s front and rear doors to provide the lion with an opportunity to leave.
However, when two DOW officers arrived a few minutes later, the lion was still in the house.
“I looked in a bedroom window and could see a dog which I believed to be dead,” Aragon said. “The lion was in the same room, so I pounded on the window and side of the house in an attempt to get the lion to leave through one of the open doors.”
After several other attempts to get the lion to leave, Aragon and Wildlife Officer Kim Woodruff, along with Chaffee County Sherriff’s Deputy Rod Lane, entered the house through the back bedroom window. The lion was in a room directly across the hall.
“We cracked the door open wide enough to see the lion and were able to shoot it with a tranquilizer dart,” Aragon said.
“We were able to locate four of the five dogs and get them transported to a vet clinic,” Aragon said. The fifth was later discovered hiding in the home.
All of the dogs, which included a Jack Russell Terrier and four Shih-Tzu, received wounds during the encounter. One dog eventually died, and two others were seriously injured.
The young male lion, which is believed to be about a year and half old, only weighed about 40 pounds. “A healthy lion of that age should be closer to 60 pounds,” said Aragon.
Its remains will be sent to a DOW lab in Fort Collins for analysis, which is standard procedure.
Wildlife officers say it is rare for a mountain lion to enter a building.
“We hope to learn more after we get the results of the necropsy, but this animal was not demonstrating normal behavior,” Aragon said.
Things should be about getting ready to explode with fishing in Oklahoma.
I’ve heard some good crappie reports already from Gaines and Hickory creeks on Lake Eufaula and from the Kiamichi River on Hugo Lake.
Thunderbird is a good crappie lake close to Oklahoma City, although you won’t catch the big slabs there like on Eufaula and Hugo.
Paddlefish are also starting in northeastern Oklahoma and things should really heat up later this month. The state Wildlife Department’s spoonbill processing center at Twin Bridges State Park opened Monday.
If you are heading up there this month for a fishing trip, remember that a new rule change this year makes snagging for paddlefish catch and release only on Fridays and Mondays. The daily limit remains at one for the rest of the days.
Snagging at the low water dam on the Neosho River is now illegal at night and the Spring River is closed completely for snagging.
If you are going to be trout fishing on the Lower Mountain Fork River Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, you might run into a television crew from “On The Rise.”
A film crew from the Trout Unlimited television program is going to be on the stream those days taping an episode. The show will air this spring on the Sportsman Channel. The date hasn’t been selected.
Some Oklahoma members of Trout Unlimited will be featured in the show fishing on the state’s most popular trout stream.