I am still hearing good reports about the bass and crappie fishing around the state.
Anglers are still catching spawning bass on many Oklahoma lakes.
McGee Creek near Atoka doesn’t have a bass on the Wildlife Department’s top 20 list but it still probably produces more 10-pound fish than any lake in the state.
Chuck Justice, a fishing guide on McGee Creek ( www.ChuckJustice.com), said because the water temperatures are now so warm (66 to 70 degrees), there seems to be good fishing all over the lake.
“My clients and I are catching more bass each and every day now,” he said. “The spawn is just getting started good and there seems to be a few trophy bass spawning in all areas of the lake.”
Foss lake record
Foss Lake has a new lake record largemouth.
Manford Tucker of Newcastle caught an 8.4-pound largemouth bass from the western Oklahoma on April 9.
The granddaddy of all the spring rattlesnake roundups is this weekend in Okeene.
This will be the 71st year of the Okeene Rattlesnake Roundup. It is the oldest rattlesnake festival in Oklahoma and the last of the spring.
The festival begins Friday and runs through Sunday.
For more information, visit, www.okeenerattlesnakehunt.com
A few days ago my wife and I were sitting on our back patio enjoying a cool breeze and listening to the birds.
We live in a typical suburban neighborhood in west Edmond with as many homes as possible squeezed together on a parcel of land.
It’s not exactly a wildlife sanctuary but we’ve seen an owl, have a family of rabbits in the neighborhood along with a number of birds, including cardinals, doves and those annoying grackles.
But that night on the patio my wife detected an unusual sound. A sound that’s she never heard before in Edmond. The distinctive whistle of a bobwhite quail.
“Listen,” she said excitedly. “That’s a quail!”
I agreed it did sound like a bobwhite, but quail in an Edmond neighborhood?
Now, several years ago a bobwhite and her babies did cross in front of me while driving on Covell Road in north Edmond, but I told her that she had to be mistaken.
There must be another bird that sounds similar to a quail, I said, because there is no way a bobwhite would be in this neighborhood.
Two days later I walked out my front door and my neighbors across the street got my attention.
They wanted to know if I knew what that was walking in our neighbor’s yard.
Sure enough, it was a quail. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a wild bobwhite, but it was still quite a sight to see.
I had to call my wife to tell her that she was right and I was wrong. It wasn’t the first time that’s happened.
The annual Birding and Heritage Festival begins today (April 23) and continues through Sunday at the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge near Cherokee.
Activities will include a youth archery and casting contests, trap shoot, live music and more. Information will be available about waterfowl and wildlife identification, wetland restoration, tomahawk throwing, astronomy and National Wildlife Refuge System history.
Today at dusk, Cherokee will host a movie premiere presentation of “Over the Hedge” at AEC park. Later this evening, Great Salt Plains State Park will offer high- powered telescopes, with an astronomy program at dark.
Saturday’s activities begin at 7 a.m. with a session on birds that migrate to Salt Plains, with refuge biologist Ron Shepperd coordinating the festival bird count.
The selenite crystal digging contest also is Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the salt flats east of Cherokee.
Sand diggers will hunt for the rare hourglass selenite crystals of gypsum and prizes will be awarded.
Children’s wildlife activities will be ongoing Saturday at Byron State Fish Hatchery fromo 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the Oklahoma Zoomobile Program will be set up at the refuge from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Saturday night programs at the Byron State Fish Hatchery include a presentation on bats, a campfire program in the state park starting at 7:30 p.m. and a guided night walk, “The Prairie Under Cover of Darkness,” presented by the state Wildlife Department beginning at 8:15 p.m. at the hatchery.
On Sunday morning, birding tours leave at 7 a.m. from the refuge headquarters.
Chrisitian Community of Cherokee will hold a gospel sing-along at 1 p.m. at AEC Park. A tour of historical buildings and homes in Cherokee also is scheduled Sunday.
The free event is a cooperative efffort between the refuge, Great Salt Plains Association, Great Salt Plains State Park, Byron State Fish Hatchery, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, City of Cherokee and Alfalfa County.
For more information, call the refuge at (580) 626-4794 or the park at (580) 626-4731.
Miranda Lambert’s spoonbill, bass fishing is red-hot and top water bite has started on Texoma stripers
Last week I blogged about country music star Blake Shelton of Ada catching a lake record paddlefish from Hudson Lake.
Fellow country star Miranda Lambert, a Texas native who now lives near Tishomingo, also was on that trip and snagged a paddlefish, which are also called spoonbills and the Oklahoma Marlin in the Sooner state.
Paddlefishing is slowing down to a halt in northeastern Oklahoma. The lack of timely rains has cut the season short, said Brent Gordon, northeast fisheries chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
“It’s dying down,” he said. “They need their spring rains for that run and they just haven’t gotten it.”
Gordon thinks the paddlefish might have one good spawning run left this year if it rains.
“They just haven’t had the flows to bring them up (the rivers) to spawn,” Gordon said.
As of Thursday, 3,500 paddlefish had been checked in at the Wildlife Department’s cleaning and processing station at Twin Bridges State Park on Grand Lake.
That’s about half the number of what the center check in last year, Gordon said.
Some of the decline is due to tighter restrictions on paddlefishing this year, but most of it is the result of the unfavorable spring weather, he said.
The biggest paddlefish checked in has been 68.9 pounds.
Bass fishing is going gangbusters
While the paddlefishing is getting cold, the bass fishing is heating up.
“We are hearing good reports from practically every corner of the state,” said Gene Gilliland, fisheries biologist for the Wildlife Department. “I was talking to one guy who said Hugo and Pine Creek were on fire.”
Water temperatures have risen dramatically recently and bass are moving to the banks to spawn.
“It’s going on full-tilt right now in a lot of places,” Gilliland said.
Grand, Texoma, Arbuckle and Murray are all lakes where Gilliland has received reports of bass on spawning beds.
“Konawa has been doing really good,” he said. “Everywhere, we are hearing that the fish are in 2 to 3 feet of water.”
At McGee Creek, one of the state’s best bass lakes by reputation, a Missouri angler landed a 10.6-pound bass on Wednesday.
McGee Creek fishing guide Chuck Justice said he and client caught four largemouth bass weighing between 8 and 10 pounds on Wednesday and numerous fish ranging from 4 to 7 pounds.
“The fishing here is just outrageously good on big fish right now,” he said. “It’s just going to get better for the next two or three weeks.”
Top-water bite has started on Texoma
Anglers have started catching stripers on top-water lures at Lake Texoma.
For my money, there is nothing that’s more fun than getting into a school of white bass or stripers when they are surfacing.
The top water action will be more frequent in the coming weeks.
“There have been a few good top water days, but in my experience it’s still a little early for it,” said Matt Mauck of the Wildlife Department.
“May is generally when it kicks off good.”
Lake records continue to pour into the Wildlife Department from anglers around the state.
One of the most interesting is a 4-pound crappie caught Saturday at Lake Wister by Jon Duvall of Wister.
“My cousin Clint and I decided to go fishing and take a few youngsters,” Duvall wrote. “The first throw Clint caught a nice crappie. We thought it would be great fishing, but the wind was blowing and we couldn’t keep the pontoon boat still.
“Finally, the anchor caught on something and kept us from moving. We fished and fished, but caught nothing. Finally, right before it started to rain, I caught the biggest crappie we had ever seen.”
The crappie, caught on a jig, weighed 4.2 pounds and measured 17.75 inches.
The state record crappie is a 4 pound, 15 ounce fish caught in 1991 from a Kingfisher County farm pond.
Another lake record of note is at Fort Cobb, where state wildlife officials believe Charles Coffman of Ardmore is the first angler to land a 10-pound bass from the lake.
Coffman’s largemouth bass was caught Sunday and weighed 10.6 pounds.
The fish was caught in a new shallow brush pile near the new dock. State wildlife officials haven’t stocked Florida bass in Fort Cobb for two decades.
Coffman reported catching several more bass from trees in the north end of the lake and his team won a bass tourney that day with 25 pounds (five-fish limit).
State wildlife officials started adding brush in shallow parts of the lake after results of last year’s bass sampling showed quick returns, said Larry Cofer, southwest fisheries chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
“Adult bass found and used the trees within days and it’s nice to see that it translated to angler success,” he said.
“We’re hopeful that we can sink enough trees in the next couple of years to actually increase numbers of small bass in the coves.”
More crappie lake records keep getting established.
The latest belongs to Jessica Ellis of Tecumseh, who caught a 2.3-pound crappie Friday (April 16) at Tecumseh Lake.
It was the first crappie the 14-year-old girl had ever caught. Her brother, Lucas, who is the lake record holder for crappie at Shawnee Twin Lakes, had just bought her a rod and reel on Friday.
Jessica’s crappie is the 218th lake record established by the Wildlife Department since starting the lake records program three years ago.
Thirteen species of fish with minimum weight requirements are eligible for lake records. For a list of all lake records and a list of stores acting as record keepers for state lakes, visit www.wildlifedepartment.com.
The Lesser Prairie Chicken Festival is this weekend in Woodward and there are still spots available Sunday and Monday for the prairie chicken tours.
Prairie chickens are close to being listed as a threatened species. The plethora of windmills on the western Oklahoma prairie is not helping as the birds view the windwills as raptor roosts.
Each spring is the mating season of lesser prairie chickens, and the courtship is grand theater.
Every morning, the males gather at “leks” — places of high ground where they can display their plumage and colors for the females and keep a wary eye on potential predators. When a hen comes by looking for a mate, the show begins. The males do their best to look active and fit for the hens, dancing and cackling, and occasionally even fighting with their competitors.
The possibility that these birds will not be around in the future has bird watchers from across the country coming to northwestern Oklahoma this weekend to witness this show.
People from a dozen states have signed up for the viewings, some from as far away as California, New York and Wyoming.
“We still have openings on Sunday and Monday mornings, and most of the other field trips also have openings,” said John Kennington of the Oklahoma Audubon Council. “We can accept registrations at the door, but I would encourage folks to call me first at (918) 809-6325 to check on availability.”
For more information on the Lesser Prairie Chicken Festival, visit www.okaudubon.org.
Maybe Blake Shelton will record a song about Oklahoma spoonbills.
On Tuesday, the country mustic artist of Ada snagged a 40-pound paddlefish that is the new lake record for Hudson Lake.
On Monday, the state Wildlife Department lowered the miniumum weight requirements for paddlefish lake records from 60 to 40 pounds to increase the opportunities for lake records.
Shelton was fishing below the dam on Hudson Lake with members of his band and his girlfriend, fellow country recording artist Miranda Lambert. Everyone caught at least one fish and all of the spoonbills were released.
Shelton and Lambert’s paddlefish adventure likely will be shown on a future episode of Outdoor Oklahoma, said Nels Rodefeld of the Wildlife Department.
Both Shelton and Lambert will be performing this weekend at the Academy of Country Music Awards Show in Las Vegas, Nev.
The paddlefishing is hot and heavy in northeastern Oklahoma right now around Grand Lake.
On Saturday at the Twin Bridges State Park, 461 spoonbills were processed at the Wildlife Department’s cleaning station. It was the second busiest day in the three-year history of the center, where state wildlife officials clean the paddlefish for free in exchange for the eggs, which they use to make and then sell paddlefish caviar.
“The next couple of weeks will be the peak (of paddlefishing) then it will be pretty much over after that,” Rodefeld said.
In other fishing news, there have been some excellent reports across the state of sand bass and crappie fishing.
Sand bass are running up the rivers in northeastern Oklahoma and on Canton Lake. Crappie have moved into shallow water for spawning on many lakes across the state.
Largemouth bass are also getting ready to spawn and some big fish are being caught sight fishing off spawning beds.
Fish are biting and turkeys are gobbling. Spring has arrived in Oklahoma. I thought I would share some photos that readers have sent me.
Leon Mixer, who works for the City of Edmond at Arcadia Lake, bagged this gobbler on the opening morning of turkey season.
“This is the most unusual colored turkey I have ever witnessed,” Mixer said. “I called this bird in along with several others on an extremely windy morning. This tom weighed 25 pounds and sported a 9-1/2 inch beard.”
Norman O’Neal of Denison, Texas, who guides for blue cats and stripers on the Red River, reported his first good striper trip of the spring last Friday.
“Fishing has been slow but finally picked up,” O’Neal said. “We slammed the fish with three over 20 pounds and a 28-pound and 28-pound, 6-ounce fish. The water temperature is getting right.”
Ron Henke landed this bass from a private lake near Yukon that he estimated from the measurements at near 11 1/2-pounds . He caught the fish on a Rebel POP-R topwater lure and released it back into the lake.
“We did not have any scales to weigh it so we took pictures and measured and got her back in the water as soon as possible,” he said.
Twelve-year-old brothers Brady and Bryson Combs of Tuttle went to Lindsay with their family to visit their grandparents for Easter and do a little hunting and fishing. They started out Saturday morning with each one shooting a turkey.
Then about noon they decided to go to a creek and catch some perch. They caught several grasshoppers and began fishing. They caught about 20 perch and decided to go to the Washita River to do some night fishing.
About 11 p.m., Brady got a bite on his Zebco Hawg Seeker rod and reel that he will never forget. After 30 minutes of fighting the fish and almost being dragged in the river three times, Brady managed to pull to the bank a 62-pound blue catfish.
One week into the spring turkey season and the hunting has been tough as expected, especially in eastern Oklahoma.
“The article about the declining turkey population (in eastern Oklahoma) is right on point,” said Kevin Shutt of Midwest City. “My dad, brother and I just completed a five-day hunt in Wetumka and the Eufaula areas. So far, Scott (Kevin’s brother) is the only one of us to kill a tom.
“Our traditional hunt in Wetumka has always been fun, but our friend’s 270-acre farm produced nothing! In two morning hunts, we’ve seen a grand total of two hens. That’s it! In the past, this farm has had a very respectable number of turkeys, but not this year. It’s eerie.”
“In Eufaula, however, our 400-acre family-owned property still has a decent number of birds, but man they’re tougher to hunt because their numbers are down. I’ve had two toms within 25-50 yards of me, but I haven’t been able to close the deal with a clear shot through the brush or timber.”
Justin Shireman of Tuttle has better news from hunting the Rios in western Oklahoma in the opening week.
Shireman took a nice tom with his bow Sunday morning in Caddo County. The gobbler had a 9½-inch beard, 1 1/8-inch spurs and weighed 19 pounds.
Shireman also took a fairly good tom earlier in the week in Rogers Mills County with his shotgun.
“As far as the hunting goes, there are lots of gobbling and strutting going on,” he said. “All jakes will respond but it is hit and miss on mature toms. Some are henned up and some are not.
“I even saw groups of toms still traveling together. I think it will really be good in another week and a half or so.”