The fall crappie bite is on, the smallmouth bass have been biting at Lake Murray and the dry fly fishing has been great on the Lower Mountain Fork River in southeastern Oklahoma.
Those are the fish stories I have been hearing lately. Fall is normally a great time to go trout fishing in Oklahoma.
Donny Carter of Stratford, a regular visitor to the Lower Mountain Fork in McCurtain County, said the trees were starting to show signs of color last Thursday and the fishing was splendid.
He and his fishing buddy, Jamie Webster of Pauls Valley, caught and released 40 trout that day.
“I caught 24 trout for the day and seven of them were browns,” Carter said. “The dry fly fishing here lately and even during the heat of the summer has been fantastic. Just the past couple of weeks, I caught some very nice browns.”
One brown caught on Spillway Creek by Carter measured more than 17 inches.
“The brown trout fishing on Spillway has been the best I’ve seen since the mid-1990’s,” Carter said.
A trout stream without trout
The same can’t be said for the trout fishing on Oklahoma’s other year-round trout stream – the Lower Illinois River near Gore.
Two weeks ago, state wildlife officials stopped their regular stocking of trout in the river because of water issues.
Without regular releases of water from Lake Tenkiller, the river gets low and oxygen levels drop to lethal levels. The river has been going as long as two or three days with no water releases from Tenkiller and last week it suffered a fish kill.
Paddlefish, blue catfish, channel catfish, walleye, largemouth and smallmouth bass, drum buffalo, shad, gar and trout were the species of dead fish found along the river.
“We didn’t know we were going to lose the native population,” said Barry Bolton, chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, which halted the trout stockings for fear the trout would not survive.
Unlike on the Lower Mountain Fork River, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can’t release water from Lake Tenkiller to sustain the trout fishery.
All of the stored water in Tenkiller is allocated for hydropower or municipal or industrial water supply.
State wildlife officials had been borrowing water allocated to Sequoyah Fuels, but they have used all of that water to keep the stream flowing through the summer drought when there was no hydropower generation.
Trout Unlimited clubs in Oklahoma have urged the state’s Congressional delegation to intervene to ensure the trout fishery is entitled to water from Lake Tenkiller when needed.
The river is running dry and without Congressional action, the future looks bleak for the trout fishing on the Lower Illinois River.