March means the start of good fishing
Fishing in Oklahoma isn't going gangbusters yet, but the next few weeks will offer the best fishing of the year with springtime white bass and paddlefish runs, crappie moving into shallow water, and largemouth bass gorging on food preparing for the spawning season.
March is the best month to catch a giant bass in Oklahoma. Fifteen of the 20 biggest bass ever caught in the state, based on the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's top 20 list, were caught in the month of March.
The fishing turns on first in southeastern Oklahoma, which normally gets warmer weather earlier than the rest of the state, and according to the latest fishing report from the Wildlife Department, the bass fishing has been good on lakes in the region, such as Broken Bow Lake, Sardis, McGree Creek and Pine Creek. White bass are reportedly staging in lakes and about ready to begin their spawning runs up the streams.
Chuck Justice, who guides on McGee Creek and Sardis, said Friday the warmer weather has bass on the move but the best fishing is yet to come.
"It's been a little tough the last two or three days because we have had a north, northeast wind and that really messes with these Florida-strain largemouth, but even these days with the north, northeast wind, we are still catching fish," Justice said.
"The critical part right now is warm nights. The first part of the week we had warm days but two 50-degree nights. When I would get on the water at 9 a.m., the fish would be biting. The last two nights (Wednesday and Thursday) we had 31 and 37 degrees nights and it was about noon before the fish started biting. The cold nights the water goes down four or five degrees and it takes it four, five or six hours to warm back up before they start biting good again.
"I was fishing at McGee Creek and Sardis (last week) and the fishing was the same way at both places. The fishing has been pretty good, not real good, but it's getting there. It's more of an afternoon bite because of the cold nights we've been getting. Starting Monday, it looks like we are going to have temperatures in the 70s during the day and overnight lows in the 50s. A couple of days of that, the fishing down here and everywhere will be good."
David Hughes, owner of Lucky Lure Tackle in Oklahoma City, said his customers are definitely showing symptoms of cabin fever.
"I don't know if the fish are biting, but the fishermen are definitely going," Hughes said Friday. "They are starting to catch some crappie at Blackwell and other places. The crappie are starting to turn on with this warmer weather."
While bass and crappie get most of the attention from Oklahoma anglers, there are other species worth pursuing. Oklahoma City area anglers also will be targeting Lake Hefner's walleye soon. Walleye spawn in early March when the water temperatures reach 45 to 50 degrees.
"That should be happening anytime soon," Hughes said. "That should be one of the first ones to really turn on. The water is still pretty cold. We get a few more days of warm weather and it's really going to turn on. If the water temperature comes up four or five more degrees, these fish are just going to start going crazy."
Early spring also is the best time of year to catch hybrid bass in lakes where the Wildlife Department stocks them. Hybrids are hatchery-produced crosses between striped and white bass and they move into shallow water to feed on baitfish in March and April.
Fishing along the dams often is successful for anglers. At no other time of year can big hybrids be caught from the shore as easily as in March and April.
Snagging for paddlefish seems to be more popular every year in Oklahoma. The Wildlife Department's Paddlefish Research Center at Twin Bridges State Park on Grand Lake, where anglers can take a paddlefish to be cleaned in exchange for the eggs so the agency can make and sell the caviar, is now open.
Fort Gibson, Kaw and Keystone also are prime paddlefish destinations, and the best time to go is mid-March through early April.
Most of the state's winter trout areas are open through March and, according to the Wildlife Department's weekly fishing report, the trout fishing has been really good on Blue River lately.
"Gold in-line spinners have been the go to ... this week," the report states. "Rainbow Powerbait paired with a Powerbait worm have been deadly this week fished 8 to 18 inches off the bottom. Woolly buggers in black or olive as well as rainbow warriors or zebra midges fished below an indicator along current have produced a lot of fish as well. A few smaller smallmouth bass have been caught this week while fly fishing for trout on woolly bugger."
After the walleye, crappie and bass have all spawned and the white bass and paddlefish are through with their spawning runs, anglers will turn their attention to catfish. In June, all three popular species of whiskered cats are hugging the shorelines of lakes, ponds and streams with spawning in mind. And that makes them easier to catch.
And if you don't own a boat and are looking for an easy place to fish from the bank, there are more than two dozen designated "Close to Home" fishing waters in the Oklahoma City area. You can find the list on the Wildlife Department's website, wildlifedepartment.com.