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State tourism officials boast success of Oklahoma Fishing Trail

A fisherman and his dog enjoy the day near the boat docks at Oklahoma City's Lake Hefner last month. [CHRIS LANDSBERGER/THE OKLAHOMAN]
A fisherman and his dog enjoy the day near the boat docks at Oklahoma City's Lake Hefner last month. [CHRIS LANDSBERGER/THE OKLAHOMAN]

Forty anglers completed Oklahoma's Grand Slam during the first year of existence of the state's designated Fishing Trail.

The trail is a marketing campaign by Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell along with state tourism and wildlife agencies to highlight fishing in the state. The hope is to bring more visitors to Oklahoma's waters and thus more dollars to the state.

The Oklahoma Fishing Trail highlights 38 lakes around the state, plus an additional list of 20 central Oklahoma fishing experiences that are part of the Wildlife Department’s Close to Home Fishing Program. The trail has six loops, one for each region of the state.

The official webpage for the trail is FishinOK.com. It provides not only information on the lakes and the species of fish in each one, but links to marinas, fishing guides, lodging, campgrounds, hiking trails, state parks, restaurants and entertainment venues in the area. For someone planning a fishing vacation in Oklahoma, it’s a one-stop shop for information.

Anglers can earn an Oklahoma Fishing Trail Grand Slam decal by catching a bass, crappie, catfish and sunfish (or bonus fish: paddlefish, trout, walleye or other species) and submitting photos of the fish through the website.

In the first six months after the trail’s launch, there was a 2% increase in Oklahoma resident annual fishing license sales over the same time period the previous year, and a 23% increase in nonresident annual fishing licenses. In recent months, there has been a surge of fishing and outdoor activities due to COVID-19.

Projected lodging revenue generated by Oklahoma Fishing Trail digital advertising between July 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020, was estimated to be about $39 million, according to state tourism officials.

"We have been thrilled with the success of the Oklahoma Fishing Trail, and we expect things to only get better,” said Pinnell, who is also the state’s Secretary of Tourism & Branding.

For its one-year anniversary, state officials are offering anglers a chance to win a guided fishing trip with Pinnell and J.D. Strong, director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. To enter, go to the TravelOK.com Facebook page, Facebook.com/TravelOK. The prize package also includes a one-year parking pass for Oklahoma State Parks and a selection of Oklahoma Fishing Trail gear.

Turkey bag limits changed for upcoming seasons

Bag limits on turkeys will be reduced for the upcoming fall and spring hunting seasons due to declining populations the past two years. The estimated wild turkey populations have declined by more than 20% in western Oklahoma in the last two years, state wildlife officials said.

The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission voted last week that all counties in Oklahoma outside the southeast region will be one-tom counties during the spring turkey hunting season. The season bag limit will remain at three.

The season limit in the southeast region will remain one tom for the eight counties combined.

Turkey gun hunters this fall will be allowed to take one tom only in the 14 counties that previously permitted either-sex harvest. Archery hunters still will be allowed a one turkey bag limit of either sex in the fall.

Oklahoma angler wins Bassmaster Central Open

Chris Jones of Bokoshe captured the Bassmaster Central Open on Saturday with a three-day total weight of 42 pounds, 13 ounces.

Jones began the final day of fishing in eighth place, but a 19-pound bag on Saturday vaulted him to the top of the leaderboard. He won $45,300.

He edged by six ounces John Garrett of Union City, Tennessee, who received a 2-pound penalty on Saturday after self-reporting a rules violation.

After catching his sixth fish, Garrett kept fishing without culling. Tournament rules stipulate that an angler cannot continue fishing with more than five fish in the livewell.

Dale Hightower of Mannford, who was the leader entering Saturday, finished third with three-day total of 41 pounds, 13 ounces.

The tournament was held on the Arkansas River and anglers launched out of Three Forks Harbor in Muskogee.

Oklahoma's MLF pros to fish in FLW Super Tournament

Four Oklahoma pros from Major League Fishing will fish this week in a "Super Tournament" against FLW anglers on Tennessee's Lake Chickamauga.

The FLW Pro Circuit returns after a three-month hiatus with a 204-angler field, which includes 54 pros from Major League Fishing. Oklahoma pros from MLF competing will be Zack Birge of Blanchard, Edwin Evers of Talala, James Elam of Cleveland and Jeff Kriet of Ardmore.

Fishing begins Tuesday and runs through Friday. It is one of three "Super Tournaments" to be held this year with MLF pros. MLF has an abbreviated tournament schedule this season because of COVID-19.

The Lake Chickamauga event offers a $1.3 million purse and a top prize of $160,000 to the winner.

Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›

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