May 26, 2024

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Oklahoma Fishing – The Complete Guide

Reading Time: 11 minutes

The Sooner State encompasses over 500 streams and 200 reservoirs. From the winding currents of the Arkansas River in the north to the vast expanse of Lake Texoma in the south, fishing in Oklahoma is always interesting Some of the nation’s most coveted freshwater fish call these waters home, making the state a dream destination for anglers.

With over a million acres of water and at least 40 documented species of fish, Oklahoma’s lakes, rivers, and ponds are the ideal backdrop for making fishing stories. Whether looking to cast with a simple rod and reel combo, fancy trying gigging, or even noodling – Oklahoma guarantees an unforgettable adventure.

This guide will equip you with all the essential information you need before you hit the local waters. You’ll learn about the nuances of seasonal angling, top fishing spots, catches, and effective techniques. Let’s dive in.

Top Oklahoma Fish Species

There’s no end to the species you can catch in Oklahoma. Hit the lakes, and it’s all about BassLargemouth, Smallmouth, Sand, Striped, and even Hybrid Striped. In the rivers, Trout and monster Paddlefish take the spotlight. While it’s hard to list all of Oklahoma’s fishing targets in one article, let’s discuss the most interesting ones.

Striped Bass

Two anglers – one in a high-visibility jacket – holding two Striped Bass each on a dock in Oklahoma after a successful fishing trip on a grey day
Photo courtesy of Papa Bob’s Guide Service

Striped Bass fishing in Oklahoma is a testament to the local angling scene. Native to the Atlantic coast of North America, they were introduced to Oklahoma in the late 1960s. Since then, Stripers have become a significant draw for both local and visiting anglers. The state’s portion of the Illinois River is a good place to go Striped Bass fishing, as it holds the current state record of a whopping 47 pounds and 8 ounces. An average catch, however, is somewhere around 20 pounds.

The 89,000-acre Lake Texoma in the south of the state is home to some of the best freshwater Striper fishing in the US, if not the globe. In fact, the lake is often referred to as the “Striper Capital of the World.” Trophies are common here, along with smaller Hybrid Striped Bass.


An angler in a hat and winter fishing gear, standing on a boat and holding a Catfish on a clear day in Oklahoma
Photo courtesy of Fish On – Keystone Lake

Catfish fishing holds a special place in the Oklahoma fishing scene. These bottom dwellers are found across the state’s diverse waters in all shapes and sizes, and include Channel, Blue, and Flathead Catfish. The latter are popular nocturnal catches, known for their exceptionally flavorful meat.

Channel Cats are recognized by their slender bodies and deeply forked tail. A typical playground for this species includes the calm waters of Lake Wister in the east and Fort Cobb Reservoir in the southwest. Their Blue cousins – usually tipping the scales at over 50 pounds – have a strong presence in northeastern Oklahoma’s Green Country lakes.

Smallmouth Bass

An angler in a baseball cap and sunglasses, holding a Smallmouth Bass with the water and a brown shoreline visible behind him on an overcast day
Photo courtesy of Fuller’s Guide Service

A jewel in Oklahoma’s angling crown, Smallmouth Bass is a treasured target for every freshwater enthusiast. Smallies are adored for their fighting spirit and complex fishing techniques needed to land them, as they’re notoriously elusive.

Locals look for Smallmouth Bass in Eastern Oklahoma, in its intricate network of streams and tributaries. The Ouachita National Forest’s shallows are among the most popular spots for Smallies, along with Lake Tenkiller and the Arrowhead Area at Lake Eufaula State Park.

Smallies typically grow up to 8 pounds in Oklahoma, so the allure of landing one is mostly in the sport itself. Smallmouth fishing in Oklahoma is about more than just the catch. It’s an immersive experience that no-one should miss.

Largemouth Bass

An angler in a baseball cap and sunglasses, holding a Largemouth Bass with the water visible behind him on an overcast day
Photo courtesy of Fuller’s Guide Service

No other species in Oklahoma is as mighty and feisty as Largemouth Bass. They’re found throughout the state’s ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams. These fish can grow pretty quick, with the potential to reach trophy-sized proportions. The state record stands at just over 14 pounds!

Largemouth Bass hang out in the shallows in the spring, moving to deeper waters as the heat of summer and the chill of winter set in. Their adaptability, mixed with their aggressive predatory nature, make Largies one of the most sought-after species in the state. However, it’s important to understand their behavior and life cycle for a productive fishing experience. Consider heading out with a local Bass guide if you’re after a trophy.


A view from above of a number of Crappie fish in a bucket against the white background of a boat deck
Photo courtesy of Fat Cats Guide Service

Oklahoma Crappie are known by a myriad of other names, such as “Papermouths,” “Specks,” “Slabs,” and “Sac-Au-Lait.” One thing’s for certain – these are among the most coveted sport fish out there. Crappie fishing is a sport in itself, where even a 16″ fish is deemed a monster catch.

The key to finding Crappie lies in identifying the right depth. They’re not schooling fish, although they often gather near structures, confirming the local rule of “where there’s one, there’s more.”

In order to understand the place Crappie hold in Oklahoma anglers’ hearts, ask any fisher to explain the allure of the pursuit. Chances are, you’ll hear “It’s the smell of the fish frying.” In fact, even the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife has a section dedicated to Crappie bait, suggesting anglers use pieces of pieces to entice the bite!


A group of four men standing on a fishing boat in Oklahoma, each holding a Paddlefish upright, measuring about the same height as them, with the water and a shoreline visible behind them
Photo courtesy of McBride Outside Guide – Fort Gibson

The mighty Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees is home to quite a unique, rarer species – Paddlefish. Also known as Spoonbills, these colossal, prehistoric fish live in deeper, low-current areas of the lake, along with various rivers, side channels, backwater lakes, and tailwaters beneath dams.

Paddlefish are pretty intriguing to catch, too. Locals cast hooks out into the water and allow them to sink to the bottom before they retrieve them in a sweeping motion. Paddlefish need to be reeled in slowly, which isn’t surprising for such a big target. However, you’re always welcome to experiment, as long as you don’t hurt the fish.

How can I go fishing in Oklahoma?

The “Heartland of America” is an angler’s paradise, where you can try your hand at various fishing techniques. Traditional methods, such as juglining and limblining invite the mystery of the deep onto your line, while gigging offers a unique adventure for nighttime anglers.

Yet, the heartbeat of fishing in Oklahoma lies in noodling, where audacious anglers turn themselves into bait, inviting Catfish to a duel of strength. Let’s discuss these and other techniques in more detail:

Juglines and Limblines

A closeup image of an Alligator Gar with a lure in its mouth, having been caught by a jugline in murky waters

Jugline fishing is a go-to method for targeting Catfish, but you can also try it out on other species. You’ll fish with a line attached to a floating device –a jug, hence the name. The line is then extended down into the water with baited hooks. Let it float freely or secure the line to a fixed object. Once the target takes the bait, you’ll see the movement of the floating jug.

Similarly, limblines are also used to target Catfish. Here, you attach your fishing line to a sturdy overhanging branch (a “limb”) near the water’s edge. Then hang the baited hook just below the surface water on the other end of the line. When the fish bites, the tree limb will either shake or bend, signaling for you to check the line.

Gigging in Oklahoma

Gigging is a traditional method to catch non-game fish, especially at night. This technique involves using a pronged spear (or gig) to catch certain species of Catfish, as they’re the exception to the “non-game” rule. In Oklahoma, gigging is a favorite pastime, especially in the eastern part of the state. Many locals gig from a flat-bottomed boat that’s equipped with powerful lights to strike or attract the fish.

Of course, Catfish aren’t the only available targets. You can also gig for Buffalo Fish, Freshwater Drum, and Longnose Gar, to name a few. Of course, bag and size limits apply, and regulations may vary by location and change from year to year.

Noodling in Oklahoma

A closeup shot of a Catfish on grass, with its mouth being held open by a finger, and it mouth and throat visible

While noodling may seem unusual to some, for many Oklahomans, it’s a time-honored tradition – a true testament to the outdoor and fishing culture. This technique is also known as hand-fishing, and it’s literally about catching Catfish with your bare hands. That’s all the equipment you need!

In essence, noodlers wade into the water, locate a Catfish hole, and then stick their hand in, forcing the fish to bite it. When a Catfish latches on, the noodler pulls the fish out of the water. Noodling in Oklahoma is a real hands-on experience, and the sport is even celebrated annually in the Okie Noodling Tournament in Pauls Valley.

Bowfishing in Oklahoma

Oklahoma National Hunting and Fishing Day, celebrated on September 28, epitomizes locals’ love for bowfishing. Here, you can target “rough” species such as Gar and Carp like a true hunter. Bowfishing combines elements of archery and fishing. And, while it might sound complicated at first, it’s pretty straightforward once you get the hang of it.

Bowfishing can be done both at night and during the day in various lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. Lake Texoma, Grand Lake, and Lake Eufaula are popular choices, along with the Arkansas and Illinois Rivers for Gar lovers.

Charter Fishing in Oklahoma

A photo of five anglers looking at the camera and posing while they are on the charter boat getting ready to fish on Lake Texoma during a cloudy spring day
Photo courtesy of Captain Marty’s Lake Texoma Fishing

If you’re set to explore vast lakes, sprawling reservoirs, winding rivers, or even small streams, booking a trip with an Oklahoma fishing guide is the best idea. Charter fishing provides an unforgettable experience. There are multiple operators across the state, offering different packages to suit every angler’s needs.

Plus, you’ll need an experienced guide when targeting less common species, such as Paddlefish and Gar. Professional captains that have extensive knowledge of local waters lead these trips, providing valuable insights into fishing techniques, the best fishing spots, and the behaviors of different fish species. That’s not to mention that they usually take care of all the necessary gear!

Where can I go fishing in Oklahoma?

Deciding where to go fishing in Oklahoma is the next tricky part. But there’s hardly a bad place to wet a line! The productive waters of Lake Texoma are open year-round, while Tulsa’s rivers bloom in spring, summer, and fall. And the list just goes on and on. Let’s take a closer look…

Northeast Oklahoma Fishing Spots

  • Adair Park. This 7-acre cozy lake is located within Stiwell’s city limits. Even though it’s not the biggest body of water around, you can still get your hands on Channel Catfish, Bluegill, and Largemouth Bass.
  • Flint Creek. This rich stream is just 15 miles from Westville and is home to abundant Bass, Trout, and Catfish..
  • Neosho River. This gorgeous river runs through the scenic landscape of northeastern Oklahoma, offering anglers the chance to reel in Catfish, Bass, Crappie, and Sunfish.
  • Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees. The mighty Grand Lake spans over 46,000 acres with 460 miles of shoreline. It’s on every Oklahoma must-visit fishing guide, especially with its impressive variety of fish, including Catfish, Paddlefish, Bass, Crappie, Walleye, and more.
  • Vinita Lake Park. Opened in 2017, this tranquil fishing area is located in the heart of Vinita city. The park features a 45-acre lake teeming with Catfish, Crappie, and trophy Bass.

Northwest Oklahoma Fishing Spots

A view across a yellowy-green landscape towards Lake Carl Etling in the Black Mesa State Park on a cloudy day

Northwestern Oklahoma, recognized for the stunning Great Plains, is a hub for any outdoor enthusiast. Its collection of national parks is pretty impressive. There’s Black Mesa State Park and Nature Preserve, Alabaster Caverns State Park, and a few others that draw attention from visitors and locals alike.

However, there’s a hidden gem towards the western part of the state – Lake Foss. With its remarkable length of 18,130 feet, 8,800 surface acres, and 63 miles of picturesque shoreline, it’s one of the best spots to go fishing in Oklahoma. The fishing menu is also impressive!

Central Oklahoma Fishing Spots

  • Oklahoma River. Flowing in a total of 440 miles and running through the state capital, the Oklahoma River is a good spot to look for Channel Catfish and Hybrid Striped Bass.
  • Lake Hefner. Also located in Oklahoma City, this lake lured anglers with the prospect of landing Walleye, Hybrid Striped Bass, Blue Catfish, Flathead Catfish, Channel Catfish and more!
  • Lake Stanley Draper. Another Oklahoma City lake, this spot is perfect for pier, shore, and boat fishing for Walleye, Hybrid Striped Bass, Blue Catfish, Flathead Catfish, White Bass, and White Crappie.
  • Lake Overholser. This isn’t just a popular fishing spot. It’s also an amazing place to admire wildlife with the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge right on the grounds of the lake.
  • Lake Eufaula State Park. With 600 miles of shoreline and 102,200 acres, you’ll want to spend all day at the park, chasing various types of Catfish, Black Bass, and Crappie.
  • Arkansas River. The mighty Arkansas River in Oklahoma is a vital waterway that meanders through the state. It’s home to White Bass, Sand Bass, various Catfish, and who knows what else.
  • Lake of Arbuckles. Only 8 miles southwest of Murray County, enter the Lake of Arbuckles. The 2,350-acre reservoir has 36 miles of quality shoreline and healthy populations of Crappie, Catfish, Largemouth Bass, Perch, and Bluegill.

Southeast Oklahoma Fishing Spots

Barren trees stand overlooking a yellow-brown shoreline and a blue Lake Texoma on a clear day in Oklahoma
  • Lake Texoma. Situated in south-central Oklahoma’s Chickasaw Country, Texoma is an angling paradise for Striped Bass enthusiasts. This enormous 89,000-acre lake needs no introduction. As we mentioned earlier, it’s known as the Striper Capital of the World.
  • The Glover River. This 33-mile-long tributary of the Little River in the Ouachita Mountains is an excellent fly fishing stream for Smallmouth Bass.
  • Broken Bow Lake. If you’re after crystal-clear waters, head to the Ouachita Mountains to explore this 22-mile-long lake. The Broken Bow is home to various types of Bass, Catfish, and Sunfish.
  • Upper Mountain Fork River. Located just northeast of Broken Bow, the cool waters of this river provide a year-round habitat – and that means fishing – for stocked Rainbow and Brown Trout.
  • Beavers Bend State Park. Locals warn everyone who wants to fish this spot that they’ll fall in love. Once you cast your line for Bass and Catfish in its fertile waters, it’s hard to leave!

Southwest Oklahoma Fishing Spots

Southwestern Oklahoma is where rolling prairies meet scenic mountains. The heart of this region is punctuated by Quanah Parker Lake, an 89-acre water body nestled within the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Anglers have 3 miles of shoreline at their disposal with Catfish, Sunfish, Crappie, and Bass. Then, at the foot of the mountains, lies Lake Lawtonka, which is also renowned for its fish populations.

Oklahoma Fishing Seasons and Regulations

Every angler over the age of 16 needs to get a valid Oklahoma fishing license. You’ll also want to keep your eye on the latest bag and size limits. However, if you head out with a guide, they’ll take care of that for you.

When it comes to seasonality, there’s never a bad time to go fishing in Oklahoma. However, a few periods of the year definitely stand out. As the days begin to lengthen around February and March, the “Lunker” Bass season starts, which is also known as the pre-spawn period for Largemouth Bass and several other fish species in Oklahoma.

Every species has their own season. Winter is great for Trout fishing, fall for Crappie, and the summer months are prime for catfishing – especially with the Okie Noodling Tournament taking place. However, spring is perhaps the most active time of the year to come back to shore with a little bit of everything.

Oklahoma Fishing FAQs

Oklahoma: The Noodling Capital of the World – and More

A view across the water of a lake in Oklahoma at sunset on a clear day, with a silhouette of a fishing boat visible in the distance

Unpack your tackle box and prepare to explore the diverse world of fishing in Oklahoma. The Sooner State offers everything you could want. Seek a serene retreat with nature, share your joy with your family, or get a dose of adrenaline chasing your next trophy. Oklahoma isn’t just a state. It’s a state of mind!

Have you ever been fishing in Oklahoma? Have you ever tried noodling or bowfishing? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!

The post Oklahoma Fishing: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Lisa
Title: Oklahoma Fishing: The Complete Guide
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Published Date: Tue, 26 Sep 2023 12:25:45 +0000

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