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BIG BASS TIME: Bass fishing expected to heat up in March

Bill Tharp of Moore holds a near 9-pound largemouth bass that he caught at Northeast Lions Park in Norman, one of several "Close to Home" fishing locations in the Oklahoma City area. For a complete list of "Close to Home" fishing opportunities offered to the public, visit www.wildlifedepartment.com. All bass fishing is catch and release at the "Close to Home" ponds and lakes. [PHOTO PROVIDED]

Bill Tharp of Moore holds a near 9-pound largemouth bass that he caught at Northeast Lions Park in Norman, one of several "Close to Home" fishing locations in the Oklahoma City area. For a complete list of "Close to Home" fishing opportunities offered to the public, visit www.wildlifedepartment.com. All bass fishing is catch and release at the "Close to Home" ponds and lakes. [PHOTO PROVIDED]

If they haven't started already, the bass fishing should really be heating up soon across the state.

March is typically the hottest bass fishing month in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation maintains a list of the top 20 largemouth bass caught in Oklahoma (at least what was reported to the agency).

Fifteen on that list were caught in the month of March, and three others were caught on either Feb. 27 or 28. It's big bass time in Oklahoma.

And if this year's bass fishing in January and February are any indication of what is to come, the fishing in March should be dynamite. (I speak figuratively, not literally, of course).

“It's been maybe the best January and February I can remember,” said Gene Gilliland of Norman, longtime fisheries biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation who is now conservation director for B.A.S.S.

A mild winter which included one of the warmest months of February in the state's history has the largemouth and smallmouth bass biting more than usual at this time of year, Gilliland said.

The higher water temperatures have “got a lot of fish more active and probably shallower, and that just makes it easier for people to find them,” Gilliland said. “Sardis (Lake) has been on fire. Arbuckle has been good. Murray has been good. Grand has been good. The numbers, sizes of fish, it's been great.”

In and around Oklahoma City, the bass fishing has been picking up at ponds and smaller lakes, where the water warms up faster than in large reservoirs.

“I know of several guys hitting the close-to-home ponds in Norman and smaller city lakes and doing pretty good,” said Keith Thomas, the Wildlife Department's fisheries technician for the Oklahoma City region. “Nothing outstanding, but they are catching them.”

David Hughes, owner of Lucky Lure Tackle in Oklahoma City, said bass fishermen are chomping at the bit.

“Everybody has been so excited because it's been so warm in February,” he said. “Pond fishing has been really good. They are catching a few fish here and there (in the lakes), but nothing is going gangbusters yet.

“If we continue to have these warm days like we've been having, it's going to go crazy.”

Tiger muskies can't be found

The attempt by the Wildlife Department to turn Lake Carl Etling in the Panhandle into a tiger muskie fishery seems to have failed.

Tiger muskies, a cross between a northern pike and a muskie, were first stocked in Lake Carl Etling in 2014 as an experiment.

But state wildlife officials have been unable to find any of the fish during the agency's last two spring surveys of the lake.

“If we can't find them this year, we are probably not going to stock anymore,” said Ken Cunningham, assistant chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department.

Cunningham speculates the tiger muskies may have trouble feeding because Lake Carl Etling is muddier than it used to be.

“They are more sight feeders, ambush feeders, and I also think they are getting some competition from some other fish species,” he said.

Other Oklahoma lakes have been considered for tiger muskies, but none seem to be suitable for the species, Cunningham said.

“We really haven't come up with one with the right water quality,” he said. “We are not opposed to trying it somewhere else and we haven't given up completely on Carl Etling. It's just not looking good right now.”

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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