Scenic Blue River offers summer fishing opportunities, too
TISHOMINGO — Blue River is the jewel of south-central Oklahoma.
"It really looks like it was picked up out of Colorado and moved to south-central Oklahoma," said Matt Gamble, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's fisheries biologist on Blue River for the past 12 years. "Most people wouldn't recognize it as a south-central Oklahoma river."
Most steams in south-central Oklahoma are very shallow and turbid, whereas the Blue River is very scenic and primitive with pristine, clear water and lots of changes in elevation.
The source of the spring-fed Blue River is the underground Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer. It flows freely from its headwaters southwest of Ada all the way into the Red River around Bokchito in Bryan County.
The river is most scenic along the 6¼-mile stretch through the Blue River Public Hunting and Fishing Area about 10 miles northeast of Tishomingo in Johnston County.
Here, the granite rocks of the Arbuckle outcrop surface and the river is energized.
Along these six miles, the river transforms from a sluggish, meandering stream to cascading water that forks through granite and limestone formations.
Over and around these rocks is the creation of horseshoe waterfalls and deep, slow-moving pools and fast-moving riffles.
The river channel often becomes braided, forming smaller streams with interspersed islands covered with unique seaside alders and native hardwoods.
The Blue River is a very popular fishing destination in the winter as the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation stocks trout in the stream from November through March.
Gamble said between 4,000 and 6,000 people visit the Blue River each month during the winter trout season. Most of the trout anglers are from north Texas, south-central Oklahoma and the Oklahoma City area, he said.
Anglers will catch trout into June on Blue River, but the water in the stream gets too warm in the summer for the hatchery-raised rainbows to live.
However, Blue River is not just a winter fishing destination.
"Summer opportunities are overlooked a lot of the times," Gamble said. "I love smallmouth bass fishing. I would put it up against any river or stream in the state as far as smallmouth go.
"You catch a lot of spotted bass, also. It's not uncommon on a good day to catch 80 or a 100 fish in a few hours."
The Wildlife Department also puts 11,000 channel catfish in the river between April through September, and there are a few flathead catfish in the stream as well.
It is also a beautiful place just to visit and have a picnic or hike. Primitive campsites are available.
Between 2,000 and 3,000 people on average visit the Blue River each month during the summer, Gamble said.
"There are a lot of different opportunities in the summer that people overlook," Gamble said. "Some of it because it's hot. A lot of people are afraid of snakes, but if you just pay attention and watch, you are not going to have a problem."
VISITING BLUE RIVER
What: Blue River Public Fishing and Hunting Area
Where: About 10 miles northeast of Tishomingo in Johnson County
Cost: Anyone with a valid fishing or hunting license can enter the area for free. Visitors 18 or older without a hunting or fishing license are required to have a Wildlife Conservation Passport, which can be bought at wildlifedepartment.com.
The passport is good for access to all ODWC wildlife management areas except Honobia Creek and Three Rivers in southeastern Oklahoma, which require its own land access permits.
Wildlife Conservation Passports are $26 annually or $15 for three-day use.