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Oklahoma is angling for more tourism dollars

Oklahoma fishing celebrity Jimmy Houston casts a line along with a group of Moore students at Lake Thunderbird on Tuesday. Houston and the students were at Lake Thunderbird to attend Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell's press conference where he announced a new tourism initiative about fishing. [PHOTO PROVIDED]
Oklahoma fishing celebrity Jimmy Houston casts a line along with a group of Moore students at Lake Thunderbird on Tuesday. Houston and the students were at Lake Thunderbird to attend Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell's press conference where he announced a new tourism initiative about fishing. [PHOTO PROVIDED]

Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell is a fisherman.

“I grew up fishing with my grandpa at Sequoyah State Park and some of my favorite memories in high school were fishing with my buddies,” Pinnell said. “We own a lake house on Grand Lake now, so I’m obsessed with crappie and bass.”

Because of his obsession for fishing and realization of the importance the sport plays in the state’s economy, Pinnell has launched an “Oklahoma Fishing Trail” to highlight the state's prime fishing lakes in an effort to boost tourism.

At a press conference on Tuesday at Lake Thunderbird with special guest Jimmy Houston, Pinnell announced the new tourism initiative, which is a partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

“Our goal is to become a top 10 tourism state, and the No. 1 fishing state in the nation,” said Pinnell, who is also the state’s Secretary of Tourism and Branding. “Fishing is big business, and the Oklahoma Fishing Trail initiative will promote our state’s unique fishing opportunities — arguably the most diverse fishing in the country — increase tourism, and generate additional tax revenue for the state.

“Most people don’t realize the kind of revenue we’re talking about. On average, anglers in Oklahoma already spend $1.8 billion on fishing equipment annually and support more than 15,000 jobs in the state. And we’re only going to grow from there.”

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.

A free Oklahoma Fishing Trail brochure will also be available for order at TravelOK.com/Brochures or by calling 1-800-652-6552. Anglers can also find the brochure at Oklahoma Tourism Information Centers, Oklahoma State Parks and at the Oklahoma Fishing Trail lakes.

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

Pinnell also said he would be advocating for the state Legislature to dedicate more money to tourism and outdoor recreation.

Volunteers needed for youth hunting program

The Oklahoma Youth Hunting Program is looking for volunteers to introduce kids to hunting and the outdoors.

The program offers kids who have never been hunting the opportunity to go on a guided deer hunt. In addition to the deer hunt, kids learn outdoor skills and participate in other activities such as hiking, wildlife watching and camping.

Last year, OYHP took their 500th participant on a free fully-guided deer hunt.

“We are pretty proud of that,” said Darrell Noblitt, president of the program which has been in existent more than a decade.

The hunts, for kids ages 12 to 17, are held during the youth deer season in October. Landowners across the state donate their properties for the youth hunts.

The program depends on volunteers to serve as hunting guides, cooks, drivers, guardians, support staff, etc. On July 7, OYHP is having an orientation and training day in Mustang for people interested in volunteering and families who may want to participate.

The training day is from noon until 6 p.m. and lunch is included. For more information, contact Noblitt at (405) 833-2112 or darrell@noblittoilandgas.com.

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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