Most of my fondest memories have occurred with a fishing rod in my hand. Whether it's getting the perfect take on the perfect drift, watching my daughter learn the ins and outs of wading water, seeing the excitement on my wife's face as she hooks into another Barren Fork smallmouth, my mind simply fills itself with fishing-related joy. As the river of life meanders into another summer, don't miss out on the opportunity to create your own moments of fishing-filled memories!
It doesn't matter if your on a boat, waist deep in a stream or parked pond-side in a lawn chair with a cold beverage, the Oklahoma summer has a fishing opportunity for everyone! Get the kids out with a worm and a bobber, treat yourself to one of Oklahoma's clear-water streams or hit up some buddies to spend a weekend at the lake. A fishing-related adventure is the best way to beat the heat and kick the summertime blues.
If you happen upon a nice campground along the water's edge, try your hand at some bottom-fishing for nongame species, such as carp and drum, during the daytime hours with a night crawler fished off the bottom with a 1/4 ounce weight. When the sun sets, the same technique will attract a pesky catfish or two.
Spend a weekend at Blue River and enjoy the spoils of a river loaded with bass, sunfish and channel catfish. A 2 1/4-inch Squirmin Squirt tube in green pumpkin with red and black flake paired with a 1/16th ounce Squirmin Squirt jighead will have your reeling hand tired within the hour.
Introduce yourself or someone new to the joys of topwater explosions at your local pond during the lowlight evening hours! Poppers, hollow-bodied frogs, buzz baits and Whopper Ploppers are enough to get the job done.
Whatever your fishing adventure is, spend it with those you love and create lasting memories that outweigh any fish you happen upon along the way!
Until next time, tight lines my friends!
BONUS FISHING CONTENT
Catfishing in the Summertime
These Tips Could Help You Get More Bites
Wanting to latch onto some cool cats during these warm summer days? It’s not that hard to do on just about any body of water in Oklahoma — if you have some ideas about what you’re doing!
Take in some of these tips from Outdoor Oklahoma Magazine editor Don P. Brown.
WHAT TO KNOW
Three species of catfish are found in Oklahoma: channel cats, blue cats and flatheads. A good way to tell the difference is by looking at the tail fins or the anal fins. Channel and blue cats have forked tails, while the flathead’s tail is not forked. The channel cat’s anal fin has a curved lower edge, while the blue’s anal fin has a straight lower edge.
All catfish are most active at night, when the water’s surface temperature is lower. But they will feed anytime day or night. You can catch a mess of catfish during a hot afternoon, but you’ll need to find them in their favorite spots.
Catfish mostly rely on taste and touch when feeding, not sight and sound like many other predator fish. Fish oils, blood bait and stink baits will spread scent in the current, and catfish will seek out the source.
All catfish prefer live bait and natural bait. Channel cats, however, will take non-live or non-natural prepared baits and “kitchen” bait, which are rarely appealing to blues and flatheads.
Bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to catfish as table fare. Many anglers say the smaller cats are the better tasting ones. So, if you plan on frying up some catfish nuggets, you might want to throw the big ones back.
Speaking of big, here’s how big they can get in Oklahoma. The state records are: channel, 35 pounds 15 ounces; blue, 98 pounds; flathead, 78 pounds, 8 ounces.
RIGGING YOUR LINE
Catfish are not generally bottom-feeders, even though they have a reputation for eating just about anything. These are predator fish that actively seek food at various levels in the water column.
The most basic channel catfish rig is a simple bobber with a baited hook hanging about 2 feet under it. Use a worm or piece of hot dog on a medium-size treble or circle hook held down by a split-shot sinker, and you should get some bites if you’re fishing the right spots.
A Carolina rig is perfect for getting your bait into the deeper water for summertime fishing. This setup allows the bait to float a foot or two off the bottom, usually a better strike zone for the fish. To rig, first put a sinker on the line, then a stopper, followed by a barrel swivel. Then attach a hook with a 12- to 24-inch leader to the swivel.
Using a slip cork is a good way to suspend bait in the middle of the water column. First attach a stopper knot onto the line, then a bead. Feed the line through a slip bobber, then attach a sinker and hook. Decide how deep you want your bait, and adjust the slip knot up the line to the desired distance above the hook. When cast, the slip cork will slide up the line to the stopper knot as the bait sinks to your desired depth.
BAITING YOUR HOOK
The best bait is what the catfish are used to eating. Channel cats are the least finicky when it comes to bait. Worms, shrimp, liver, stink bait and punch bait and “kitchen” baits can all be good choices. Some anglers will use pieces of microwaved wieners, which hardens them so they will stay on a hook better.
Blue cats prefer live or cut bait, mostly shad. If you are able to collect shad from the water where you are fishing, you’ll have the primo blue cat lure. Using a cast net, where allowed, is the best way to gather shad; simply toss the net, haul in your catfish food, and fill up your bait bucket. If you aren’t able to gather them yourself, many bait shops will offer shad and minnows for sale.
Flatheads like to eat sunfish. Anglers targeting flatheads would do good to go early and do some bluegill fishing before getting down to some serious catfishing. But remember, smaller fish cannot take larger bait.
WHERE TO LOOK
Catfish are found in most all types of water in Oklahoma: ponds, creeks, streams, rivers and lakes. And they can be in deep water, shallow water, close to the bank or in the middle of the lake at any given time. Knowing something about catfish behavior can offer clues about where you can catch some.
In summer, catfish are generally more active at night, when the water isn’t as warm near the surface. It’s usually because the food sources are moving up toward the surface, too, and the cats are following them up onto the shallower flats. When the shad are in the shallows, the cats usually aren’t too far behind.
In cooler water, catfish might move into shallow flats where the baitfish are schooling. In warmer water, catfish will usually stay deeper.
Note the structure and topography around lakes. Fishing off points where the bottom drops off can be great spots for catfish. In the heat of the day, try dropping your bait into the old creek channels in the middle of coves.
In streams and rivers, consider how the current is flowing. Catfish will often sit in areas of the slowest current, like right behind large rocks or submerged logs. Look for seams or backwaters where one current appears to be moving in the opposite direction to another current right beside it. Catfish will often gather in these areas to wait for prey items to float by.
Tailwaters below dams hold plenty of catfish, especially during the summer when water releases are smaller and less frequent. Again, target areas behind structure where the currents aren’t as swift.
In smaller waters, like the ODWC’s Close To Home Fishing lakes, target catfish around sunken fish attractors or off jetties or points. When it’s hotter, try fishing deeper.
HOW TO FISH
Bank fishing, drift fishing and jug-lining are three popular methods of catching cats.
Catfishing is easily done from the bank, provided you can get close enough to the areas where they are feeding. Many anglers set out several lines rigged for various depths to learn where the fish are located.
Rip rap along a dam can hold lots of catfish, because the water gets deeper very quickly. The fishing can be really good on days when a brisk wind is pushing bait fish into the rip rap, and the predators are massing below them.
Drifting in a boat can be a good way to fish out a lot of water, but it’s a bust if the drift is too fast. A breeze no more than 10 mph is recommended. Toss out a Carolina rig with a small float ahead of the baited hook, then let the barrel weight drag the rig across the bottom as your bait floats above it.
Besides noodling, a good way to land big flatheads is to use jug lines or trot lines with live bait, preferably sunfish. Leave the jugs out overnight, and the next morning you are likely to haul some hefty cats into your boat.
KEEPING IT LEGAL
The statewide daily limit for keeping catfish is five for flatheads, and 15 for blues and channels in any combination of those two species. However, specific lakes and areas might have different limits. For example, all Wildlife Department areas limit catfish to six per day. There may also be limits to the number of rods an angler may use at one time.
Channels and flatheads of any size may be kept as part of a daily limit. But only one blue catfish over 30 inches long may be kept each day; all others caught that exceed 30 inches must be returned to the water immediately.
A state fishing license is required for all residents 16 and older who attempt to take fish in Oklahoma, unless qualifying for a license exemption. A landowner or tenant and his or her immediate family are exempt from the license requirement if they are fishing on their owned or leased land.