Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell on Tuesday announced the launch of the Oklahoma Fishing Trail, an initiative designed to showcase the state's quality fishing opportunities and increase tourism.
“Our goal is to become a Top 10 tourism state, and the No. 1 fishing state in the nation,” said Pinnell, 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 annually and support more than 15,000 jobs in the state. And we’re only going to grow from there.”
The Oklahoma Fishing Trail is a cooperative effort of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. It highlights 38 lakes across the state and an additional 20 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, to help guide visitors to the perfect lake for their desired catch. The Trail's website is FishinOK.com.
Wildlife Department Director J.D. Strong said Oklahoma is already a premier destination for fishing-related tourism because of its fish diversity and liberal regulations.
“Whether you’re looking for an all-around lake that’s known for several different species or a specific spot to get that standout species, we’ve got options,” Strong said. “In the Northeastern Loop, Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees is a great spot for catching largemouth bass, crappie, catfish and paddlefish, while Lake Eufaula and Lake Tenkiller were chosen for their standout crappie fishing.”
Oklahoma fishing also stands out for some unique species, such as the paddlefish. The Wildlife Department's Oklahoma Paddlefish Research Center, near the Twin Bridges Area of Grand Lake State Park, will even process anglers’ catches and return fillets to the angler at no cost.
Other speakers at the event included Jerry Winchester, executive director of the Tourism and Recreation Department, and B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland, former Assistant Chief of Fisheries for the Wildlife Department.
“Oklahoma is well-prepared for this increase in fishing tourism,” Winchester said. “Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees has twice hosted the Bassmaster Classic, the ‘Super Bowl’ of bass fishing. Bassmaster magazine regularly lists Grand Lake and Lake Texoma on the list of the country’s best bass lakes. We have more shoreline than the East and Gulf coasts combined, and we’ve also got a lot of fun things to do along that shoreline: state parks, marinas, museums, breweries, casinos, restaurants. You name it, we’ve got it in Oklahoma.”
“America’s Favorite Fisherman,” TV personality Jimmy Houston of Cookson, also attended Tuesday’s event, along with a group of Moore Public Schools students who participate in the Wildlife Department’s Fishing in the Schools (OKFITS)program.
After the announcement ceremony at Lake Thunderbird State Park, attendees went to a nearby dock to fish with the lieutenant governor, Houston and the OKFITS students.
FishinOK.com features a map of all the trail stops along with detailed information on amenities available at each stop. Branded Oklahoma Fishing Trail merchandise will also be available.
A free Oklahoma Fishing Trail brochure is available at TravelOK.com/Brochures or by calling (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 choose to go for the Oklahoma Fishing Trail Grand Slam by catching a variety of species and submitting photos of them through the website. Those who complete the Grand Slam will get an exclusive decal they can proudly display.
Several state legislators attended, including Rep. Marilyn Stark, R-Bethany; Rep. Chris Kannady, R-Oklahoma City; Rep. Danny Sterling, R-Tecumseh; Rep. Logan Phillips, R-Mounds; Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman; Rep. Lonnie Sims, R-Jenks; Rep. Mark Lawson, R-Sapulpa; Rep. Josh West, R-Grove; Rep. Dell Kerbs, R-Shawnee; Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-Oklahoma City; Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, R-Adair; Rep. Brian Hill, R-Mustang; Rep. Rusty Cornwell, R-Vinita; Rep. Dean Davis, R-Broken Arrow; Rep. Toni Hasenback, R-Elgin; Rep. Tammy Townley, R-Ardmore; and Rep. Trey Caldwell, R-Lawton.
Tourism is Oklahoma’s third-largest industry, contributing nearly $9 billion to the state’s economy in direct visitor spending, and $656 million in state and local taxes annually.