Oklahoma Stories

A great angle on fishing

By Jocelyn Pedersen July 2023

Oklahoma Fishing Trail boosts state tourism

Dock fishing at Fort Cobb | Photo courtesy of the Oklahoma Department of Tourism

Earl Eubanks, a Red River Valley Rural Electric Association member from Ringling, says he’s been fishing ponds in his area “ever since I was just a little bitty kid. When we go check cattle, I’ll always have a fishing pole in the truck.” 

And so it goes for Oklahoma anglers who love to fish.

With more miles of shoreline than the east and Gulf coasts combined, Oklahoma is home to largemouth and smallmouth bass, striped and white crappie, catfish, paddlefish, saugeye and more. How’s an angler to choose? Organized by lake and fish species, The Oklahoma Fishing trail divides the state into six regions featuring 40 of Oklahoma’s top fishing lakes and rivers and 20 close-to-home fishing destinations.

“I fish for anything I can find,” Oklahoma Electric Cooperative (OEC) member Kenny “Cowboy” Smith says. “I like to crappie fish, but lately the fish have lock jaw. They just won’t bite.”

Undeterred, Smith continues to engage in catch-and-release sport fishing mostly in ponds near Blanchard while OEC member Roy Lawson fishes local areas at Chickasha, Maysville, Thunderbird and Purcell lakes.

Although anglers frequent various fishing holes, some are unaware that their favorites are part of the Oklahoma Fishing Trail. The trail was launched in June 2019 as a collaboration between the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department (OTRD) and Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC).

Avid angler Bryce Rhoads, also an OEC member and co-owner of Blanchard’s Dirt Rhoads Outdoors, says he knows about the Fishing Trail adding that he likes to visit Mountain Lake near I-35 and Highway 54 where he fishes for crappie, bass and catfish. He heads to Lake Murray to scope out walleye and to Lake Thunderbird for saugeye.

When it comes to fish, Rhoads says he typically keeps and cleans 1-1.5 pounders to help cull the fish competing for food, allowing larger fish to continue to grow into trophy fish.

Chase Horn, OTRD communications director, says the Fishing Trail has “been a huge success so far. It’s done a great job promoting fishing licenses and fishing throughout the state—not only getting Oklahomans out, but bringing people in from out of state to spend dollars here and check out the great fishing we have across the state.”

Horn says that OTRD promotes the trail through digital campaigns and a trail guide, adding that his department supports fishermen with information about places to stay and by providing knowledgeable rangers and staff.

Fishing is not only fun, but anglers bring in tourism dollars when they stay at hotels, eat in restaurants, purchase items in local stores and gas up their vehicles.

Horn cited statistics indicating the projected income from lodging revenue in 2019 was more than $20 million and the state saw just under $1.6 million in state and local tax revenue. Additionally, there were nearly 3,200 clicks on the website to obtain fishing licenses.

Tourism is Oklahoma’s third largest industry and 2021 was the first year OTRD published Fishing Trail guides, Horn says. Partnering with Oklahoma fishing legends Jimmy Houston and Edwin Evers, who appear on the guide’s cover, helped to generate over $10 million in lodging revenue just from the Fishing Trail campaign. Statistics show $10.1 billion in direct visiting traveler spending, and $447,000 in advertising revenue.

Horn says Fishing Trail signs pique curiosity to let anglers know they’re in the right spot. Everything works together to guide fisherfolk when they reference the guide. To learn more about the Oklahoma Fishing Trail, fishing licenses or to download a trail guide, visit travelok.com. Anglers may also pick up brochures at park gift shops or at travel information centers.

Category: Oklahoma Stories

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