By John Kilgore
Phoenix Outdoors Columnist
When you mention the word “fish” in angling circles, most Oklahomans think of black, spotted, sand or smallmouth bass, as well as catfish, crappie, and panfish.
One often-overlooked fish gaining in not only popularity but stature as well is the rainbow trout. This non-native cold-water fish is in season and providing plenty of angling action across the state.
On Nov. 17, Mark Reed of Blanchard caught the new state record rainbow trout from Lake Watonga in Roman Nose State Park. The fish weighed 10 pounds, 10.56 ounces, eclipsing the previous record of 10 pounds 4 ounces caught in Lower Illinois River by Billy Payne back in July of 1966 — a record held for nearly half a century.
Reed’s fish was 27 3/4 inches in length with a girth of 17 1/2 inches. The angler caught the fish from the west side of the lake using a copper-colored Super Duper 502 with a red head. His equipment was a Zebco spinning reel, spooled with a six-pound Spider line and a Cherry rod.
In visiting with Reed it was hard to tell who was more excited, him telling the story, or me as I was taking it all in.
He’s been fishing the lake since 1999 and caught several rainbows in the 5 to 6 pound range.
“I won a trout tournament on Watonga back in 2011 with a fish weighing 3 pounds, 3 ounces. I guess it’s all just a matter of being in the right place at the right time,” said Reed. “When I saw how big the fish was, I kicked off my shoes and waded out to get my hands on him.
“I’m 61 years old and holding the record, even if it’s just for a day, is something I will always cherish. I mean, what are the odds of breaking a record that’s stood for all these years? “My sons had other things going so I left the boat home. It’s just too tough to handle anymore by myself.”
Keith Thomas, central region fisheries biologist for the Oklahoma Department Of Wildlife Conservation, certified the fish.
“This fish is too big and colorful to be a recently stocked trout because it had all of its fins and no abrasions. Normally, freshly-stocked trout have worn-down fins due to crowding in raceways at the hatchery and are pale in color,” said Thomas.
“There’s a good possibility the fish is from a previous year’s stocking and was able to survive the summer temperatures due to several cool water seeps that that enter Lake Watonga.”
Oklahoma has eight designated trout areas, two of which are year-round fisheries — the Lower Illinois below Tenkiller reservoir and the Lower Mountain Fork river below Broken Bow reservoir.
The other six sites are seasonal fisheries which run from Nov. 1 through the end of March and Lake Watonga is one of those sites.
The trout fishing at Watonga is now entering its 28th year and is a popular site for trout enthusiasts in the western half of the state. It’s an easy drive from the OKC metro area and you have a nice place to bring the family and friends to campout and fish for the weekend.
The trout are purchased by the ODWC from the Cedar Springs Trout Farm in Broadwater, Neb., and stocked at several designated trout areas every two weeks during the season. Lake Watonga receives over 11,500 trout each year.
Watonga holds a large trout derby each year at beautiful Roman Nose State Park Feb. 28 to March 2, so grab your fishing pole and try your hand at catching trout for cash and prizes. For more information contact the Watonga Chamber of Commerce at (580) 623-5453 or at www.watongachamber.com.
Anglers who believe they may have hooked a record fish must weigh the fish on an Oklahoma Department of Agriculture certified scale, and a Wildlife Department employee must verify the weight.
For a complete list of record fish and the procedures for certifying a state record, consult the current “Oklahoma Fishing Guide” r log on to wildlifedepartment.com.
John Kilgore’s outdoor column runs Fridays in the Phoenix. You may contact him with news or other information at 918-348-9431 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.