March 14, 2013

COLUMN: Bass bites may not be better than now

March 14, 2013 By John KIlgore Phoenix Outdoors Columnist

Ask any angler the best time to go fishing and most will tell you ”there's no time like the present”.

 If you're looking for a trophy and targeting the state's most popular game fish, the largemouth bass, it would be hard to dispute that statement.

I thought it would be neat to gather a little springtime intel on the little green fishy that creates so much excitement, generates millions of dollars, and that — just a guess— has ended its fair share of relationships.

According to records, when it comes to the magical month of March, there's simply not a better opportunity to catch that trophy fish of a lifetime. Just this week, Dale Miller of Panama broke a nearly year-old record with a 14 pounds, 13.7 ounce bass at 67-acre Cedar Lake in Leflore County. He did it Wednesday on a Hawg Hunter Bait Co. rod set up with an Abu Garcia Revo reel and an Alabama rig. The fish measured 26 1/8 inches in length and 23 inches in girth.

On March 23, 2012, Oklahoma angler Benny Williams  Jr. of Poteau landed a 14 pound, 12.3 ounce at the same lake, breaking the record of 14 pounds, 11 ounces set on March 14, 1999. Ironically days later, on March 31, 2012, an angler reeled in the new state record smallmouth bass which weighed 8 pounds, 7 ounces.

Barry Bolton, chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation said, “Catching the state record largemouth bass in Oklahoma is a big deal, and catching a fish this large is a big deal.”

 The last three state record largemouth bass, as well as several from the the state's top 20 list, have been caught in the southern and southeastern regions of the state. Lakes in that region tend to warm up earlier and cool off later in the year than other regions, which affords these fish a longer growing season.

Northeast regional fisheries biologist Josh Johnston, who covers many of the lakes, streams and waterways in our part of the state, was more than patient and eager to share with me some of his thoughts and ideas on big bass and the spawn.

Much of the spawning activity occurs around May 1,  and is actually driven by water temperature and photosynthesis. Last year, the water temperatures were on the warm side, so the spawn actually occurred much sooner, whereas the 2013 temperatures were much colder.

 When asked about shocking surveys, Johnston said, “We only have a small window of opportunity in which to work.”

 Typically the surveys are conducted between April 1 and May 15 before the small-fry schools begin showing up. “They don't do well with the electro-shocking so it's critical we conduct the surveys before that happens,” continued Johnston.

 When quizzed about the largest black bass he's ever gotten during a survey, Johnston said, “It was a little over 10 pounds and some change.”  Of course, I had to ask this next question:“What if I were a fisherman seeking that lunker of a lifetime in this neck of the woods?”

There are only two lakes that Johnston considers this side of I-40 that, for some unknown reason, the Florida strain have taken hold. The first, Taft Lake just west of Muskogee. The other? Onapa City Lake.

Although it's possible to catch a record black bass anytime of the year, more trophy-sized lunkers in our state are caught this month.  This is the time big females leave their deep water santuaries in search of shallow hard-bottomed protected areas nearer shore to nest.

Spring Break may just be the time to reel in a new state record.

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 jkilgoreoutdoors@yahoo.com.

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