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Sunday, May 26, 2019
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Woods and Waters

Discover the great outdoors of southern Oklahoma and north Texas. Each week, Mike Gaines talks about hunting, fishing, and wildlife in general.

It’s about time for fishing season

Fishing is just around the corner, although with a temperature of 18 right now, it’s a little hard to imagine. It won’t be long however before I start  getting pictures of Houston Scott and Slade Cathey with huge bass taken from their local ponds! As warm afternoons and sunshine raise the temps, the big bass will start hanging out in the shallows.

New Heritage 40th Anniversary Tracker for $9,995.00

This really signals the beginning of fishing season and the lake bite will quickly follow. With that in mind it’s time to start getting your fishing rig ready to go. We discussed a few weeks ago about working on your tackle during this down time but now you need to concentrate on your boat.

After being winterized and stored for a few months, we need to do a complete check; batteries, controls, electrical and have the engine serviced, including oil change. Hopefully, making that first trip to your favorite spot trouble-free.

It doesn’t matter if your ride is a $40,000 bass boat, Jon boat, pontoon or your family pleasure boat as long as you get out and enjoy our Waurika Lake.

A lot of you may not remember, but in the early 70’s, “bass boats” existed, but not as we know them now. They were small, around 14ft and very narrow to have access to brushy shoreline areas. They were driven from the bow seat using a stick drive, which took a little practice to get used to!

Skeeter Boats, I believe, was the first to manufacture what would be known as a bass boat.

 

The First Bass Tracker in 1978

The earliest of what could truly be called a bass boat is credited to Holmes Thurman who founded the Skeeter Boat Company of Liberty, Texas in 1948.

The first Skeeter boats were part flat-bottomed jonboat and part powerboat. The name came from the appearance of its distinct bow. Thurman thought it looked like a mosquito. Made from molded plywood, the first Skeeters rapidly became popular with Texas and Louisiana anglers.

Skeeter began building improved fiberglass models in the early 1950’s. The 1961 Skeeter Hawk was one of the first mass produced fiberglass bass boats available.

The basics of the modern bass boat came together for the first time; more hydrodynamic hull design, swivel fishing chairs, bow mounted electric motor, and rod holders. Not quite a Wright Brothers to space shuttle difference but close.

As anyone knows, if you wanted a boat of any kind in the 1970’s, you went to the dealer of your choice, picked out the model you wanted and then decided what kind of motor and other accessories you wanted on the boat and paid them to rig it out.

The first boat of this type I bought was from Lakey’s Marine in Wichita Falls in 1975. I can’t remember the brand but it was a 14ft green and white fiberglass boat that was so narrow that sitting in the bow seat you could rest your hands on the gunnels without reaching! Rigged with a 25hp Johnson motor, I thought it was the cat’s meow.

The First Bass Boat

That all changed in 1978 when Johnny Morris introduced the first “Bass Tracker”, the industry’s first fully accessorized, ready-to-fish boat, motor and trailer package at an unheard-of nationally published price of $2,995 and advertised it in their fishing catalog. The boat was an instant hit; I remember seeing my first tied up at my friends dock on Lake Arrowhead in 1979 – I was impressed! Then in 1982, TRACKER Boats opened its first plant in Lebanon, MO. It was dedicated solely to the manufacture of TRACKER fishing boats. In 1988, the company’s custom boat trailer factory opened in Ozark, MO. Each trailer is factory matched, custom fit, sized and color coordinated to the boat it will carry. In 2008, TRACKER Boats celebrated 30 years as the #1 builder of aluminum fishing boats, and as the acknowledged leader in innovative aluminum boat technology. Today, Tracker still builds some of the best, most affordable fishing boats in the nation.

There are a lot of great bass boat/fishing boats out there these days for you and your family’s enjoyment, hope this gives you an idea of how it all got started! Get in one and get out and enjoy your great Oklahoma outdoors!

Woods and Waters June 7 2018

 As I write this, we are enjoying a fabulous Sunday afternoon with temps in the 80s and moderate winds. Quite a relief from last week – whew! It was flat hot!

 If you haven’t started fishing yet, then you better get going before the summer passes you by. It’s difficult for me not to think about fishing, living next to the Cathey boys and getting many calls a week from Hoot about his most recent lunker bass!

   Well, we have talked about getting our fishing gear ready and cleaned up for the upcoming season and with the current temps , it seems like the time might be here.

   In fact, as I was working on this article, I got a call from Houston Scott and was asked to accompany he and his brother, Lodge, for an afternoon of fishing on some of their ponds. We had a great trip, caught several bass and crappie, with all returned safely back to the water. No monsters but spending an afternoon with two quality young men in the outdoors is hard to beat! They certainly come from “good stock”!

Houston Scott

  Growing up it was different, fishing was such a simple affair back then. A quick trip to the barn or my mother’s flower beds and in a few minutes you would have dug up enough juicy worms to fill up a tin can; it was going to be a good day! It didn’t matter if you were after catfish, perch or anything, they were all suckers for a fresh red worm. A simple cane pole with a hook and cork was all you needed to be masters of the water. We could sit for hours and watch that cork “bob” on the water waiting for that slight twitch which signaled a fish was interested.

  Back then a mess of perch and yellow cats was a good day! My, how things have changed. With thousands of lure and bait options available it’s easy to get lost in the process and sometimes it gets so complicated you feel like you need a degree in fishology, if there is such a thing!

  On a brighter note, it doesn’t have to be that complicated. You don’t have to use a cane pole, but they are fun if you haven’t tried them. Just grab your rods and reels, hooks, sinkers and bobbers, if you wish, and some bait. As we mentioned, tried and true worms are hard to beat but if you are after catfish you might add some chicken livers and bait shrimp! I might add if you use bait shrimp be sure to wash your hands well before returning home. Your wife will appreciate it!

  Now that we have everything together let’s head out to our favorite fishing hole, whether a pond, lake or creek it doesn’t matter. This is a great time of year for creek fishing if you don’t mind snakes. A hot day in the shade of a tree while sitting on the creek bank is a pretty good way to spend the afternoon, especially if you have a nice breeze. An occasional bite and the company of a good buddy, like grandkids or your spouse just makes it better.

What a beautiful Monday!

  Fishing should be relaxing and a time of peacefulness and reflection. OK, I’ll admit those days when the sand bass are running, and you’re wearing out a silver jig or small spoon, thinking your arm will fall off from casting so many times are pretty hard to beat. But so is sitting on a quiet pond or creek in the early morning while watching the woods come alive with bird and wildlife – it is hard to beat!

Take a buddy!

  Remember our Saviour, Jesus Christ was the greatest fisherman of all time and he didn’t have a bass boat! Slow down and take time to witness and enjoy all that our Creator has blessed us with and get out and renew your acquaintance with our beautiful Oklahoma outdoors!

  And remember, take someone with you!

Woods and Waters November 15, 2018

Tuesday morning and outside a brisk 23 degrees, well, we know for sure we are done with mowing the grass!

 The “Eagles” is the only Jefferson County football team still in the playoffs after the first week! Congrats to both Ringling and Ryan on great seasons. Friday night Waurika hosts the “Cherokee Chiefs.” Come out and root for a great bunch of young men!

 Saturday is opening day of Oklahoma deer gun season and unlike the last couple of years, the bucks are already rutting. This might alter their patterns somewhat, but with the bucks chasing does, you never know when a big boy may show up!

 Remember, if you get a big one, send us a picture for the “Waurika News Journal Big Buck Award”!

 I am including information from The Department Of Wildlife about the upcoming season.

  Oklahoma’s 16-day deer gun season will run Nov. 17 through Dec. 2. With more than 187,000 expected participants, the season is the state’s most popular hunting event in terms of participation. It is also the deer season that boasts the greatest success rate in terms of harvest each year. Firearms accounted for 57.7 percent of all deer harvested in the 2017-18 seasons. That amounted to 62,257 deer, the highest total for gun harvest since 2012.

 

Good luck Saturday!

  All things considered, deer gun season hunters should find ample opportunities for success in 2018.

  “With timely rainfall throughout the growing season in much of the state, habitat is generally in great shape,” said Dallas Barber, a big game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

  Acorns and other food sources are in good supply. Those hunters who take note of deer feeding patterns as the season opener approaches will have an advantage.

  The deer breeding season, known as the rut, will peak over the next few weeks, which means deer will be more active during daylight hours. During the week prior to opening day, the Department will issue its annual Deer Rut Report, which will offer hunters valuable insights on deer movement and hunting prospects using the most recent information available from all regions of the state. To get the Rut Report in your inbox when it is released, sign up for Email Updates on the left side of the Department’s home page.

 Fueling deer hunting’s popularity in Oklahoma is a management plan that serves the state’s diverse hunters’ interests by providing region-leading season lengths and bag limits along with a strong education component outlining the benefits of balanced sex ratios and selective buck harvest.

 Jerry Shaw, the regional supervisor in the Department’s Wildlife Division, said Oklahoma offers generous seasons and bag limits while still having one of the healthiest buck age structures in the nation.

 

Would you shoot?

 “Our hunters have taken the ‘Hunters in the Know … Let Young Bucks Grow’ message to heart, and the results are being seen in fields and woods across the state. Today we have more mature bucks than at any time in our state’s past. And it is all thanks to hunters following our lead and allowing many of our young bucks to walk and grow another year.”

 Central to this voluntary management approach is reminding hunters that every time they choose to pull the trigger or release an arrow, they are making a deer management decision. “Equally as important as the deer you take are the deer you pass on and let walk away,” Shaw said. “While the ODWC provides the direction, it is the hunters who are putting the management in place.”

 The statistics bear this out. Last year, 28 percent of all deer harvested were in the 0.5-year and 1.5-year age classes, while 49 percent of the harvest was in the 3.5-year and 4.5-year age classes.

 The Department’s balanced voluntary approach with its “Hunters in the Know” campaign has gained national attention in recent years. The Quality Deer Management Association recognized Oklahoma among the top five states showing declines in yearling buck harvests.

 But antler-less deer harvest remains an important component of the state’s deer management plan, Shaw said. “Adequate doe harvest is vital to keep populations in balance with the available habitat, maintain healthy buck-to-doe ratios, and synchronize fawning when conditions are the most favorable for fawn growth.

“Even if your freezer is full, you can always donate the deer to the Hunters Against Hunger program and provide nutritious, delicious food for someone less fortunate,” Shaw said.

 From the largest outdoor and sporting goods stores in the major metropolitan cities to the smallest of cafes and roadside motels in rural outposts across the state, deer hunting has a sizable economic impact estimated at more than $600 million a year.

 It wasn’t always this way. From the time of Oklahoma’s first deer hunting season in 1933 until well into the 1960s, the forests of southeastern Oklahoma were about the only places with huntable populations of whitetails. As part of what has become one of conservation’s greatest success stories, the Wildlife Department began successfully trapping and transplanting deer from the 1950s through the 1970s.

 Now, the state’s deer population is estimated to be well over 500,000 animals. And deer hunters in Oklahoma have a better chance of harvesting a deer than at any other time in the state’s history.

 Barber urged deer hunters to also do their part for future generations.

“Seeing how far we have come, it’s important to remind hunters not only to be deer managers but to share their heritage with others as well, so that this tradition of success is passed down and continued.”

 Saturday morning it starts and knows you are continuing a rich Oklahoma Heritage. Good luck to all and remember in order to acclimate yourself to the temps, come out Friday evening and cheer on your “Waurika Eagles”!

Woods and Waters September 27 2018

Did everyone get enough rain? Over 6 inches in our area; we should be good for a while but I’m sure in a couple of weeks the coffee shop talk will be “Boy it’s getting dry!”

There  are still some doves in our area, if you can get to them. I know Houston and Slade Cathey are getting their share! Deer season is just around the corner and now is certainly the time to get ready.

The majority of hunters start with deer hunting. Some never strive for big game hunting and remain avid deer hunters their whole lives. If you’re interested in taking up deer hunting as a sport or passion, there are some essential steps to getting started. We will get you started with the basics.

 Get your license, sounds silly but folks sometimes forget. Don’t let red tape ruin your hunt. Get your hunting license well in advance of opening day. If you’re traveling, allow plenty of time to apply for an out-of-state license—every state handles hunting licenses differently. Don’t get stuck waiting by your mailbox on the first day of deer season.

Hunting regulations can vary from season to season, and certainly from state to state. Double-check season dates and bag limits.

Seth Cathey’s deer from 2017

If you use private land, don’t take it for granted. Try to maintain a relationship with the landowner. Stop by for friendly visits well before the season starts. Offer to do chores, share your meat—whatever it takes to keep your spot. Be straightforward with the owner about your intentions for the season—no one likes surprises. If you’ve got a lease on the land, make sure it’s up to date and good to go.

If you are hunting public land make sure to do your homework. Chances are topographic maps and aerial photos of your hunting area are available online. Use these resources to look for natural funnels, possible deer beds and escape routes. Don’t forget to prepare for the biggest public hunting challenge—other hunters. Scope out the edges of your hunting area to see where other hunters will likely enter the field; this will help you predict where deer will move when pressured.

If you have that special spot on private land then you need to make sure you are doing everything you can to attract and hold deer in your area.

Nearly 75 percent of the average deer’s diet consists of natural vegetation. Planting and maintaining a food plot on your hunting land can lead to success during deer season. Placement is key. Set up an area—about a ½ acre to 2 acres at most—within 100 to 200 yards of a deer bed. Plant a mix of vegetation that can survive in all seasons—especially sugar-rich foods that deer flock to in the fall and winter. Make sure the area offers a prime spot to set up your tree stand.

Hopefully your trail cam pictures look like this!

   Set up trail cameras on strong, healthy trees about 10 to 15 feet from the deer path. Place the cameras near food plots, feeders or anywhere where deer are likely to pass by. Conceal cameras enough to keep them from spooking game. Ideally, you’ll have one camera for every 50 to 100 acres of land. Try to create and monitor a list of potential deer you would to harvest during the season.

If you’re hunting with a firearm, zero-in your gun from a distance that makes sense for the type of hunting you do—100 yards is a common choice. Try to zero-in in weather that is similar to your hunting conditions, as changes in temperature can affect accuracy.  Remember to check for loose screws, especially on scope mounts and rings.

Another tip is make sure you have plenty of ammo to last the season, make sure you use the same type as when you sighted in your rifle.

If you bowhunt make sure to give your bow a thorough check-up. Strings and cables stretch over time, causing cams and nocking points to move. If you don’t want broken strings and cables to ruin your hunt, replace them every few seasons. Sight-in your bow with field points, and take a couple of extra practice shots with broad-heads to make sure you’re still on target.

Use the knowledge gained from scouting and set up your tree stand accordingly, as high as possible and downwind to conceal your scent. Clear any limbs that may obstruct your shot.

Deer hunting doesn’t have to be a chore.

This may sound very simple but some folks forget! 

There’s nothing worse than taking down a buck, only to have your short-lived elation obliterated as you try to field dress the carcass with a dull knife.

I hope these tips help, and for most of you this information may seem redundant but it never hurts to go over the basics! It also gives you more reasons to get out and enjoy your Oklahoma.

Woods and Waters June 28 2018

 As you read this you will be enjoying the first day of summer for 2018. If you don’t believe me spend some time outside this weekend! Next week is the “4th Of July” and many of you will be spending time at Waurika Lake!

   I can’t imagine anyone in our area not knowing about “Waurika Lake” and I hope you realize what a gem it is. The lake was conceived primarily as a means of flood control and a large water reservoir. Locals began working on the plan for a lake in the fifties and sixties to control flooding of downtown and the surrounding area. It took a lot of hard work from my uncle, George Brown, Fred Richardson and others in the business community to finally see its completion in the early 1980s.

    It has become a premier fishing lake, offering many species of gamefish including largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish, channel catfish, flathead catfish, walleye, sand bass and certainly hybrid striped bass! Folks come from long distances to try their luck at some of the best hybrid striper fishing to be had anywhere. If you want something to test your tackle then these hybrid stripers will certainly fit the bill!

Sunset from Waurika Lake!

  The fact that the lake area is right in our backyard makes it much more special. The scenic irregular shoreline and gently sloping land to the water’s edge is an open invitation for outdoor family fun and relaxation. There are six recreation areas located around the lake that include such facilities as boat launching ramps, campgrounds, sanitary facilities, picnic tables and shelters. Boating and skiing enthusiasts will be pleased with the large areas of open water and the scenic shoreline. There are four large embankments and a number of smaller coves that make boating on the lake a real pleasure.

  Visitors to Waurika Lake will find the dam structure an impressive site.  A road runs across the top of the dam and access roads are located at each end. The lake is set in rolling prairies interspersed with croplands and timbered areas.  Protection and blending with the natural environment was a primary concern in the design and construction of Waurika Lake. Trees, shrubs, and other desirable vegetation were left in their natural state in order to maintain the environment whenever possible.  

In the beginning!

The Overlook and Wichita Ridge Pavilion are accessible to non-ambulatory persons and excellent places to view the scenery. The Kiowa II and Chisholm Trail day use areas, as well as several miles of paved roads and many primitive access points around the lake provide scenic areas and wildlife viewing from an automobile.

  The lake offers many swimming opportunities for visitors. There are swim beaches located at the Kiowa Park I and Chisholm Trail camping areas that are open to campers and day users.  Both of these areas have shower facilities.  Boats are prohibited in these areas for the protection of the swimmers.

   Walker Creek Trail is a 13-mile trail that can be used for hiking or horseback riding. The trailhead is located 5 1/2 miles north of the dam on Walker Creek.  The trail winds along the creek over gently rolling hills and through wooded areas which  are abundant with wildlife. Spring and summer offer excellent opportunities to view native wildflowers. The trail is marked with fluorescent orange posts and mileage is indicated by metal mile marker posts.  Water is available for horses at many points along the trail. Water for human consumption must be carried in. The trail is closed to hiking and riding during deer gun season. 

Beaver Creek Trails are a series of interlocking dirt hiking trails that are accessible by non-ambulatory persons, weather permitting.  These trails can be entered from the Project Office as well as from Moneka North and South.

  As awesome as the Lake experience is, it is greatly enhanced by the fact that it has a full service marina located just past the west end of the dam in Kiowa Park II.

  Eddie and Nan Reese purchased Waurika Lake Marina on September of 2000 and have continued to operated it today. They’ve put in a lot of hard work and certainly not without some tragedies along the way! The severe drought of a few years ago left them sitting on dry land for some time until the heavy rains of May 2015 finally broke the spell, as the lake rose rapidly. Things seemed to be getting back to normal with a lot of hard work until February 29, 2016 when they suffered a devastating fire to the retail area of the marina. There literally was nothing left, including all the merchandise and they had to completely rebuild that portion of the marina! Again, with hard work and perseverance, they were fully open on May 24, 2016, in time for Memorial Day!

Waurika Lake Walleye!

Next time you’re at the lake, stop in for a coke and a snack and say hi. Their hours of operation are- Closed Monday, Tuesday thru Thursday 7:30 to 2:00, Friday and Saturday 7:00 to 5:00, Sunday 7:00 to 2:00! The Crappie House is open seven days a week from 5:30am to 8:00pm.

  They also have R.V. Hookups from $30 to $50 and three clean mobile home units for $80 to $100 a night! In addition they have 4 cabins for rent with kitchenette for $60 a night.

  Kudos to Eddie and Nan Reese for their hard work  and determination to continue to supply our lake with a much needed addition. Next time you are out fishing or just enjoying the lake, stop in and say hi, maybe pick up some minnows or tackle! Get out and enjoy your Lake Waurika!

Woods and Waters May 10 2018

Every week we take a look at all things outdoors, fishing, hunting, camping and anything that gets us out in our great Oklahoma outdoors. This week we’ll look at one of the most important tools that we use, regardless of our activities and that would be knives. They have been around in one form or another since the beginning of time. It’s hard to imagine going afield without one!

  Growing up on a ranch near Claypool it seemed every boy I knew had a knife by age six. It was a necessity, you used it everyday and it seemed a “right of passage.” Opening feed sacks and cutting bailing twine, yep, they didn’t always use wire! Cleaning quail after a successful hunt, working cattle, making a needed repair to your saddle or splicing a broken rein, it was one thing you needed with you at all times.

  Maybe nothing more important than sitting in the shade and whittling on an old stick, it was a much needed tool for life in the country. Most times your first knife was a Case Sodbuster, a single blade utility knife that is still made today.

  It’s hard to believe in this day and age but we would spend nearly every recess outside of Claypool School at our favorite dirt patch playing Mubbly-Peg! My brothers, Jim Howard, Haskel Breshears, McLain Rose, Boyd Gear, Jimmie Huskey and the Porterfield boys, Richard and Finley and I’m sure some I don’t remember but you had to have a knife!

  Even in high school at Waurika I don’t know a boy that lived in the country that didn’t carry a knife to school. You never knew if you might have to cut a ribbon for your girlfriend’s hair! It was just a way of life. Can you imagine that today; there would be SWAT teams arriving by the first bell.

  Knife-like tools were used at least two-and-a-half million years ago. Originally they were made of rock, bone, flint, and obsidian. Knives have evolved in construction along with technology. Now blades are being made from bronze, copper, iron, steel, ceramics, and titanium. When the white man first came to America, the Native Americans used flint as their primary knife blade. But as steel and brass were introduced, it changed everything. They obtained these blades through traders and they were prized additions to their arsenal. Due to its role as man’s first tool, certain cultures have attached spiritual and religious significance to the knife.

Corner Tang Flint Knife Blade, Burnett County Texas

  I love knives and always find an excuse to buy another, although I avoid the expensive custom knives. They are great with unbelievable workmanship. I had a Bob Sky custom hunting knife given to me by my wife years ago, custom hardened steel blade, silver bolster and elk horn handle. I scrimshawed a deer head on the handle and also kept track of all my adventures on it! It is still somewhere on a deer lease in the Texas Hill country and has been since 1978. No more high dollar custom knives for me!

  Knives can be found in any configuration you can think of and in many different blade materials. Even today you would be hard pressed to find a farmer, rancher, cowboy or outdoorsman without a knife on his belt or in his pocket. They are a mainstay of rural Oklahoma. They may not be used for all the things they were years ago but when needed are irreplaceable!

The original Sod Buster.

   As invaluable as a knife was in the “old days” there are still many uses in our modern lives! One that comes to mind is being trapped in a burning vehicle after a vehicle accident. Your seat belt might be locked and the doors won’t open. A modern knife will quickly slice through the seat belt material and you can use the pommel to break the door glass and exit the vehicle! I never leave home without one.

  I’m an old guy but I still feel naked when I leave home if I don’t have my knife. You would probably be amazed at how many youngsters still roam the creeks and hills of our beloved Jefferson County with that familiar feel of a knife in their pocket. Get out and enjoy our outdoor Oklahoma and don’t forget your knife!

Time to hunt predators and do some fishing!

As we near the end of January, we are enjoying a week of mild temperatures! It is a great improvement from just a couple of weeks ago with lows in the single digits. Deer season is now complete and next week we will announce the winner of our big buck contest.

This is a great time to be out predator hunting and hopefully lower our population of coyotes, bobcats and even some feral hogs if you’re lucky. The local deer and quail populations would appreciate it.

Waterfowl season is still open and I know that Clay Forst and Stuart Ranch Outfitters have provided their clients with some great shooting opportunities over the last few weeks!

Clay had a post on Facebook this weekend with his great dog “Wrigley”, who had just completed his 1000th retrieve this weekend! If you haven’t seen Wrigley, you have certainly missed out; he’s not only the largest Golden Retriever I’ve ever seen but also a great looking dog. Congrats to Clay and Wrigley- an accomplishment that took a lot of hard work.

Clay Forst and his great dog Wrigley

As we get into February next week, many of us will start turning our attention to warm spring days  and fishing. The early crappie bite isn’t too far off and we all know how great they are on the table.

Now is the time to get your rods and reels cleaned up and lubed, replace the line and inspect the ferrules for nicks which could cause abrasions to your line! Also take some time to go through your tackle box and clean those favorite lures also replacing any bent, rusted or dull hooks.

If your fishing is done using a watercraft of some sort, it is a good time to check that equipment also.

Spring is on the way!
A guide to spring fishing

If you fish from a kayak, canoe or float tube this part is relatively straight forward. It mainly consists of checking for any damage and repairing it prior to your first trip.

A boat and motor, whether a simple setup or a state of the art bass boat, needs a little more attention. A total cleanup and a coat of protective wax is a great idea along with a general cleaning. Also wipe down all upholstery with quality vinyl protection such as “303”.

Don’t forget to check your trailer lights and lube the wheel bearings. These 60 degree afternoons are great for taking care of these things and will insure your first trip to the water will be trouble free!

Soon the time for spring fishing in Oklahoma will be here, so grab your favorite rod and reel and be ready to hit the water!

Blizzards and ice storms are still a possibility in Oklahoma in March, but typical March weather includes some mild and sunny days during which the bass in farm ponds get really aggressive in the sun-warmed shallows and can provide excellent springtime angling action.

On sunny days the downwind sides of the ponds may be several degrees warmer than the upwind sides as the breeze pushes the warmer surface water across the pond, displacing the cooler water there.

A variety of lures can produce action. Typically it’s a little too early for plastic worms to be effective, but crank baits, jigs and spinnerbaits can be good choices. My favorite lures for March pond bass-fishing are 1/8-ounce spinnerbaits or big Beetle Spin lures. Carrying a small thermometer to test the water temperature can sometimes be a good way to tell the best areas to fish.

You can also locate early spring bass in a lake in shallow areas close to the bank especially on warm sunny days!

Get your gear ready and grab your poles and get out and enjoy your great Oklahoma outdoors!

Woods and Waters May 2 2019

 We are into May and my goodness, is the fishing heating up! I am getting reports from many sources of “the bite” really picking up, especially when the wind is not blowing 50 mph!

 More on that later, but this week our favorite roadrunner “Roadie” is back in the neighborhood-love watching this guy. I know I’ve talked a little about roadrunners in the past but I thought I would give a little more in-depth information!

 The legendary roadrunner bird is famous for its distinctive appearance, its ability to eat rattlesnakes and its preference for scooting across the American deserts, as popularized in Warner Bros. cartoons.

 The roadrunner is a large, black-and-white, mottled ground bird with a distinctive head crest. It has strong feet, a long, white-tipped tail and an oversized bill.

It ranges in length from 20 to 24 inches from the tip of its tail to the end of its beak. It is a member of the Cuckoo family,  characterized by feet with 2 forward toes and 2 behind.

When the roadrunner senses danger or is traveling downhill, it flies, revealing short, rounded wings with a white crescent. But it cannot keep its large body airborne for more than a few seconds, and so prefers walking or running (up to 17 miles per hour) usually with a clownish gait.

The roadrunner makes a series of 6 to 8, low, dovelike coos dropping in pitch, as well as a clattering sound by rolling their mandibles together.

 They are easily identified by their long graduated tail which is held upright and their long stout legs.

Love Roadrunners!

 The roadrunner inhabits open, flat or rolling terrain with scattered cover of dry brush, chaparral or other desert scrub.

 The roadrunner feeds almost exclusively on other animals, including insects, scorpions, lizards, snakes, rodents and other birds. Up to 10 % of its winter diet may consist of plant material due to the scarcity of desert animals at that time of the year.

 Because of its lightening quickness, the roadrunner is one of the few animals that preys upon rattlesnakes. Using its wings like a matador’s cape, it snaps up a coiled rattlesnake by the tail, cracks it like a whip and repeatedly slams its head against the ground till dead.

 It then swallows its prey whole, but is often unable to swallow the entire length at one time. This does not stop the roadrunner from its normal routine. It will continue to meander about with the snake dangling from its mouth, consuming another inch or two as the snake slowly digests. This is why I love seeing them in our neighborhood! 

 Switching gears, this time of year is great for catfishing because many of them, including the big blue cats seek out warmer shallower water for spawning.

Judy Henderson and friends 
cleaned out a tank!

 For a good chunk of the year, catching blue catfish involves probing the deepest holes in a river system. Like many other species, however, they take note of rising water temperatures in spring. Blue cats will move toward warmer ­water and binge-eat in preparation for the spawning. There is no better time of the year to fish for them.

 If in a boat instead of anchoring over deep water in spring, execute drift tactics that allow you to probe the bank and skinny water—anywhere from 2 to 10 feet. First, use your temperature gauge and electronics to identify shallow mudflats with the warmest water. Structure like downed trees, rock piles, and brush are hotspots. After you’ve chosen a spot you want to fish, try several different spots trying to locate them. The same can apply when fishing from the bank.

Kyle Northcutt and Grandad, 
Gary Nitschke got’er done!

 A slip-float rig is the best way to fish shallow water effectively. Tie a 4/0, or larger, circle hook on a stout leader and adjust the float according to depth. Fresh cut bait such as gizzard shad, herring, or menhaden will get the most bites. Pay particular attention to structure; the slip-float will allow your bait to remain free of snags. Try several locations before moving on! When you see it go down, reel tight, refrain from setting the hook, and get ready for battle.

 Hopefully you find a reason to get out this time of year! One suggestion would be Downtown Now this weekend in our great hometown! Hope to see you there.

Woods and Waters June 14 2018

 Well my friends, we are into June and the only hunting season that is open is Squirrel season! When I was growing up a lot of folks I know ate squirrel regularly. I had a beloved uncle, Clevie Goodrich, who put squirrel hunting nearly on the same level as quail hunting and he enthusiastically pursued both! If you haven’t tried fried squirrel you are actually missing a treat. No, it doesn’t taste like chicken!

   But, if you are not into bushytails and aren’t willing to chase hogs this summer, then now is the premier time for fishing. And I’m here to tell you that the reports I’m getting show that it doesn’t matter if you’re on the lake, a stock pond, a creek or wherever there is water, the fishing is great. I have even seen some energetic young men pulling some nice fish from the ditches along side of the roads.

   When I was a youngster, this time of year was marked by my grandmother, Abbie Gaines, loading us up for a day of fishing. We would spend time digging worms and catching grasshoppers for bait, then loaded our equipment and heading to the North Pasture tank. Our equipment consisted of cane poles, bobbers and an assortment of hooks, not very sophisticated by today’s standards. Babbie, as we called her, could spend hours watching a cork bob! Most of the fish we caught back then were mudcats and perch, but they were great fried up!

Canyon Carter lands a nice bass with help from Gary and Jane!

   Things, and especially equipment, have changed a lot since those days but there is no better way to spend a warm summer morning than on your local pond!

    Stock ponds or tanks have been around for years and they have fed families and provided angling recreation ever since I can remember. You don’t need a lot of money or a fancy boat to fish them. A lot of us were introduced to fishing on their banks, and some might wish to go back to those days when the sight of a bobber slipping under the water was all we needed to make us happy.

Farm ponds, stock tanks, watershed lakes, by whatever name – they’re small waters that are easy to learn and on which we can hone our skills.

“Farm ponds come anywhere from a half acre to thirty acres, but I’ve always thought that fifteen acres or more leans toward a lake,” says Bill Dance, television fishing icon, avid pond fisherman and lake designer. Some farm ponds are constructed in gullies or valleys, some are impounded and some are just round dish-type holes in the ground.

Most ponds have a dam of some sort. Many have off-color water, sometimes even muddy. Ponds can provide good fishing for bass, bluegills and catfish. Don’t expect crappies in small bodies of water, though—the species is so prolific that crappie populations occupy too much of the available water space. In fact, most game and fish departments won’t even consider stocking crappies unless the body of water is at least 50 acres in size.

A small pond is a miniature version of a big lake: Fish do basically the same things in each body of water. They relate to key structural features that are available. They’re affected by water temperature and by water clarity just as their big-water cousins are. Anglers should look for them near the same sorts of cover and structure, and fish for them accordingly.

    If fishing for bluegills/sunfish, keep as many of the sunfish you catch as the law allows; you’ll have the makings for a great fish fry regardless of the size of the fish, and you’ll be doing the pond fishery a favor. A pond’s sunfish population can get out of control in a hurry. A number of female bluegills might all spawn with one male, so breeding success each year is high. Removing stunted sunfish will increase the average size of the survivors within a few summers.

Our niece, Nikki Green, caught this nice cat off the patio during Texoma’s flooding!

   Catfish, whether bullheads or channel, tend to prowl close to the banks during low-light periods. Look for most to stay in the deepest portion of the pond or around drop-offs near currents during warm weather and the brightest part of the day.

   Fish earthworms or scented baits under a float, with the bait positioned near the bottom. If the water is too deep to use a clip-on or pegged float, use a slip bobber. Otherwise, try tight lining, by sliding a small barrel sinker on the line, tie on a small barrel swivel followed by 16—20 inches of monofilament, and then add the bait hook.

    Nowadays a lot of farm ponds are stocked with channel catfish, which do well in small waters with minimum current. If channel catfish are present, fish for them at low-light times with in-line spinners, such as those made by Mepps and Blue Fox. Channel catfish in farm ponds are especially predatory in early to midsummer, when the fins of nearly spawned bass and sunfish are still in the”soft-ray” stage of development. 

   Regardless of which type of fishing you prefer, your local body of water has a lot to offer. Get out and enjoy fishing in your Oklahoma and call and let me know when the “fish fry” is on!

Woods and Waters May 24 2018

Last week we took a peek at the sport of paddling and kayaks with an emphasis on kayak fishing. It’s a sport that has really exploded over the last few years. That’s easy to understand when you look at the relatively low investment it takes to get into the sport. It’s also a great and relaxing way to enjoy being outdoors, with the benefits of exercise and catching a few fish!

   There is nothing like casting a line from a kayak, while watching the sun sink in the west. Also paddling slowly around a tranquil bay, in the predawn light, in search of that of that big bass!

   Kayak fishing can be as simple as you wish. I carry a couple of rods, an assortment of swim baits and spinners, a net, bottle of water and of course a paddle! The other end of the spectrum might include depthfinders, some form of pedal system, gear boxes with rod holders for an additional 5 or 6 rods-the choice is yours. Two things I never go without are sunscreen and some form of insect repellent.

   In the past, if you really wanted to get into kayaking, you had to find books to help learn the sport. The great thing about technology is now you simply need to pull up YouTube. Every facet of the sport is available and you might also pick up some great ideas!

   I know a lot of folks, much like myself, who don’t have a pasture full of tanks, well-stocked with fish or a $20,000 boat to cruise the fishy waters of Waurika Lake. Well, don’t despair! If you didn’t realize it, you have access to one of the true jewels of this area! And you don’t need anyone’s permission. All you need is a valid Oklahoma fishing license and adhere to the rules that are posted as you enter the area.

My new ride!

    Being only 4 miles northwest of downtown Waurika makes this a wonderful fishing and recreation area. The reservoir I’m talking about is Lake Jap Beaver. It was constructed by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation in 1953 and first opened to fishing in 1955. When first opened, the lake was known as Waurika Lake. After the construction of the 10,000 acre Waurika Lake, the original lake was named Lake Jap Beaver after longtime Jefferson County Game Warden, Jap Beaver, who was also very popular.

     Lake Jap Beaver is a beautiful small lake; it encompasses 65 acres with an average depth of 10 ft and a maximum depth of 30 ft. There are roads providing access to both sides of the lake including the dam. A boat ramp is located on the west side and also a small fishing dock. It’s a great place to enjoy a sunrise and watch for birds and wildlife. My wife Jana and I often will sit out on the shore in the late evening and watch for beaver and deer.

  It’s a great place to cast while walking the shoreline or just take the lawn chairs and watch your cork “bob.” The most common species are bass, channel cat, crappie and sunfish. I’ve caught white bass on occasion but these were probably added by some well meaning fishermen!

  Hunting is allowed in the surrounding area using a shotgun for small game and game birds and archery equipment during archery deer season. During high school, Jim Hagg and I would duck hunt there on a regular basis.

Chris James provers that a farmer tan can’t stop you from Kayak fishing.

  Back in the 60s and 70s my Uncle George Brown and his fishing buddy Babe Cephus spent many hours fishing for bass and crappie in their float tubes, with great success.

  If you have a kayak or canoe it’s a great place to launch them and spend time fishing the entire lake. Also, just take the kids out and paddle around the area! If you don’t have one it’s a good time to visit Academy. The lake is safe in the respect that, with its smaller size, wind is not as much of an issue as on its big brother, Waurika Lake!

Kyle Northcut is ready to go pro!

  If you haven’t spent time at Lake Jap Beaver in a while, give it a try! It’s been around for over 60 years and is still as beautiful as ever. In the last few years, the Conservation Department has put up new signs posting the regulations for the area. When using the area please adhere to the regulations and above all “take your trash with you.” As with any public use area it’s up to the users to help keep it clean!

  This is just another reason to be proud of our part of Oklahoma! I remember, while in high school, hearing rumors that kids used to frequent the area on weekend evenings to watch the “submarine races,” but I never knew for sure!

  Get out and enjoy our great Oklahoma outdoors!

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