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Fishing Facts and Suggestions

Estimates indicate that about 30 percent (60 million pounds) of the 200 million pounds of sport and game fish present in Oklahoma are found in major reservoirs. It is reasonable to assume, based on harvest data, that approximately 3.8 million pounds of those reservoir fish are taken home each year by anglers.

The following digest of fishing facts and suggestions may prove helpful. The tips included here are based on fishing in a reservoir having a maximum depth of approximately 40 feet. The fishing techniques and principles will apply to most any waters, but depth requirements will have to be adjusted proportionally to deeper or shallower bodies of water.

  • Fish that are actively feeding are generally more susceptible to being caught than those not feeding. However, the assumption “the hungrier the fish, the easier to catch” is not always true.
  • During the spawning period of certain species, the spawning activity is the dominant biological drive and feeding activity may be reduced. However, some spawning fish may defend their territories by striking a lure placed in their area.
  • Catching fish species that feed primarily by sight can be difficult when water visibility is less than two feet.
  • Bait or lure selection, placement, and action should resemble the natural food organism of the species sought. Learn more about forage species, such as crayfish or aquatic insects, by turning over rocks in the water.
  • Be persistent, vary your lures, colors, and baits, keep them moving and do not spend more than 15 minutes in one location unless you are catching fish.
  • Fish vary in their capability to distinguish color, but most have some ability. Red is the color to which fish are most sensitive but it is visible only at close distances. Blue and purple are most visible in deep water.
  • Combining an appeal to taste, smell, feel, and sight will increase the catch of any species. It has been suggested that live bait emits an “injured” odor and distress signal.
  • Fish in deep water look for food in their visual plane or lower, whereas fish feeding near the surface tend to blend vertical and horizontal movement.
  • Practice working lures in shallow water to observe their action.
  • Subtle changes in speed and retrieval techniques can be important. Experts claim technique makes the difference in 90 percent of bass catches. Generally, work lures faster in warm water and slower in cold water.
  • In rising water, most species of fish move toward shore or upstream. A rise can be associated with increased oxygen, more favorable water temperatures, or an influx of food organisms.
  • During falling water, fish movement is downstream or toward deeper water. During changing, unstable weather and dramatic temperature changes, fish feed sparingly.
  • Every species has a temperature preference and will seek this temperature all during the year.
  • Turbid water or cloudy days cut down light penetration, encouraging nocturnal feeders to forage during daylight hours.
  • Many predatory fish will feed throughout the day in shallow water, even in hot summer weather.
  • Barometric pressure seems to provide fish with the same stimulation as water fluctuations. Falling pressure influences fish to become more active along shorelines, whereas rising pressure leads to a decrease in fish activity.
  • Wind action creates alternatives in a fish’s environment. On a cool, windy summer day, the windward bank may present temperatures and oxygen levels more favorable to the fish’s disposition. Wind may also concentrate forage.
  • Cloud cover, turbidity, rain, and cooler air masses will stimulate fish movement in summer. Weather that has a warming effect on water may also set off increased activity in water.
  • Large predators are most effective in lower light conditions, when their greater size is easier to conceal while foraging.
  • During early spring the northern portions of ponds and reservoirs tend to warm faster and will stimulate more activity. Turbid water will warm faster and cool slower than clear water. In early spring, look for fish to move out of clear water into turbid water. In summer, find fish in clear water during morning and evening.

Catch and Release Tips

  • Land fish quickly.
  • Handle fish as little as possible and avoid holding with dry hands to prevent removal of protective slime coating.
  • Don’t let fish bounce on the boat deck, carpet, or shoreline rocks and gravel.
  • Landing nets made of soft, knotless nylon or rubber are better than hard, knotted nylon.
  • Grasp most species of fish by the lower jaw and keep fish in the water if possible. Hold them vertically and support large fish with a hand under the belly.
  • Grasp toothy fish across the back of the head, with fingers and thumb holding gill plates closed. Watch out for sharp edges.
  • If you must hold a fish by putting your hand through the gill opening, avoid touching delicate gill filaments.
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