By Christian Toews
From the Sept. 2020 Biskinik
The lake gently lapping against the shore in the morning. The plop of a lure hitting a calm pond. The sound of a reel whirling out when you set a hook. Fishing is relaxing and exciting at the same time. No matter what type of fishing you enjoy, The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has something to offer. From fly fishing in Broken Bow to bass fishing on a scenic lake, this area will surprise you with its options.
The sport of fishing is very popular, according to the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. In the U.S., 50 million people ages 6 and up went fishing in 2019. That means 17% of the U.S. population cast a lure at least once. While some of this was saltwater fishing, freshwater fishing was the majority of fishing across the U.S. at 81%.
Fishing is no longer the boys’ club it was once thought to be. Over one-third of participants in 2019 were women, according to Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. This gap between men and women participating in the sport continues to shrink every year.
Even colleges are recognizing the popularity of fishing. Many schools are now offering scholarships for bass fishing. While bass fishing is not currently recognized as an NCAA sport, colleges across the country have teams and compete in multiple tournaments each year.
You would be hard-pressed to find a place that has deeper fishing roots than southeastern Oklahoma. While some might think of Oklahoma as a dusty and dry state, the dust bowl days are a thing of the past. According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma has nearly 1.2 million acres of impounded water. The state has twenty-three thousand miles of rivers and streams and seventy-three reservoirs larger than five hundred acres, containing a combined total of 660,000 acres. Many of these rivers and lakes are connected to the Ouachita and Ozark mountain ranges of southeastern Oklahoma. These two ranges provide watershed and beauty to the area. You can discover more details about great fishing locations withing the Choctaw Nation by visiting the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation‘s website.
Jon James uses his bass boat to fish the best locations on McGee Creek Reservoir in McGee Creek State Park. The Reservoir, located near Atoka, Oklahoma, has 64 miles of shoreline where fishermen will find an abundance of large and smallmouth bass, channel catfish, perch, crappie and sunfish.
Jon James is an angler who grew up in Oklahoma and lives near Atoka, Oklahoma. He was involved in the professional fishing industry for 10 years and has fished most of the top fishing spots across the united states. He says there is something special about fishing in southeastern Oklahoma. “I’ve fished all over the country, and there is a reason I came back to this area. A lot of it has to do with the lakes here,” he said. James said he primarily fishes for bass. He said that you can fish for a large variety of fish in the lakes in the Choctaw Nation and surrounding area. The diversity in fishing options in southeastern Oklahoma is one of the reasons he enjoys fishing there.
“I love the diversity we have here. You have so many lakes, and they all have something unique to offer,” said James.
Oklahoma has more to offer than fishing lakes and ponds. Broken Bow, Oklahoma, offers world-class fly fishing. Chris Schatte is a guide with Beavers Bend Fly Fishing. He has been fly fishing since he was very young.
“My grandfather bought me a bamboo fly rod for a Christmas when I was eight, and I used it for years and years,” stated Schatte.
When asked about how fly fishing in Broken Bow compares to other locations across the country, Schatte noted, “The thing about fly fishing here is the river fishes year-round. Our river is very diverse in the way it flows. It is a fast Colorado style river in parts to a wide Virginia style river in others. Ankle deep water to deep pools.”
According to Schatte, fly fishing is a unique style of fishing because the angler is actively involved in the process. He says that people new to fly fishing should expect to have a lot of fun while learning and improving in the sport.
In case you need more reasons to go fishing, there are several health benefits to the sport. Fishing can keep you physically fit. While fishing itself isn’t necessarily going to burn many calories, often, the best fishing spots take a bit of hiking or paddling to get to. Fishing has also been associated with lowering stress. Most anglers agree that fishing is very relaxing and a good way to spend time with friends and family. A 2009 Harvard Medical School study conducted by a team of researchers drawn from the University of Southern Maine, the University of Utah and the VA in Salt Lake City, found that military veterans had significant reductions in stress and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, and improvements in sleep quality after participating in a fly-fishing retreat.
Eating fish has many health benefits. According to The Mayo Clinic, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish may decrease blood pressure and lower the risk of stroke and heart failure. Enjoying some grilled trout after a long day on the river is an excellent way to end the day.
Whether you want to fish for striper in Lake Texoma near Durant, bass in McGee Creek Lake, trout in Broken Bow, or maybe you want to try your luck at all of it. Southeastern Oklahoma is truly a fishing destination.
The next time you are planning a family trip or a weekend getaway with your friends, consider fishing in one of the many rivers, streams, lakes or ponds found with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and the surrounding area.