Trout season is winding down and lunker (bass) season is starting up.
Although not native to Oklahoma, both the brown and rainbow trout species are seasonally stocked in Bath Lake at Medicine Park through the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation fisheries program. Medicine Park is one of about 10 locations throughout the state that are stocked.
When it started warming up last weekend after the big freeze plunged Oklahoma into subzero temperatures, I went by Bath Lake to see if anyone was trout fishing. Sunday’s temperature was hovering just around the 60-degree mark; however, I’m not sure what the actual water temperature was. The lake was still about half frozen on top, with some melt going on.
Trout feed most actively in water temperatures from 52 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit, according to information at flyfisherman.com.
“Water temperature is especially important for fly fishers,” said Tom Rosenbauer, a nationally known fly-fishing mentor and author. “Whereas with bait fishing, a slow-moving fish might smell the bait and slowly inhale it, but with fly fishing you’re looking for actively feeding fish that you have to entice with the right presentation and pattern. You want temperature on your side.”
My Sunday trip to Bath Lake only found two people fly fishing, a man and young boy. I know not to ever assume anything, but it looked like a father and son with identical hats and fly-fishing gear. They were at a distance at the bottom of the waterfall, so I used the zoom lens on my camera and then moved on. I’m not sure if they were catching anything, but it looked like they were enjoying a pleasant afternoon together.
Trout season at Bath Lake runs until March 15.
As for lunker (bass) season, ODWC Fishing Coordinator Skylar St. Ives said February and March are the pre-spawn months for largemouth bass and several other fish species in Oklahoma. During the pre-spawn months, they move from their deep wintering areas into transition zones near their eventual spawning area, he said in an article on wildlifedepartment.com
St. Ives encouraged anglers to look to target primary and secondary points of major creek arms or shallow bays and coves, where there are quick changes in depth, with shad and bluegill imitation lures such as lipped crankbaits, lipless crankbaits, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits, swimbaits and bladed jigs. He said the biggest bass will really start to become active when water temperatures begin to stabilize at or above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
A hawk hunting for prairie dogs
This is really switching gears from fish to prairie dogs but after I left Bath Lake Sunday afternoon, I decided to take a drive through the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and see what the snowmelt looked like and if any other animals were out wandering around.
I didn’t see any buffalo or antelope out and about, but I did come across a hawk hunting prairie dogs out by the Holy City. It was interesting to watch as a few prairie dogs near their holes begin to jump up and down all excited and were chattering away with their forelegs in the air. I watched them for a minute until, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a hawk come swooping in low, gliding over the prairie dog homes. The excited chatter was to warn the community that danger was nearby.
The predator landed and waited right in the middle of the community, waiting for an opportunity to snag a snack but the wary prairie dogs had already dove into their holes, waiting the danger out underground. I did see one brave prairie dog laying low to the ground near his hole watching the hawk. He had been one of the excited ones warning the others when the bird first showed up.
The hawk’s patience lasted about 10 to 15 minutes and then he was up and away to survey other parts of the prairie. Within just a few minutes, most of the prairie dogs were back up around ground and life was back to normal.
OUTDOOR TRAILS & TALES