Two potential state record fish swimming in Lake Thunderbird
One of the hardest parts about catching a state record fish is knowing where to go fishing. That piece of the puzzle just got a whole lot easier - at least when it comes to big saugeye. Wildlife Department fisheries biologists recently released two saugeye, weighing in at more than 10 pounds each, into Lake Thunderbird near Norman. The two big fish were collected and released during a research project examining the feeding habits of saugeye, bass and crappie. The current state record saugeye, a 9-pound, 14-ounce fish, was caught from Lake Thunderbird in 1992.
"Lake Thunderbird has a very healthy population of saugeye. It wouldn't surprise me at all if the new state record came out of this lake very soon," said Jeff Boxrucker, fisheries research biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. According to Boxrucker, the saugeye stocking program at Lake Thunderbird has been very successful. "We first stocked saugeye in Lake Thunderbird in 1985 for two reasons: first, to provide an additional fishing opportunity and second, to help control the over-populated crappie," Boxrucker said. "Saugeye eat small crappie which allow the remaining crappie to grow bigger and healthier. Both our annual surveys and discussions with anglers have been very positive in regards to the crappie population at Thunderbird, it is much more healthy than in was 10 or 20 years ago." Saugeye are a hybrid fish produced at the Wildlife Department's Byron Fish Hatchery in northcentral Oklahoma. Hatchery biologists collect native sauger from the Arkansas River in northeast Oklahoma and walleye from Canton Lake in northwest Oklahoma and then cross the two species to produce saugeye. While not many anglers grew up fishing for the toothy saugeye, fishing techniques are easy to learn, according to Boxrucker. "There's very few fishermen who fish exclusively for saugeye, but it's something that everyone should try," Boxrucker said.
A white or chartreuse jig drifted or retrieved across a rocky point is a great way draw a strike from a saugeye. "One of the best baits is a jig tipped with a worm, but you have to be on your toes, because saugeye have a very light bite that can sometimes be tricky to detect," Boxrucker said. Boxrucker suggested bank anglers try fishing for saugeye at Lake Thunderbird near the Hog Creek boat ramp when there is a north wind and Fisherman's Point when there is a south wind. Those fishing from a boat might try the point at the Little Axe boat ramp, Sailboat Point, the old submerged road bed in Little Axe Cove, and the points on both sides of Clear Bay. "Just remember to keep the wind in your face and fish along a rocky bank in the late evening and there is a good chance you could hook a saugeye," Boxrucker said. "From around Christmas to Valentines Day is one of the best times of the year to catch saugeye, because they are actively feeding right now. In the summer months they retreat to deep water, but right now you can catch them from the bank." For more information about fishing in Oklahoma log on to wildlifedepartment.com or pick up a copy of the "2006 Oklahoma Fishing Guide." For more information about Lake Thunderbird log on to www.touroklahoma.com.