Back in the good old days – which probably weren’t nearly as good as I like to remember them – it was pretty easy to keep up with outdoors news here in the Red River Valley.
You either made the news yourself, you knew someone who made the news, you knew someone who knew someone who made the news, or you went to the mailbox.
The mailbox? Yes, where you would reach inside and open up a manila envelope containing the weekly press releases issued by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).
In fact, that latter example – an ODWC news release delivered to my mailbox courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service – is exactly how I learned about Atoka County game warden Larry Luman’s huge Bryan County typical whitetail buck that he tagged a couple of decades ago.
As local folks might remember, the Luman buck, a former Oklahoma state record typical whitetail, was taken by archery gear as Luman bowhunted in November 1997. The buck, which now ranks No. 4 all-time in the Sooner State’s Cy Curtis Program database, featured a final net score of 185 6/8-inches.
But I digress because that was then and this is now, a modern era where outdoors news travels remarkably fast thanks to agency Web site updates and/or e-mailed news releases from Oklahoma City and Austin.
And sometimes outdoors news travels even faster, by way of almost instantaneous social media posts that are displayed on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram.
In fact, I came across news just the other day of a recent Lake Texoma Oklahoma-side lake record white bass – or sand bass as many of us call them – by checking out the ODWC Instagram page.
On that page was a photo of Kylee Miller or Erick, Okla., who on August 4 reportedly used live bait to land a 3.75-pound white bass in the Buncombe Creek area of Texoma. Incidentally, Miller’s big sand bass – which measured 18-inches in length and 13.5-inches in girth – was officially weighed and certified at the Kingston One Stop Store.
No matter how you report the news of that big Texoma sand bass – either by old school snail mail or new school social media – it’s a big one.
So big that the sand bass would have also been the Texas side lake record at Texoma, a spot that is held by Robert Blair’s Feb. 8, 1994 record white bass that weighed 3.41-pounds and measured 18-inches in length.
To be sure, white bass can certainly get bigger than either Texoma example, although it is indeed quite rare.
In Texas, the Lone Star State’s benchmark white bass is a huge 5.56-pound sandy pulled from the Colorado River on March 31, 1977 by angler David Cordill, a fish that measured 20.75-inches in length. And in Oklahoma, the state record sandy is a 4-pound, 9.6-ounce fish that was pulled from Kaw Lake on April 6, 2013 by Miguel Farias, a fish that measured 20-inches in length.
While on the subject of record fish, it might be worth examining the topic of what you the reader should do if you catch a big fish that might qualify for either a lake record or even a Sooner State benchmark.
According to the 2017-2018 Oklahoma Fishing Regulation Guide (available at area license vendors, tackle stores, or online at www.wildlifedepartment.com), for a potential lake record like the one recently landed by Miller, the fish will have to reach some species specific numbers.
To qualify for the Sooner State’s Lake Record Program, ODWC says that a potential lake record catch must be larger than the following: a six-pound largemouth bass; a four-pound smallmouth bass; a two-pound spotted bass; a two-pound crappie; a 15-pound channel catfish; a 40-pound blue or flathead catfish; a three-pound white bass; a 20-pound striped bass; an 8-pound hybrid striped bass; a five-pound walleye/saugeye; a one-pound sunfish; or a 40-pound paddlefish.
Next, you’ll need to have that potential lake record fish certified at an official Lake Record Keeper location. Such record keeping locations like the one mentioned above in Kingston can be found on the ODWC Web site (www.wildlifedepartment.com).
What about a potential Oklahoma state record fish? To have such a catch verified as a Sooner State benchmark, keep the following official ODWC rules (described here thanks to the 2017-2018 Fishing Regulations booklet) in mind:
1. Fish must be caught on rod and line and must be hooked and played
by only one person. (Except for unrestricted division, which recognizes
fish species taken by legal means other than rod and reel such as bow and
arrow, gig, spear, trotline, jugline, limbline, etc. These records must tie or
exceed the weight of the existing rod and reel record.)
2. Fish must be caught in accordance with Oklahoma fishing regulations.
3. No fish caught from any hatchery or commercial put-and-take lake is eligible.
4. Accredited or certified weight scales must be used to weigh the fish. Accredited steel measuring tapes must be used to measure the fish. The fish should be measured from tip of the snout to the end of the tail, with fish laid flat on a ruler, mouth closed and tail lobes pressed together, giving length of fish in inches. Measure the girth of the fish in inches around its widest point. Three witnesses, one of which must be an employee of the Wildlife Department, must witness the weighing and measuring of the fish and sign the affidavit.
5. The fish may be frozen, but must be in a thawed, natural, live-weight condition when approved by a Wildlife Department biologist or technician. Preserve the fish until you receive an official letter of verification from the director of the Wildlife Department.
6. A clear photograph showing a close-up side view of the fish must accompany the completed fish affidavit form. All photographs become the property of the Wildlife Department.
7. The Wildlife Department reserves the right to collect fish scale, tissue or spine samples to check fish identification and to refuse any questionable fish affidavit submitted. The affidavit must be submitted within 30 days of the date the fish is caught.
8. With the exception of grass carp, no restricted exotic species will be eligible for state record fish recognition.
And there you have it, a crash course on how to go about claiming a new lake record – or maybe even a state record – for a game fish caught here in Oklahoma.
Accomplish that rare angling task and who knows? Maybe you and your catch will be the ones that make up the next electronic news bit and accompanying photo that goes viral across cyber space.
Thanks to the Internet and the ODWC social media pages, perhaps the new best friend that a Red River Valley outdoor writer can have.
Lynn Burkhead is Senior Writer for the Outdoor Channel, World Fishing Network and Sportsman Channel and lives in Denison, Texas