According to Oklahoma’s Department of Tourism, the state of Oklahoma has more shoreline than the Atlantic and Gulf coastline combined and wears its Lake Country badge with honor. In fact, if you are an angler living in the middle of the state you are literally within minutes of some of the nation’s best bass fishing.
Paul George is a professed angler and recently held his first charity fishing tournament on California’s Castaic Lake. A large contingent of George’s new teammates and staff joined the fun including recently-crowned MVP, Russell Westbrook, Head Coach Billy Donovan, and Thunder GM Sam Presti.
Josh Huestis, a native of Montana and life-long fishing enthusiast won the event. No details on Huesti’s winning weight total, but by the looks of the whopper Donovan landed and this event report on the Thunders’ NBA home website, it’s unlikely it posed much of a threat to the world record. However, that did little to diminish the fun for everyone involved, or the rekindling of childhood memories for Paul George.
As a kid, George and his Dad, Paul George Sr., fished at Lake Castaic quite a bit. It was somewhat bittersweet to learn that this trip was George’s first return to one of his favorite childhood fishing holes in twenty years. This reminded me that it has been almost 40 years since I have visited mine.
When I was growing up, my family and I spent our vacations and many Spring and Summer weekends on the Lake of the Arbuckles in Murray county. This little southern Oklahoma lake became our home away from home for many reasons, but mainly because it’s beautiful. Clear water from three mountain streams fill the lake nestled in the tree-covered foothills of the ancient Arbuckle Mountains. Those quiet mornings spent skimming across my childhood oasis felt like heaven on earth.
My Dad’s vacations were always in July, the hottest month in the state of Oklahoma, so we spent the heat of the day playing in the cool clear water in some isolated cove or water skiing, and did our fishing at night.
I don’t care if it has been forty years since visiting the lake, if Paul George called me today and said, “RK, I want to catch a mess of crappie...” I could take him to our spot up the Buckhorn end of the lake and he and I would fill an ice chest with fish by 11PM.
Pssshaw!! Did you think I would pinpoint the spot? It’s a secret, shared with us by a grateful old gentleman who had been crippled in a car accident and found a very large black water snake in the back of his boat. Unsure whether the snake was harmless or not, he promised to divulge the secret location of “the crappie hole” if my Dad would help him get the snake out of his boat.
His fear was that the snake was a Water Moccasin, a poisonous viper somewhat common to southern Oklahoma. Water Moccasins, also known as Cottonmouths, can also be aggressive and the old man was afraid that in his condition he might get bitten.
Dad would have helped, secret fishing hole or not, and readily agreed to lend a hand. When he got to the boat, sure enough, there was a full grown Water Moccasin curled up on the top of a fishing basket trying to get to the fish inside.
Dad will not hurt non-poisonous snakes, but a water viper this size (just over three feet long) posed a danger to everyone in the campground. I won’t go into the gruesome details, but Dad took care of the problem with the business end of a boat oar.
Exceedingly grateful the danger had passed, the old man invited us for a fish fry that evening. We offered to help clean the fish, but he said that wouldn’t be necessary and said to just come running when he rang the dinner bell around 6.
It was a feast. Deep-fried crappie fillets with fried potatoes, garden fresh green beans, and cornbread. After we ate, our new friend gathered us around the campfire to divulge the location of his secret fishing hole..... and that’s all I’m gonna tell you because he swore us all to secrecy that night.
Sorry. My Dad battled a deadly reptile to gain this knowledge. If George wants to go, I’ll take him, but he has to go blindfolded. Sorry Paul, but a promise is a promise.
Finding “the crappie hole” completed the picture of Lake Arbuckle as our perfect vacation getaway; though, what made it even more perfect was the fact this little slice of paradise was only 60 minutes from our driveway.
After reading the details of George’s fishing tournament it occurred to me that he is basically living in fisherman’s heaven now. Arbuckle, also considered one of the top bass fishing lakes in the nation is minutes from OKC. Lake Thunderbird just east of Norman is even closer, and look at this 12 lb. monster the Department of Wildlife pulled from Lake Arcadia....
... that is literally walking distance from Edmond —the place most of the Thunder players call home.
Point being, if fishing offers Paul George, and fellow Thunder newcomer, Patrick Patterson, another self-proclaimed outdoors-man, their place of zen, their way of recharging their mental batteries, or just a place to leave the stress in their lives on the bank for a while, then playing for the Thunder is a perfect match.
These are just a few examples of the fishing opportunities Oklahoma has to offer. Suffice it to say, from fishing for Striped Bass during their Christmas run in the shallow sand flats of Lake Texoma to night fishing in the heat of summer, Oklahoma offers fisherman 365 days of pure scaly bliss.
For opera buffs like Pau Gasol, Oklahoma may not be their cup of tea. However for fishermen like Paul George there is a Bass Pro Shop, one of the sponsors of George’s fishing tournament, sitting just spitting distance from Chesapeake Energy Arena and a Cabela’s just south of the Kilpatrick Turnpike on the south-side of Edmond.
To top it off, according to this story in gameandfishmag.com, Oklahoma is experiencing a major boon cycle as a result of the drought that ended in 2014. When the water receded at the height of the drought it exposed vast areas normally under water and when the rains returned, those areas grew up in weeds and brush.
When the water rose and reclaimed those once exposed areas, all that vegetation released nutrients that resulted in “a massive phytoplankton bloom.” This bloom fed a new crop of baitfish, served as an excellent spawning habitat and gave cover for the all the new baby bass, also known as new hatch fry and fingerlings.
My guess is that Oklahoma will be one of the hottest fishing states in the nation for the next five to 10 years, and Paul George is getting in on the ground floor.
I hope he gives Oklahoma fishing a shot, I know he won’t be disappointed. And if George is still around this time next summer, I might take him to “the crappie hole” and forget to bring the blindfold.
Well... that is if he can keep a 40 year-old secret.