Game Fish

Bass

There are six species of bass in Oklahoma, all of which can be found in the Cherokee Nation Territory.   

Largemouth Bass

Micropterus salmoides

Description: Largemouth bass are hearty robust fish that can reach sizes up to 11 pounds and be 25 inches long. They are olive-green to yellowish with a white underside and a dark lateral line running the length of the body. Three dark bars are obvious on the cheeks. The spinous and soft ray dorsal fins are barely connected to one another. The mouth is large with the upper jaw extending behind the back of the eye.

Habitat: Largemouth bass thrive in lakes and ponds as well as deeper, quiet pools of large streams. In

Diet: Insects, frogs, crustaceans, and small fish

Distribution: Most of the Eastern United States, including all of Oklahoma.

Spawning: In Oklahoma, largemouth bass spawns from April to May when the water temperature is approximately 65 degrees F. The male will guard and defend the nest even after the eggs hatch and the young disperse.

Smallmouth Bass

Micropterus dolomiue

Description: Smallmouth bass are bronze or olive-green with thin vertical lines down the body. The mouth is smaller than largemouth and the upper jaw does not extend beyond the eye. The spinous and soft ray dorsal fins are broadly connected.

Habitat: Prefer clear rocky streams

Diet: crayfish, fish, and aquatic insects

Distribution: Eastern Oklahoma lakes and tributaries

Spawning: Spawning takes place from April to May. Spawning nest sites typically occur in flowing waters. The male will fan the nest with his pectoral fins and protect the developing eggs and hatchlings until they leave the nest. They are olive-green to yellowish which gradually gets white closer to the underside. 

 

Spotted Bass

Micropterus punctulatus

Description: Spotted bass are long, slim, and elongated with a vertical line along its side made up of dark blotches. Cheek stripes are not as visible as on the smallmouth. It closely resembles largemouth bass except rarely exceeds 1.5 pounds and 15 inches.

Habitat: Prefer small, clear, spring-fed streams. Tolerate turbid water with silted bottoms better than smallmouth.

Diet: Crayfish, small fish, and aquatic insects

Distribution: Eastern half of Oklahoma including all of Cherokee territory.

Spawning: Breeding occurs in April and May.

 

Striped Bass

Morone saxatilis

Description: Striped bass, often referred to as “striper” are silver in color with 7-8 horizontal dark lines along the side. The body is moderately deep, compressed, and more streamlined than the white bass. Striper are visually similar to white bass, except the lines on striper are unbroken, and the back just behind the head is not arched as it is in white bass. Most striped bass weigh less than 10 pounds. However, in freshwater striped bass can grow to exceed 30 pounds. The state record for striper is 47 lb., 8 oz., and 48 in., caught in the lower Illinois River. 

Habitat: Rivers with strong currents

Diet: Stripe bass are carnivores that feed on fish and crustaceans.

Distribution: Statewide

Spawning: Spawning is triggered by water temperatures of 55-70 degrees. Striper eggs are semi-buoyant, require exceptionally strong currents, and can be carried downstream long distances. If the current is not strong enough the eggs will sink and suffocate in the silted river bottom.  

White Bass

Morone chrysops

Description: White bass is often referred to as “sand bass” robust fish with a streamlined moderately deep, and compressed body. Silver in color on the sides and gray to steely blue towards the top. Along the sides are 6-10 horizontal dark stripes. The 2 dorsal fins are separate, the first has 9 spines, and the second has 1 spine with 13 rays. White bass have small heads and large mouths with the lower jaw protruding out past the upper.

Habitat: Rivers and lakes, typically found in large schools.

Diet: Smaller fish such as threadfin and gizzard shad

Distribution: Northeastern Oklahoma, including most of Cherokee Territory.

Spawning: Early spring, primarily in March and April. Schools move to shallow gravel bottoms in streams and lakes to spawn.

Crappie
White Crappie

Pomoxis annularis

Description: Deep-bodied sunfish with an overall silver body with distinct vertical bands composed of blue/gray spots. The white crappie is most easily distinguished from the black crappie by 6 dorsal spines and vertical bands on the sides. White crappie can grow up to 3 pounds.

Habitat: Tolerant of turbid waters and can be found in almost all kinds of waters. Crappie often gather around submerged trees and brush.

Diet: smaller fish

Distribution: Central to Eastern Oklahoma including all of Cherokee Territory

Spawning: Crappie often Spawn in April when water temperatures are around 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit, often in deeper water. After spawning the males will protect the eggs and fry

Black Crappie

Pomoxis nigromaculatus

Description: A deep-bodied sunfish that is distinguished from white crappie by its overall darker appearance with irregular blotching on the sides. Black crappie also has a longer dorsal fin with 7-8 spines. Black crappie can occasionally grow to and exceed 3 pounds.

Habitat: Black crappie prefer clear water with plentiful vegetation and cover. They do well in large clear lakes. Black crappie are more successful where they do not have to compete with white crappie.

Diet: smaller fish and aquatic insects

Distribution: Central to Eastern Oklahoma including all of Cherokee Territory

Spawning: Crappie often Spawn in April when water temperatures are around 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit, often in deeper water. After spawning the males will protect the eggs and fry

 

Paddlefish

Polyodon spasthul

Description: Paddlefish are large prehistoric fish that can be easily identified by a long paddle-shaped rostrum that is used for electroreception. Paddlefish are strictly planktivores. They have a big mouth and their large gape allows them to filter plankton out of large volumes of water by swimming through the water with their mouth open. They are seemingly scale-less and gray with a deeply forked tail. They are long-lived fish that don’t reach sexual maturity until they are several years old. Paddlefish can easily weigh over 100 pounds with the state record being 164 pounds and 81.75 inches long.

Habitat: Paddlefish have adapted to survive in rivers and lakes and occur often in deep low current areas.

Diet: Zooplankton

Distribution: Found in most large rivers such as the Arkansas, Grand Neosho, and Red River systems. Abundant in large lakes such as the Grand Lake and the Fort Gibson Reservoir.

Spawning: Occurs from March to June when the water levels rise and the temperatures are about 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit. Both sexes congregate over gravel beds and sandbars to release and fertilize their eggs.

Catfish
Blue Catfish

Ictalurus furcatus

Description: A large, heavily bodied fish that is blue to pale gray with a white underbelly. Blue catfish have a deeply forked tail, a hump in front of the dorsal fin, and a straight anal fin. They can grow large, up to 40 inches and 40 pounds with the state record being 98 pounds and 54.5 inches long.

Habitat: Usually inhabit large lakes and deep swift rivers. Blue catfish are omnivorous and feed on a diverse range of vegetation as well as living and dead animals.

Distribution: Found in most of the state, mostly in the Arkansas River and its tributaries.

Spawning: Breeding occurs in late spring and early summer when water temperatures reach around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. They prefer hollow logs or crevices, underwater holes, or mud banks. The male will guard and tend to the eggs until after hatching. Once the eggs hatch he will tend to them for a short time until they disperse.

Channel Catfish

Ictalurus punctatus

Description: A long slender catfish gray-blue in color with a white underbelly. Small dark spots are randomly speckled on the sides and fade as the fish grows larger. Channel catfish have a deeply forked tail, no distinct hump before the dorsal fin, and a curved edge across the anal fin with 24-29 rays. Adults grow up to 30 inches and 15 pounds. They can grow larger and the state record is 35.15 pounds and 39.25 inches long.

Habitat: Found in streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds. They are often found near cover or deep holes and venture out to shallower water to feed at night. Channel catfish are omnivorous and feed on a diverse range of vegetation as well as living and dead animals.

Distribution: Found statewide including the entirety of the Cherokee Nation Reservation.

Spawning: Spawning usually takes place in May and June. The male will clean out a hole in the bank or an appropriate permanent cover. The female will deposit her eggs in the hole and the male will fertilize and guard them until they hatch and disperse.

Flathead Catfish

Pylodictis olivaris

Description: The flathead catfish can be easily identified by its broad flat head. The lower jaw extends slightly past the top and its tail is not forked like the channel and blue catfish. Instead, it is just slightly notched. Adults are yellow to dark brown on the top and mottling of the same color on the sides with a yellow to the white-colored underbelly. This species of catfish can reach 70 pounds. The state record is 78.8 pounds and 49 inches long.

Habitat: Flathead catfish are tolerant of various water conditions and turbidity. They often prefer deep holes and channels of the lakes and rivers they live.

Diet: effective piscivores feeding almost exclusively on fish.

Distribution: Found statewide including the entirety of the Cherokee Nation Reservation.

Spawning: Occurs in late spring and early summer in nest depressions or holes. The male will guard and tend to the eggs until after hatching. Once the eggs hatch he will tend to them for a short time until they disperse.

Trout

Oklahoma stocks two species of Trout. Both species are stocked in the Illinois River below Tenkiller Dam in the Cherokee Nation Reservation. Rainbow trout are stocked every 2 weeks during trout seasons.

Rainbow Trout

Oncorhynchus mykiss

Description: Rainbow trout have a streamlined moderately compressed body. A large mouth contains teeth on the jaws, roof of the mouth, and tongue. Their base color is blueish to green, silvery on both sides, and white on the underbelly. A pink band runs horizontally from behind the eye to the base of the tail fin. They can grow into large fish with the state record being 11 pounds and 4.32 ounces and 29 3/16 inches long.  

Habitat: Strictly a cold-water fish that cannot survive in water with a temperature above 70 degrees. In Oklahoma, this limits their range. 

Diet: Terrestrial aquatic insects and small fish.

Distribution: Rainbow trout have been introduced to the Blue, Mountain Fork, and Illinois Rivers. Of those rivers, the Illinois River is the only one that is located in the Cherokee Nation Reservation.

Spawning: Spawning occurs in winter and early spring. However, natural reproduction rarely occurs in Oklahoma.

Brown Trout

Salmo trutta

Description: Brown trout have a streamlined moderately compressed body. A large mouth with the upper jaw extending just behind the eye. The mouth contains teeth on the jaws, the roof of the mouth, and the tip of the tongue. The back and top of the sides are an olive-brown color with spots on the body. The sides have red or orange spots, often with blue halos. No lateral band is present. The underbelly is yellowish-white. They usually do not grow more than 6-7 pounds. The current state record is 17 pounds and 4 .64 ounces and 30 3/8 inches long.

Habitat: Brown trout do best in streams and rivers and prefer deep water below riffles and areas of thick cover. They prefer cool water but can tolerate higher temperatures. They typically stay under dense cover during the day and come out at dusk and dawn to feed.

Diet: Young feed on aquatic insects while adults prefer fish and crayfish.

Distribution: Currently brown trout are stocked in the Lower Mountain Fork River and the Lower Illinois River below Lake Tenkiller. In the Cherokee Nation Reservation the only location for brown trout in the Lower Illinois River.

Spawning: Spawning occurs in winter and early spring. However, spawning of brown trout has not been recorded in Oklahoma