Oklahoma’s newest bass regulation went into effect Sunday, September 11, 2022 bringing a welcomed treat to your lunch and dinner table. There is no longer a minimum length limit on largemouth and smallmouth bass in ponds and lakes. The daily limit of six (6) remains in effect and only one (1) may be over 16-inches.
This new rule seeks to improve the overall size and health of Oklahoma’s black bass population, primarily focusing on largemouth bass. ODWC recommends harvesting 8-inch to 15-inch largemouth bass, especially at lakes with an overabundance (see bottom of article for a list of top lakes).
First, it helps to sustain a healthy size structure in a body of water through less competition, meaning more food to go around. Fish can become stunted in small bodies of water. Also, the health of the bass population as well as the prey source declines when there are too many similarly sized mouths to feed.
Second, fish continue to grow for their entire life, but grow the fastest in the first few years. Eating fish under 16-inches means that the fish has had less time to accumulate elements like mercury in their meat that can pose health hazards to humans. Fish over 16-inches are great for catch and release, photos and trophy mounts.
Thirdly, smaller fish tend to have better tasting meat with a more desirable firm texture. Older, larger fish tend to have a fishier taste and mushier texture.
8-inch to 15-inch bass fillets are perfect for fried strips or bites. They also sear well in a pan for fish tacos. Whole fillets can be lightly seasoned and buttered and thrown on the grill, wrapped in foil, for a healthier option.
Largemouth bass are ambush predators that like to hide in brush, rock piles, grass or any other type of structure that provides good cover. Casting live bait or artificial lures and flies toward these types of areas will yield the best results. Keep your lure or bait small in size, less than 3-inches.
Natural/live bait can be drifted below a bobber or fished off the bottom with weight. Small- to medium-sized bait holding hooks and 1/16th up to 1/4th ounce weights are ideal tackle. Grasshoppers, Night crawlers, Red Worms and Minnows also can be used.
Small artificial lures, less than 3” and no more than 1/8th ounce, are ideal tackle for catching eatersize bass. Soft plastics in natural colors paired with a 1/0 offset hook or 1/32nd up to 1/8th ounce jighead are a great starting point. Spinnerbaits, crankbaits and top water lures are also effective. If the water is muddy or cloudy try white, black, red or chartreuse colors. In normal or clear water stick to earth tones like green pumpkin, watermelon, orange, blue, brown, or purple.
Dry flies are great in the summer and fall months. Terrestrial bugs, poppers and dragon flies are all effective, especially in the morning and evening hours. Stripping bead or jighead flies in shades of green, brown, black, orange or purple are great when cast parallel with the shoreline, particularly where there are weed-lines, rocky and/or woody structure.