Oklahoma has more than its fair share of fishable water. From the mighty Lake Texoma to the Arkansas and Illinois Rivers, not to mention countless mountain streams, you’re never far from fish in the Sooner State. None more so than the Oklahoma State fish: White Bass.
Commonly known as Sand Bass, these guys are one of the most common catches in Oklahoma. They’re also one of the most popular. What makes them special? When’s the best time to catch them, and where should you go? Most importantly, are they any good to eat? We’ll answer all these questions and more in this short angler’s guide.
Why White Bass?
White Bass are the little cousin of America’s favorite sport fish: Striped Bass. They average around 1–2 pounds, with a state record of 5 lbs, 1 oz. White and Striped Bass sometimes mix to make the larger Hybrid Striped Bass, but pure White Bass aren’t exactly giants.
Not to worry. Whatever White Bass lack in bulk, they more than make up for in fighting spirit. These little devils are happy to take your bait, and will try and take the rest of your tackle with them if you’re not careful!
The other thing that White Bass have on their side is sheer numbers. Around one and a half million pounds of them are caught each year by Oklahoma anglers, and their population is still completely healthy – even without stocking them! In fact, there are so many out there that most waters have no creel or bag limits on them.
When and Where?
As you might have guessed, you can find White Bass just about everywhere in Oklahoma. They mainly live in lakes and reservoirs, except in spring, when they migrate upriver to spawn. March through May, any river or stream that leads to a lake is likely to be packed full of them.
The best White Bass rivers in Oklahoma are the Arkansas, Upper Illinois, and Deep Fork. All of these are great for shore-bound anglers due to their easy bank access. For boat-based anglers, nothing beats the stretch of the Neosho River north of Fort Gibson Lake.
And that’s just the spring run. During the rest of the year, you’ll find more Sand Bass than you’ll know what to do with in Oklahoma’s lakes and reservoirs. Lake Texoma is the most famous, but Fort Gibson Lake, Robert S. Kerr Reservoir, and pretty much any large body of water will hold fish.
Good to Eat?
White Bass have a reputation of being almost inedibly fishy. Don’t believe the hype! They do have a lot of flavor, but they certainly don’t deserve such a bad rap. You just need to know how to prepare them.
Put the fish on ice as soon as you catch it, and cook it fresh when you get home. For the best results, carefully cut away any red, as this holds the strongest flavor. The downside is that you don’t get much meat per fish, but there are more than enough fish to make up for that.
Once you’ve prepared your meat, it’s time to cook it. White Bass has a similar consistency to Cod, so it’s great for frying. You can also grill or broil fillets, although you should marinate them in some kind of sauce first to keep them juicy.
The Oklahoma State Fish: A Real Family Favorite
White Bass are a great all-rounder – fun to catch, but small enough for the little ones to reel in on their own. On top of that, they’re so plentiful that you don’t need to worry about getting skunked. Add in some great frying fare, and you can really see why they’re the state fish of Oklahoma.
Ever caught White Bass in Oklahoma? What’s your favorite spot – Or your favorite recipe? Drop us a line in the comments below. We love hearing from you!