April in Oklahoma is a sportsmen's paradise.
The fish really start biting in April and spring turkey season opens Saturday in most of the state.
Warmer weather and spring rains will trigger white bass and paddlefish to start their annual spawning runs from the lakes to the streams. Crappie and walleye begin moving into the shallow water closer to the shoreline to spawn.
After very low reproduction in 2011 due to the severe drought, the state had a “pretty good reproduction in some areas this past year,” said Rod Smith of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
“The combined total of that is just an average total population number, but we are lacking a lot of those 2-year-old birds that we would normally see because of the drought.
“The number of adult toms may be lower overall, but there may be a good number of jakes in a lot of areas.”
The western part of the state offers the best turkey hunting.
“The western tier counties about two deep are usually the best for Rio Grandes,” Smith said.
And in the west, Black Kettle, Packsaddle, Cooper and the Ellis County wildlife management areas are normally the best public lands for turkey hunting.
The birds will still be in large groups on opening day. Decoys often work better earlier in the season while calling may or may not be successful, Smith said.
“It's interesting to me how different toms are when they are with that group of hens,” Smith said. “Sometimes you call a tom and they will walk right away from the group and toward you. And sometimes they won't. They are just real individual how they respond.”
The spring turkey season in southeastern Oklahoma, where state wildlife officials are trying to rebuild the population of the Eastern species of wild turkeys, doesn't open until April 22.
The season ends statewide May 6. Bag limits vary by county.
When the redbuds and dogwoods begin to bloom, it's a signal that the white bass, or sand bass, are ready to head up the creeks and tributaries from the lakes to spawn.
The spawning runs are usually triggered when the water temperature hits the lower 50s and spring rains cause the water to rise.
Their annual migration draws anglers to the banks of the creeks where they can fill ice chests full of fish. The white bass will hit jigs, spinners, minnows or anything else resembling a small bait fish.
Among the most popular destinations for white bass runs are Flat Rock and Mill Creek on Lake Eufaula, the Mountain Fork River north of Broken Bow Lake, Horseshoe Bend north of Lake Tenkiller and Pennington Creek on Lake Texoma.
Oklahoma has some outstanding crappie fishing. In fact, Fishound.com recently released a list of the best crappie lakes in the country for big slabs and Lake Eufaula was ranked No. 17 and Oologah Lake was No. 19.
Crappie fishing hits its peak in April as the big females move into shallow water to spawn. Anglers target crappie around rip-rap, coves and brush.
Live minnows and crappie jigs are the most popular bait.
Oklahoma's marlin, the paddlefish, will soon be shooting up the tributaries in the Grand River system to spawn.
Anglers use surf rods and treble hooks to snag the prehistoric looking fish, also called spoonbills.
Grand Lake, Lake Hudson and Fort Gibson are all part of the Grand River system that produces some of the best paddlefishing in the world.
Anglers typically snag paddlefish weighing 30 to 70 pounds but the state record is 125 pounds.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation offers a paddlefish cleaning station at Twin Bridges State Park on Grand Lake.
State wildlife officials will clean an angler's paddlefish and package the meat for free in exchange for the eggs, which they use to make caviar and sell to a wholesaler.
The money earned is used for paddlefish management and research.
Anglers can keep one paddlefish per day, but must stop snagging once they keep a fish. Mondays and Fridays are catch and release days only.
April also is one of the best months to catch walleye as they move into the rocky shorelines to spawn.
They prefer to spawn along dams and bridges on big lakes. Try catching walleye on jigs tipped with large red worms or lures resembling shad.