March is big bass month in Oklahoma. Ten of the top 13 fish on the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's top 20 largemouth bass list were landed in March.
Already this year, Arbuckle Lake has produced a 13-plus pound bass while Broken Bow, McGee Creek and Texoma have coughed up near or 12-plus pounders. The lunker from Texoma is a new lake record.
Royce Harlan, the former owner of Nichols Marine in Norman and an Oklahoma City native, caught the 12-pound, 6-ounce lake record on a Carolina rig last weekend while fishing in a bass tournament that he and his partner won with a 25.54-pound sack. He released the fish after the weigh in.
Harlan, who has retired to the Lake Texoma area, now has two Lake Texoma records. He caught a lake record spotted bass two years ago in March.
Lake Watonga also produced a 13-pound largemouth bass last weekend but it wasn't caught on a rod and reel. An angler fishing in the Watonga Trout Derby saw a fish struggling on the surface so he reached down and grabbed it with his hand.
The largemouth bass weighed 13 pounds, 6 ounces. The angler gave the fish to the game warden and John Stahl, northwest fisheries supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said it was the same fish state wildlife officials had shocked in their spring electro-fishing surveys last year.
“We knew this bass,” Stahl said. “It had an unusual black spot on its head. I called her Ole' Spot. I kind of lost a pet there.”
Last spring, Ole' Spot weighed in at 12 pounds during the spring electro-fishing survey. Feeding on the rainbow trout that gets stocked in Watonga Lake, the fish had grown by pound and half in one year.
“Watonga has monstrous largemouth bass which are due to the trout,” Stahl said. “That's another forage fish for them.”
Rainbow trout were first introduced to Watonga Lake in 1987. Before 1987, Stahl only had documented three bass in Watonga Lake that weighed more than 6 pounds in all of the previous electro fishing surveys of the lake.
Just last spring alone, state wildlife officials documented three bass weighing more than 10 pounds in the electrofishing survey.
State wildlife officials have stocked some of the Florida-strain largemouth bass, which grown bigger and faster, in Watonga Lake. They are going to conduct tests to determine the age of the fish and if it has Florida genes.
“That size, it's got to be,” said Gene Gilliland, assistant chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department. “We never had any bass out of northwest Oklahoma over 7 or 8 pounds that I can remember, until we put a handful of these Florida bass in Watonga.”
Stahl said he doesn't know why the fish was in distress. State wildlife officials are going to have the fish mounted for an educational display.
“She probably choked on a trout,” he said. “Probably, she was at the end of her life. She was full of eggs. It could have just been her time. She sure was a neat fish. I sure hate to see her gone, but there are more of them out there like that.”