Oologah Lake is a big, 29,500-acre reservoir on the Verdigris River in northeast Oklahoma.
It’s also my home lake.
With 11 parks, it’s a popular summer destination near Tulsa for camping, recreation and, of course, loads of angling options for many types of fish. In many places in the U.S., that would all stack up to be considered a premier fishery.
This relatively lower profile means Oologah Lake doesn’t receive the amount of fishing pressure that other local lakes do.
Most locals have their honey hole on the lake where they go to catch dinner or hook a few for the Tuesday night jackpot, but it doesn’t receive the attention of major fishing tournaments.
What Types of Fish are in Oologah Lake?
Species of fish at Oologah Lake of interest to anglers are largemouth bass, white crappie, paddlefish (spoonbill), white bass (sand bass), hybrid striped bass (hybrid stripers), walleye, channel catfish, blue catfish, flathead catfish and bluegill, according to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
There also are some black crappie and smaller fish including sunfish that might wind up in your catch here.
What follows is a look at the most popular fish at Oologah Lake and a bit about how to catch them.
Though bass fishing on Oologah Lake pales in comparison to Grand Lake and other premier bass fisheries, it still can be quite good and less pressured.
Bass fishing is generally best on the east side of the lake in Spencer Creek and Blue Creek, but bass are caught all over the lake.
You will need a boat for the best chance of catching bass on Oologah. There’s too much water to cover, and the shoreline is rough for walking in many places.
Largemouth are the primary black bass species. They are often caught off of brush piles, rip-rap, and flats next to a drop-off.
At best, the water is usually murky, so power fishing presentations like crankbaits and spinnerbaits often do very well.
However, don’t overlook finesse presentations like a Texas rig or shaky head when the bite is tough.
Pick up some of the best bass-fishing techniques in our easy guide.
Oologah Lake is where many locals come to fill their freezer with fish, especially catfish. It’s one of the best catfishing spots in this part of Oklahoma.
Every local has their favorite spot to catfish, but most parks offer easy access to good catfishing.
Due to the lake being so large, it’s an advantage to use a boat, but many catfish anglers have good luck from the bank.
Winganon Bridge nearly cuts the lake in half and is a popular destination for anglers of all species, but it’s definitely attracts catfish (and catfish anglers).
Locals noodle (handfish) for flathead catfish in early summer, typically in June during the spawn.
Blue catfish and channel catfish are popular amongst anglers using jugs, trotlines and rods. The average catfish is 5-10 pounds; however, 50-pound-plus catfish are regularly caught.
Living close by, I’ve heard countless stories of giant catfish being caught.
In the 1980s, my grandpa ran a trotline across the bottom of the river channel and caught a 75 pound flathead.
In the 2010s, a couple of my friends noodled a 50-pound flathead. And in the 2020s, I caught and released a 25-pound blue cat on a jug.
So there are plenty of opportunities to catch giant catfish out of Oologah Lake.
Find more bait and rigging tips for catfish fishing in our simple guide.
Paddlefish, commonly known as spoonbill, have been stocked in Oologah Lake for many years.
They’re regularly accidentally snagged below the dam by catfish and hybrid striper anglers, and I’ve seen several surface in the Verdigris River north of the lake while sand bass fishing.
There are large 50-pound-plus paddlefish swimming in Oologah Lake and the Verdigris River; however, the most common are 10-pounders.
You will need a boat to snag a spoonbill unless you’re below the dam past the 1,000-foot marker. There are special regulations for snagging, so check the ODWC website for snagging on Oologah Lake.
Recently Keystone Lake exploded in popularity as Oklahoma’s best paddlefish lake. Many fisheries biologists believe Oologah Lake could be next.
Not many fish can draw a crowd.
However, during the crazy weather patterns Oklahoma has every spring, if crappie are biting, anglers will line the bank during a rainstorm for a chance at a mess of tasty panfish for dinner.
Oologah Lake is no exception.
One of the most popular places is the rock quarry pit at Hawthorn Bluff campground and fishing area. Other popular crappie spots are the fishing docks at the campgrounds around the lake and brush piles located all over Oologah Lake.
There are many opportunities to catch crappie from the shore during the spawn. My favorite way is by kayak, though.
Black crappie and white crappie both inhabit the waters of Oologah, but white crappie are more abundant. I typically catch five white crappie to one black crappie using white jigs or live minnows.
I’ve found that sometimes crappie want the jig moving, and sometimes they want it just sitting under a bobber.
White Bass & Hybrid Stripers
One of my favorite fish to catch is a white bass or sand bass, and Oologah Lake is a great place to do it. Pound for pound, they’re one of the hardest fighting fish, and they are delicious table fare.
Hybrids, a cross between white bass and striped bass, have been stocked in Oologah Lake for decades and can be found mixed in with schools of sandies.
During the spring, they run up the Verdigris River to spawn, and that’s one of the best times to catch them, especially if you’re shore fishing.
By summer, they can be found in the middle of the lake or river by trolling with shad-colored crankbaits or spoons during the summer.
To have the best day of white bass fishing for most of the year, you’ll need a boat. I’ve been chasing them in my kayak for years now and have had great success all over Oologah Lake.
They’re not easily caught from the shore unless you’re below the dam or on Winganon Bridge. However, you can also catch them from the banks, especially fishing in the backs of all the creeks during the spring spawn.
When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releases water, below the dam is the best place to catch hybrid stripers using a large white jig.
Bluegill are a blast to catch and are the best way to get a kid interested in fishing.
Bluegill are prolific all around Oologah Lake, especially under fishing docks and in brushy structure.
Catching bluegill is simple. Just use live worms or similar baits on a smallish hook with a weight and bobber. They’re typically one to two feet deep during the summer.
The best thing about bluegill is you don’t need a boat, and they’re virtually everywhere around the lake.
Walleye have been planted here but in my experience are not as regularly caught in Oologah Lake as other species of fish.
That said, shortly after they shut the water off below the dam, the walleye fishing can be great. One summer as a kid, I remember my dad and I fished from the bank below the dam with minnows and bobbers and caught several walleye for dinner on multiple occasions.
Timing this is the most challenging part, and I know guys who troll for walleye on occasion, but as I previously mentioned, they’re a rare fish for Oologah Lake.
Oologah Lake Fishing Tips
When To Fish
The best fishing on Oologah Lake takes place in the spring, when most fish are spawning in shallower water and are aggressively feeding or defending their territory.
I’ve had spring days when I caught a mess of crappie, sandbass, and a couple of catfish.
The morning hours are generally the best, followed by the late afternoon and evening hours.
Where To Fish
Fishing in one of the many creeks will offer the highest chance of success.
For largemouth bass, fishing the northern end and eastern side of the lake is best, whereas white bass tend to stay in the middle of the lake along the river and creek channels.
Tips & Tactics
The water is often murky, so using baits with scents, bright colors and vibration will often work the best.
I do my best to avoid fishing next to others, but I also know that if many people are gathered in the same area, the fish are probably biting there.
Planning Your Trip
Oologah Lake is 40 minutes north of Tulsa.
Besides fishing and camping, there are a few other popular activities, such as visiting the Will Rogers birthplace that overlooks the lake and the museum in Claremore.
If you visit during the winter, there is lots of excellent public hunting land around the lake.
The Corps manages the lake and also has a pond open to the public on weekdays at the lake headquarters.
Getting To Oologah Lake
Most people come through the town of Oologah on Highway 88 on the west side of the reservoir, sometimes also known as Lake Oologah.
You can access Hawthorn Bluff Campground, the Corps lake headquarters, and the dam from the highway at the southern end of the lake, located in Rogers County.
Access from the east side is by Route 66 and down county roads. Spencer Creek and Blue Creek are popular destinations on the east side of the lake.
The lake’s northern end stretches up into Nowata County and is accessed using Highway 169 to county roads to the Double Creek boat ramp near the town of Nowata.
All around the lake is public land, except for Redbud Marina on the lake’s southern end.
However, walking the bank in many areas is difficult at times with the bluffs and rip-rap banks. Several parks offer a tremendous amount of bank access that has relatively easy walking.
There are a few fishing docks open to the public. However, if they’re next to a boat ramp, chances are you cannot fish off of that dock, so pay attention to the signs.
Putting a boat on Oologah Lake isn’t tricky because boat ramps are all over the lake, because they are in campgrounds and most parks all around the lake.
Camping & Accommodations
As mentioned earlier, Oologah Lake is managed by the Corps of Engineers. This means there are several campgrounds at which to stay.
Hawthorn Bluff, Blue Creek, and Spencer Creek have RV and tent camping available, with restrooms scattered around each park. There are a few other tent camping areas besides those more developed campgrounds.
However, you’re not allowed to camp outside one of the designated camping areas.
Unless you visit during a busy holiday, finding a place to camp shouldn’t be a problem. The locals tend to be friendly, myself included. If you happen to see me out there, stop me and say “hi,” I’d love to speak with you!