If you’re looking for the best paddlefish snagging in the world, Oklahoma is your destination.
Oklahoma has produced multiple world record paddlefish, a.k.a. spoonbills, and it’s believed there are still even larger specimens of this ancient fish swimming in the local lakes and rivers.
Paddlefish fishing isn’t like any other fishing in Oklahoma because you snag them instead of catching them with bait or a lure.
To get the job done, you need a strong fishing line on a big surf rod, a sizeable barbless treble-hook, and a considerable weight.
From the bank, you will cast out as far as possible. Then reel the slack in and jerk, reel down and jerk, repeating this process until you can’t reel or jerk anymore. Yes, you will be tired in 5 minutes, so it’s best to take turns with a buddy.
Keep the line tight and hold on when you hook into a paddlefish. The work has just begun; you will reel when the fish gives you some slack, and for the most part, you want to wear the fish out with steady pressure.
Once you get the fish to the shore, handle it as little as possible if you plan on releasing it. Specific days of the week are catch and release only; you can find the Oklahoma paddlefish regulations at the ODWC website.
If you can keep the spoonbill, they are wonderful to eat, as long as you process them correctly.
Hiring a guide offers an angler the highest chance of success of snagging a spoonbill. That’s how two world records were caught in the same year.
But if you prefer to try it on your own (for less money), the following locations are the best paddlefish locations in Oklahoma.
Currently, it seems likely that the world record paddlefish swims in the waters of Keystone Lake, which also places it in the Oklahoma state game fish record books.
The lake has produced multiple world records as of this writing, including a 164-pound monster in 2021. They were caught in the middle of the lake by two different individuals while snagging with the same guide in the same year.
Keystone Lake is located on the Arkansas River, just west of Sand Springs and only about 20 minutes from Tulsa. The Corps of Engineers manages the campground and boat ramps.
The best way to snag a spoonbill on Keystone is by boat using live imaging sonar. The reason for the electronics is that spoonbills will most likely be in the middle of the lake, farther out than you can cast from shore.
Now that the word is out on Keystone Lake, don’t be surprised to see boats lined up and countless people trying to snag their way into the record books.
When you’re reading to take a break and catch dinner, Keystone Lake is among the best crappie fishing spots in Oklahoma.
More: Keystone Lake Fishing
The Neosho River flows through the town of Miami into Grand Lake, in the northeastern corner of Oklahoma.
During the spring spawn at the Riverview Park, hundreds of people stand shoulder to shoulder trying to snag a paddlefish.
This is one of the most popular snagging destinations in the state because it’s easy to access and your chances of snagging a spoonbill are high.
If you have access to a boat, you can find good snagging locations away from the crowds but don’t be surprised to see other boats nearby snagging.
The Grand River begins as the Spring River, and the Neosho River converges to form Grand Lake.
As the water flows downstream out of Grand Lake, it’s also known as the Grand River and is dammed up several times, creating lakes managed by the Grand River Authority and the Corps of Engineers.
Along the Grand River is some of the best paddlefish snagging the state has to offer. That’s why the paddlefish research center is located on the northern end of Grand Lake.
To snag a spoonbill on Grand Lake, you’re going to need a boat with live imaging sonar.
As in other lakes, the paddlefish tend to stay in the middle of the lake, foraging on the zooplankton in the water, making them nearly impossible to snag from shore.
You can snag paddlefish below the dam as long as you are a legal distance away from it. Check the local fishing regulations to ensure you aren’t breaking the law.
Overall, Grand Lake is better known for other types of fishing, including being among the best largemouth bass fishing lakes in Oklahoma, as well as an excellent place to catch sand bass (white bass) in the state.
Much more on this location: Grand Lake Fishing
As you travel south, downriver of Grand Lake, you will enter Lake Hudson. It’s another popular destination to snag paddlefish.
Going up the river or below the dam will be the best location unless you have a boat with sonar and know how to locate paddlefish in the open waters of the reservoir.
Ft. Gibson Lake
While on Fort Gibson Lake skiing, I witnessed the strange phenomenon of paddlefish randomly jumping out of the water.
Thankfully, I never had one jump up next to me while I skied by, but it did leave me with an uneasy feeling knowing a giant fish could randomly jump out of the water and take me out at any moment!
Despite the chance of a spoonbill jumping into your boat while on the main lake, snagging is best in the river because they are much more confined in an area during the spring spawn.
A lesser-known spot for snagging spoonbill is Kaw Lake, just south of the Kansas state line.
The reservoir is a dammed portion of the Arkansas River located 8 miles east of Ponca City and just under two hours driving from both Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
You can find paddlefish in the main lake if you have a boat, but your best chance (especially from the bank) is to go to the river above the lake or below the dam.
Kaw Lake also is among the better places to catch catfish in Oklahoma.
The waters around Oologah Lake is another location for snagging paddlefish that has been somewhat off the radar, but it’s quickly becoming more popular.
The lake is a large reservoir on the Verdigris River, formed by a dam near the town of Oologah, located about a half hour northeast of Tulsa.
Not many people catch spoonbill in the main lake, but the Verdigris River above and below the reservoir quickly becomes paddlefish hotspots during the spawning season.
Oologah Lake also is one of the best hybrid striped bass fishing lakes in Oklahoma.
More: Oologah Lake Fishing
How to Find Paddlefish
Paddlefish will often congregate in a deep hole or at current breaks in a river.
Deep can be relative to the location, and a current break can be formed behind large rocks, trees or bends in the river.
During the spring, paddlefish swim up the rivers to spawn, and that’s why the rivers are the best places to catch them.
However, as the spring begins to warm the waters, the lakes begin to be the best locations to find spoonbill that retreat to cooler waters.