List of Common Broken Bow Lake Fish Species [Updated]
Broken Bow Lake is a man-made lake located eight miles north of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Covering an area of 14,000 acres and reaching a maximum depth of 185 feet, Broken Bow Lake is one of the largest lakes in Oklahoma and is filled with beautiful crystal clear waters.
The construction of Broken Bow Lake was an outcome of the Flood Control Act of 1958 and the Flood Control Act of 1962, which called for the damming and impoundment of Mountain Fork River in order to help control flooding in the area. The creation of Broken Bow Lake was led by the United States Army Corps of Engineers starting in 1968, and the lake was completed, filled, and opened in 1970. In addition to controlling floods in the area, the creation of the dam and impoundment was an effort to create hydroelectric power, so two power units were installed shortly after the lake opened.
Today, Broken Bow Lake is still managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the group is adamant about keeping the 180 miles of shoreline all natural. While there are no docks or other permanent structures along the shore, there are cabins, picnic areas, and restaurants along the lake that attracts many visitors from Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas. This lake also sits on the foothills of the Kiamichi Mountains, so there are many hiking trails and state parks that are perfect for land-lovers. For those attracted more to the water, there are boat and kayak rentals for visitors to use, and there are many opportunities to fish in the lake.
Due to the clear, cool waters that come from Mountain Fork River, there is a unique array of fish that can be caught in the lake. Below are the most common species of fish that can be found in Broken Bow Lake.
List of Fish Species in Broken Bow Lake
1) Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)
Largemouth bass are one of the top trophy fish that reside in Broken Bow Lake, and they can be found in shallower areas of the lake that are covered by vegetation. Largemouth bass have thick olive-green bodies with dark mottling along the back and speckles along the sides. This species has an average length of 13 inches and will generally weigh less than 5 pounds, although in 2018, a 13.53-pound largemouth bass was caught in Broken Bow Lake! Largemouth bass get their name from their mouth, which extends past the eye. Largemouths are carnivores that primarily feed on crayfish and other fishes, but they will eat less or stop eating altogether in the colder months when their metabolism slows down.
Largemouth bass will typically begin spawning around April or May in Oklahoma when water temperatures reach 62 – 65°F. Males will build a nest in hard substrates such as gravel or packed sand. Once the nest is built, the males will try to attract females to the nest. Females can then choose to lay thousands of their eggs in a nest, which are then fertilized externally by the males. Largemouth bass are polyandrous, so females can have multiple males fertilize different eggs if she chooses. When the eggs are fertilized, the male will chase out the females and any other intruders while he guards the nest until the eggs hatch.
2) Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu)
Smallmouth bass are also a popular sport fish at Broken Bow Lake, and they are found in similar regions of the lake as the largemouth bass. Smallmouths are an olive-green color with vertical bands on the side of the body, and they range from 12 – 18 inches in length and weigh around 1 – 4 pounds. While smallmouths look very similar to largemouth bass, the major distinction between the two is that smallmouth bass have a smaller mouth that extends to the midpoint of the eye. Despite the difference in mouth sizes, smallmouths eat a diet similar to largemouth bass.
Smallmouth bass reproduce similarly to largemouths, although smallmouths start spawning when waters are in the 60 – 75°F range. When the males’ nests are built, the males will start keeping an eye out for females. When a female approaches, a mating dance full of rubbing and biting occurs, and the female will lay thousands of eggs. These eggs are fertilized externally, and the males will guard them aggressively. Like the largemouth bass, smallmouths can also have multiple mating partners in one breeding season.
3) Spotted bass (Micropterus punctulatus)
Spotted bass enjoy very clear waters, which is why Broken Bow Lake is a perfect habitat for these fish. They will often be found deeper than largemouth bass in areas with rocky bottoms and steeply sloping sides. This species has an olive green back that fades to silvery sides and a light belly. Spotted bass gets their name from the rows of small dark spots that line their belly. These fish average around 10 – 17 inches in length and weigh 0.5 – 3.5 pounds. Spotted bass also have a tooth patch on their tongues, which helps them eat crayfish, insects, and smaller fishes.
Spotted bass, like other species of rock bass, will spawn in the spring when waters are around 63 – 68°F, and males will also build a nest in gravel. Males will attract females to their nests and fertilize the eggs that the females leave behind. Males will aggressively guard their nests and eggs and will continue to protect their fry for about a month after they hatch.
4) Hybrid striped bass (Morone saxatilis x Morone chrysops)
Striped bass hybrids are crosses between striped bass and white bass, and they are produced in hatcheries in order to be stocked in bodies of water like Broken Bow Lake. These fish prefer waters similar to that of true striped bass in areas that are cool, clear, and deep.
Striped bass hybrids have bodies that are laterally compressed and are silver in color with broken dark horizontal lines. This hybrid also has an arched back much like white bass, and two tongue patches, which they inherit from the striped bass. Striped bass hybrids grow very rapidly, and they can reach 18 – 20 pounds by eight years of age. These fish travel in schools and will hunt for items such as shad, minnows, crustaceans, and insects.
5) White bass (Morone chrysops)
White bass prefer to be in large, open areas of Broken Bow Lake where the turbidity is very low. These fish are a silvery white color, and they wear 6 – 8 black stripes laterally across their bodies. They have an underbite mouth, much like the largemouth bass; however, white bass are more closely related to striped bass. White bass are a mid-sized fish, and they average about 12 – 14 inches in length and weigh around two pounds. This species is highly aggressive when it comes to feeding, and schools of white bass will hunt together for items such as gizzard shad, perch, carp, and other fish species.
White bass are an extremely prolific species with a rather simple way of breeding. Spawning for white bass occurs in the spring when waters reach 50 – 55°F. These fish prefer to travel to streams to lay their eggs but will also lay their eggs along shorelines. When the time is right, females will swim along the water and drop up to one million adhesive eggs that will stick to vegetation and the ground. Multiple males will swim behind the females and fertilize the eggs, and the eggs will be left without supervision.
6) Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)
Channel catfish are one of the most abundant types of catfish in the United States, and they are commonly seen in lakes and rivers around Oklahoma. This species can be found near covered areas and the shoreline of Broken Bow Lake. Like all catfish, the channel catfish does not have scales and has barbels on the upper and lower jaw; however, the channel catfish can be distinguished by its deeply forked tail, silvery body, and overbite. These fish grow to be about 10 – 20 inches long and weigh anywhere from 2 – 10 pounds. Catfish tend to eat quite a bit of food, so they use their barbels covered in taste buds to sense their surroundings and find food like snails, fishes, snakes, frogs, insects, aquatic plants, and possibly birds.
Channel catfish typically start spawning in late May or early June in Oklahoma when waters reach above 75°F. Males and females like to build their nests together in areas with lots of cover such as under logs or in holes, and females will lay about 10,000 eggs in the nest. This species is monogamous, and males and females will form bonds prior to the summer spawning season. The two fish have an intricate spawning process, and after the eggs are fertilized, the male will chase off the female and defend the eggs.
7) Flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris)
Flathead catfish can be found in areas of Broken Bow Lake where there are plenty of rocky or woody coverings and deeper waters. Flathead catfish are generally bigger than channel catfish, and flatheads are a mottled brown color with a square tail and an underbite. This species, like the channel catfish, has barbs on its dorsal and pectoral fins, which are used to poke predators or humans that may have startled them. This species usually averages 20 – 30 inches in length and can exceed 100 pounds. Flatheads are fierce carnivores, and they typically prey on a variety of fish species such as drum, shad, and other catfish species, including their own.
The reproduction process of flathead catfish is a lot less studied and observed in the wild compared to the channel catfish, but this species will spawn during the same time in Oklahoma as the channel catfish. Flathead catfish also like to build their nests in areas with lots of cover, and females will lay up to 100,000 adhesive eggs in the nest. This species tends to be monogamous, and the male will defend the eggs from any other female that comes by the nest.
8) Walleye (Sander vitreus)
Walleye are a commonly stocked species throughout Oklahoma, and they can be found in Broken Bow Lake near the bottom or near ledges under the water. This species has a brownish-green body that fades to a cream belly complete with dark horizontal lines. These fish are the largest of the perch family, and they average about 11 pounds. Walleye get their name from their big, glassy pupils, and these eyes look like this due to a reflective layer on the inner eye called the tapetum lucidum, which helps walleyes see prey in times of low visibility. This layer makes walleyes sensitive to bright light, however, so they often hunt for their prey, like fishes and mudpuppies, at dusk or night.
Walleye will spawn in early March in Oklahoma when waters reach 45 – 50°F. These fish are broadcast spawners, so females will swim over a rocky area and lay thousands of eggs. Males will be close behind and will fertilize the eggs in the water column. The eggs will then settle to the bottom, and they are left to develop without any protection.
9) Black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus)
Black crappies are relatively abundant in Broken Bow Lake because they like the lake’s clear waters and areas with submerged coverings. These fish have compressed bodies and are generally a darker green on the back with dark mottling on the silvery sides. They also have 7 – 8 spines on their dorsal fins, which distinguishes them from white crappies, who have 5 – 6 spines. This species exhibits sexual dimorphism, so the males tend to be larger and darker than the females. Black crappies typically grow to about 8 – 12 inches and will weigh 0.25 – 1 pounds. This species is usually nocturnal, so they will hunt during the night for small fishes, crustaceans, and insects.
Black crappies usually spawn in the later spring when water temperatures reach around 55 – 65°F. Male black crappies build loosely constructed nests in areas with dense vegetation and hard bottoms, and they tend to have these nests in deep waters. Females will lay around 3,000 to 15,000 eggs in different nests, and the males will fertilize any of the eggs that are found in their area. The males will then guard the eggs and fry until the fry leave the nest around 2 – 4 days after hatching.
10) White crappie (Pomoxis annularis)
White crappies are not as abundant in Broken Bow Lake compared to black crappies because they do better in more turbid waters; however, they are still a popular winter fish in the area. White crappies have compressed bodies that are silvery olive on the back and silvery white on the belly. These fish have dark vertical bands along the sides of their bodies, and their gill covers have spines.
During breeding season, males will look slightly different than females due to the males developing a dark throat. White crappies average about 9 – 10 inches long and are around 2 pounds as adults. These fish generally eat smaller fishes like minnows or shad, but they will also eat insects like mayflies. White crappies reproduce similarly to black crappies, but white crappie males will build their nests in much shallower waters.
11) Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)
Bluegills are a very common fish throughout Oklahoma, and they have been stocked in many bodies of water including Broken Bow Lake. This species can be found in shallow, vegetated areas of lakes as juveniles, but adults will tend to be in deeper waters during the day. These fish are characterized by having disk-shaped bodies with an olive green back, an orangish-yellow belly, and a black dot at the base of the dorsal fin. Bluegills get their name from the bluish hue surrounding the gill covers.
This species averages around 7.5 inches in length and weighs around half a pound as adults. These fish have very little mouths, so they will only eat smaller prey such as zooplankton, insects, worms, and snails. Bluegills are a main source of food for many larger fish such as largemouth bass, so they have adapted to be maneuverable. For instance, this species can make very quick stops by spreading out their pectoral fins.
In Oklahoma, bluegills spawn in the summer when water temperatures are above 75°F. Males will build nests in colonies in sand or gravel, and these nests will always be in shallower waters no more than three feet deep. Once the nests are built, males will begin to grunt to attract females. A female can lay thousands of eggs in different nests, and the males will fertilize these eggs and protect them until the fry hatch.
12) Redear sunfish (Lepomis microlophus)
Redear sunfish are found in Broken Bow Lake in areas where the water is warmer and has a moderate amount of cover. These fish have laterally compressed bodies that are usually green, gray, or olive, and they will sometimes have dark flecks and vertical lines along the length of them. Redear sunfish get their name from their black opercular (ear) flap that has a bright red border in males and an orange border for females. This species can grow up to 12 inches long and generally weigh under two pounds.
Redear sunfish are benthic feeders, and once they become adults and develop a strong jaw, they will almost exclusively feed on aquatic snails. These fish are slightly harder to catch compared to bluegills, but they are still willing to bite many kinds of bait, which makes sunfish a perfect starter fish for new anglers.
Redear sunfish spawn in the late spring or early summer when water temperatures reach 66 – 70°F. Male redear sunfish will build nests in shallow waters just like male bluegills, but to attract their mates, males will make a popping noise with their jaws. Females will lay thousands of eggs in different nests, and the males will defend these eggs and drive away the females.