By Jeremy Pyle
Circulation Manager/Fishing Editor
The state of Oklahoma has the largest number of lakes created by dams of any state in the United States, with more than 200 lakes. They speckle the countryside along with thousands of ponds and other small bodies of water. With that being said, it’s a great state for fishing of all types. For me personally, I don’t discriminate against fish. If they want to bite my hook, I want to catch ’em. And if it’s a catfish, well then I’ll take the time to tell you about it.
My name is Jeremy Pyle. I am the Circulation Manager at The Yukon Progress newspaper by day, and I love fishing at night. I have been addicted to fishing since I was about 10 years-old. As a young boy, I used to take my poles to local ponds and lakes in Northern California. My mom loved teaching me to catfish. And I love encouraging today’s youth to be the next fishing generation.
Today we are talking about Balloon Fishing in El Reno, Oklahoma. The largest flathead catfish ever caught on rod and reel was pulled out of this lake. 78 pounds 8 ounces. Caught back in 2010 by Richard Williams. Can you imagine? I know I could.
Keep in mind that fishing with a balloon is easy and fun for the whole family. Remember using those little Mickey Mouse poles with a bobber on it as a kid? Well, this is basically the same thing, except that it is scaled up for bigger fish, which Oklahoma is known to have plenty of.
Balloon fishing isn’t all that new as it has been around for years, used in saltwater, freshwater, lake and river fishing. The intent is for a balloon to serve as a large float/sail, suspending either live or cut-up bait at the desired depth under the surface of water, usually off the bottom and dragging it out far beyond what you could reach with your best cast.
Once the balloon and bait are attached to the fishing line, you put the wind at your back, and its time to fish!
Now, the first rule of fishing is that it is called “fishing” and not “catching.” So put the lines out in the water, sit back in your chair, grab your favorite beverage, get some sun on your face and get ready for the action. At first, especially when you have kids, the best “action” is watching the wind drag the balloons out, and seeing who’s balloon gets out the farthest, the fastest. Mine usually wins, but not if you ask the kids.
Depending on your bait, you could catch just about any type of fish, from catfish to bass, walleye, crappie, sunfish, or even stripers or hybrids. You could even put corn on the hook and catch carp. My bait of choice is always cut shad, which I catch and freeze throughout the year. My fall back bait is usually worms or minnows. I usually like to set up several poles, some I let go really far out and some I keep closer to shore.
It took me about an hour to get my first bite on Monday night. Not sure what it was, it took the bait and it was gone. Then the first fish, a crappie on one of the close to shore poles. Alright, now its some fun. The first Catfish of the night was a pretty little channel cat, about a pound, caught on cut shad, and we put her back to get bigger for at least another year or two. Then another, about the same size. By the end of the night, we had caught 5 fish, none worth keeping, so we threw them back to live for another day.
There are a lot of lakes in Oklahoma. And a lot of places that I still need to fish. I have tried fishing out at Overholser, Hefner, Thunderbird, Lake Stanley Draper, Oologah, Waurika Lake, Eufaula, and Wes Watkins Reservoir. I have fished many sections of the Canadian River, the Deep Fork and the North Canadian Rivers.
I have even tried noodling, but that’s a story for another day. For now, I say thanks for reading. And if you know of a lake that needs fishing, I am the man for the job.
Until next time, I hope you have enjoyed the Oklahoma Catfish Report, and balloon fishin’ with Jeremy.