On Tuesday at a news conference at Lake Thunderbird State Park, Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell announced the launch of the Oklahoma Fishing Trail, a new tourism initiative designed to increase revenue for Oklahoma.
“Our goal is to become a top ten tourism state, and the No. 1 fishing state in the nation,” said Pinnell, who is also the state’s Secretary of Tourism and Branding. “Fishing is big business, and the Oklahoma Fishing Trail initiative will promote our state’s unique fishing opportunities — arguably the most diverse fishing in the country — increase tourism, and generate additional tax revenue for the state. Most people don’t realize the kind of revenue we’re talking about. On average, anglers in Oklahoma already spend $1.8 billion on fishing equipment annually and support more than 15,000 jobs in the state. And we’re only going to grow from there.”
The Oklahoma Fishing Trail highlights 38 lakes around the state, plus an additional list of 20 Central Oklahoma fishing experiences that are part of the Wildlife Department’s Close to Home Fishing Program. The trail has six loops, one for each region of the state, to help guide visitors to the perfect lake for their needs. The official website for the trail is FishinOK.com.
In addition to Lt. Gov. Pinnell, speakers at the event included Jerry Winchester, executive director of the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department, J.D. Strong, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Director, and B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland, an Oklahoma native.
“Oklahoma is well-prepared for this increase in fishing tourism,” Winchester said. “Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees has twice hosted the Bassmaster Classic, the ‘Super Bowl’ of bass fishing. Bassmaster magazine regularly lists Grand Lake and Lake Texoma on their lists of the country’s best bass lakes. We have more shoreline than the East and Gulf coasts combined, and we’ve also got a lot of fun things to do along that shoreline. State parks, marinas, museums, breweries, casinos, restaurants — you name it, we’ve got it in Oklahoma.”
Tourism is Oklahoma’s third-largest industry, contributing nearly $9 billion to the state’s economy in direct visitor spending, and $656 million in state and local taxes annually. The state is already a premier destination for fishing-related tourism because of its fish diversity and lack of fishing seasons and restrictions.
“Whether you’re looking for an all-around lake that’s known for several different species or a specific spot to get that standout species, we’ve got options,” Strong said. “In the Northeastern Loop, Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees is a great spot for catching largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, and paddlefish, while Lake Eufaula and Lake Tenkiller were chosen for their standout crappie fishing.”
“America’s Favorite Fisherman,” TV personality Jimmy Houston, also attended Tuesday’s event, along with a group of Moore Public Schools students who participate in the Wildlife Department’s Fishing in the Schools program. Several legislators were also in attendance, including Rep. Marilyn Stark, R-Bethany; Rep. Chris Kannady, R-Oklahoma City; Rep. Danny Sterling, R-Tecumseh; Rep. Logan Phillips, R-Mounds; Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman; Rep. Lonnie Sims, R-Jenks; Rep. Mark Lawson, R-Sapulpa; Rep. Josh West, R-Grove; Rep. Dell Kerbs, R-Shawnee; Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-Oklahoma City; Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, R-Adair; Rep. Brian Hill, R-Mustang; Rep. Rusty Cornwell, R-Vinita; Rep. Dean Davis, R-Broken Arrow; Rep. Toni Hasenback, R-Elgin; Rep. Tammy Townley, R-Ardmore; and Rep. Trey Caldwell, R-Lawton.
After the indoor news conference, attendees were led to a nearby dock on Lake Thunderbird to fish with the lieutenant governor, Houston, and the Fishing in Schools participants.
More information about the Oklahoma Fishing Trail can be found on FishinOK.com. The site features a map of all the trail stops along with detailed information on the amenities available at each stop. Branded Oklahoma Fishing Trail merchandise will also be available.
A free Oklahoma Fishing Trail brochure will also be available for order at TravelOK.com/Brochures or by calling 1-800-652-6552. Anglers can also find the brochure at Oklahoma Tourism Information Centers, Oklahoma State Parks and at the Oklahoma Fishing Trail lakes.
Anglers can even earn the Oklahoma Fishing Trail Grand Slam by catching a variety of species and submitting photos of them through the website. Those who complete the Grand Slam will get an exclusive decal that they can proudly display.
Oklahoma also stands out for the state’s unique species, such as the paddlefish. The Oklahoma Paddlefish Research Center, located in Miami near the Twin Bridges Area of Grand Lake State Park, will even process anglers’ catches and return fillets to the customer at no cost.
About the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department
The Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department works to preserve, maintain and promote the state’s natural assets and cultural richness through tourism. The Department’s Travel Promotions division administers programs designed to build awareness of the state as a destination and educates on the economic importance of the Oklahoma travel and tourism industry. The staff also oversees the agency’s marketing and promotions efforts along with operating Tourism Information Centers located at major entry points around the state. To learn more about the Department, visit TravelOK.com.