Oklahoma has more miles of shoreline than the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts combined. With more than 200 lakes and well over a million surface acres of water, the state is a premier place for folks who love to fish.
Home videos from across the state show smile, after smile as kids and adults reel in, or proudly hold up, their catches. It doesn't matter if the fish is big or small; or if it’s a perch, paddlefish or a hand-caught catfish, fishing is a sport anyone at any age can do.
On Lake Texoma, anglers get up before the sun hoping to load their live wells with striped bass, also known as striper.
“It's just kind of become like a tradition, every year we go for my birthday,” said Ben Perkins.
Fishing is the only way Ben wanted to celebrate turning 12 years old.
“I choose this because it's what I like to do,” Ben said.
He’s a natural with a rod and reel, he caught the biggest striper on the boat that day, beating out his mom and friend Caden.
Everyone caught their limit of striped bass, thanks to the help of Ben's cousin, Brian Harkins, who owns Little Jon's Striper Fishing Guide Service.
“Fishing's good right now,” Harkins said. “We fish year around.”
Texoma is a destination for striper fishing. It's one of only 10 lakes in the country where striper naturally reproduce and don’t have to be stocked.
The fish put on a hard fight, so they’re fun to catch. Harkins says he guides at least 200 trips each year and has eight other guides working for him, who do the same.
“We have people come from all over the country,” said Harkins. “I've had one group from Alaska that's fished here with us.”
That kind of popularity makes the fishing industry an economic driver, not just at Lake Texoma, but across the state. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation says there are about one million Oklahomans who are licensed to fish and who take advantage of the state's many lakes, rivers and ponds.
Oklahoma's fishing industry brings more than $820 million in retail sales each year, generating $77 million in state and local sales tax. It’s also responsible for more than 11,000 jobs statewide.
ODWC works hard to make sure anglers are successful, while maintaining a thriving fish population. Each year fisheries biologists stock between 10-15 million fish of varying species in public water statewide.
Their efforts are helping secure the sport, so younguns like Ben can one day take their own kids fishing.