Friday, May 07, 2010

Low Water Paddling in Oklahoma

Oklahoma Lake Paddling
Such a dry Spring, like we are having here in Oklahoma, can really harsh a guy's kayaking plans. Not so long ago, you could count on a regular Thursday night water release from the dam in Broken Bow to keep the Lower Mountain Fork River rocking for the weekend. These days, checking the Oklahoma river levels on American Whitewater's site shows not much fast water for early May. I, for one, am praying for rain!

Lake kayaking is the best way to get out and enjoy that new recreational kayak when the rivers just are not right. Good planning is the key to enjoying paddling the nearest wildlife refuge lake or your local reservoir lake. Most lakes have some secret waiting to be discovered like lovely lily pads on Beggs Lake or creepy drowned trees on Dripping Springs. Bald Eagle sightings on Oklahoma's lakes are quite common. You need the right timing, the right recon and the right bait to enjoy lake kayaking in Oklahoma.

The Right Timing

Time your trip to capture the so-called 'magic hours' just before and after sunrise or sunset. Any weather website will provde the daily time of the sunrise and sunset. It doesn't matter if you are fishing for photos or for flatheads. You will see more action during these magic hours. You may need to move your meal times or carry a sandwich, but do seize these hours on the lake. Until the dry weather passes or your wife agrees to that road trip to Arkansas to paddle the Mulberry River, the White River or the Buffalo...lake paddling beats walking any day.

The Right Recon

The right recon work will provide you with a good idea of where to find the slimmer, shadier more scenic parts of the lake. They tend to be the parts most distant from the dam. Launching from the right spot can save you a lot of baking in the sun paddling across open waters playing chicken with Bass Boats. Ask the locals about no wake zones on the lake for the most peaceful paddling. Position your boat in the shade and photograph your subject in a spot of illuminated water between spots of shade. It makes a lovely shot that is tough to setup on even mild whitewater, but is easy in some shady wading cove. Small lakes are low-wake-lakes, so the Oklahoma kayaker can enjoy lakes that are off limits to larger boats. Smaller lakes often offer more shelter from the wind as well.

The Right Bait

If you are looking for action, you need more than hungry got to have bait. My wife swears by goldfish for gathering catfish and she turns her nose up at mere minnows. To quote the great bluesman Taj Mahal: 'plenty fish bite if you got good bait'. Paddle slowly and quietly if you are kayak fishing or pursueing wildlife photography via kayak. Nature is attracted to stealth.

Personally, I don't have the knot-tying prowess or the patience to enjoy much fishing, but I also need good bait for kayak photography. Oklahoma lakes rarely offer snow capped peaks on the horizons of my lake photos. However, our unique weather patterns can provide some powerfully colorful light, shadows and cloud backgrounds that simply cry out for a foreground...a subject...some small bit of action. The best bait to draw this kind of action from your lake paddling trip is good company. Whether it is your kids, your lover or your very best dog, a paddling partner improves any trip. Take some friends kayaking this year. Don't let low water keep you out of your kayak.