Editor’s note: The Tulsa World will be visiting several lakes with an eye toward close-to-home and family friendly amenities.
Just south over the mountain from Leonard, five miles southeast of Bixby, about a half hour’s drive southeast of downtown Tulsa, Bixhoma Lake — or “Lake Bixhoma” if that rolls easier off your tongue — can draw a pretty good crowd on summer weekends.
Or it may be a place you have all to yourself on a weekday morning.
Owned by the City of Bixby and with fish stocks managed by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, a city permit is required to fish or boat on the 110-acre lake.
The address for the lake is easy to remember. It’s at the end of Bixhoma Road. Permits have to be purchased during business hours at City Hall, 116 Needles Ave., and are $5 daily or $15 for a year. There is no charge for children 11 or under or adults over 65.
Bixhoma has been known to produce largemouth bass in the 7- to 8-pound range and holds plenty to keep an angler busy in the 10- to 14-inch size. It has channel catfish, a growing reputation as a crappie lake, and is loaded with plenty of sunfish.
It is a popular destination for kayak anglers and paddle boarders. It has a boat ramp but is a low-wake-zone lake throughout. While the clear water looks inviting, no swimming is allowed at this lake.
The lake over the hill has seen its ups and downs with bass and has been tough to access in the past, but it’s in an upswing of late and the city has plans to continue improvements. The city brought in volunteers to make upgrades and clean up and actually has a herd of goats to help manage overgrowth around the lake and its nature trails.
The city also changed its fishing regulations to help the bass.
Josh Johnston, Northeast region fisheries supervisor with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said samplings of Bixhoma’s bass this spring looked “fat and healthy” and added that the catch rate was “amazing” with about 150 pulled in each hour of sampling.
“The average fish was in the 12- to 15-inch range.”
Most notably, the biologists saw healthy fish in a lake that had shown signs of holding “stunted” bass in the past.
Intending to make the lake a trophy bass fishery, regulations were restrictive on what could be kept in the past. The lake now has a 14-inch minimum and limit of six a day, like most Oklahoma lakes. Word seems to be spreading among anglers that it’s a good idea to keep your catch to make Bixhoma bass the best it can be, Johnston said.
The Wildlife Department has removed a lot of smaller or stunted bass, has been stocking the lake with threadfin shad and last year added loads of brush-pile habitat areas easily located with basic electronics, Johnston said.
“We brought 90 cinder blocks and created 10 areas of brush piles with a tremendous amount of hardwood brush,” he said.
The lake has good bank access in areas, but no wading is allowed, as the drop-off in many areas is steep, and some areas are blocked by dense vegetation. The lake has two fishing docks, however. It also has picnic areas with fire pits, three pavilions and hiking trails.
For information about the lake, visit bixbyok.gov or call 918-366-0425.