Lake Texoma is a reservoir lake, one of the largest in the country, and its name comes from smashing together Texas + Oklahoma. The reservoir straddles the boundary where these two states come together, and I guess my memories of Lake Texoma are just like that — the important intersection of fishing, people, and the bonds that keep them together.
My grandpa was instrumental in supporting my early obsession with fishing. Although he lived over in Kentucky, he would come visit us in Oklahoma, or I’d visit him in Kentucky. He’d take me out to all kinds of little ponds and lakes, or sometimes we’d meet up at places like Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees. On one of his visits to us, we had the chance to take him to Lake Texoma.
We rented a small little cabin on the outskirts of the lake, not near anything at all despite some of the rapid economic development that has been spurred by booming population growth, especially from the Dallas/Fort Worth area. We planned to explore the more rugged areas of the lake and do a little fishing, of course, but in many ways fishing was an afterthought to the general adventure and quality time together.
One afternoon we hiked down these jagged cliffs to a spot not far down from our cabin, just my grandpa, dad, and me. I was young and didn’t know what to fish for (or really how to fish), and I decided to cast out a line and try fishing for crappie. It seemed like a good bet, given the 70 or so species of different fish in Lake Texoma. Fortunately, good company and good fortune came together to create an amazing memory.
I said crappie, and God delivered. We caught a ton of crappie that evening as the sun sank slowly into this gorgeous, untainted lake region. The water stretched so far into the horizon, I could almost feel like I was on the edge of an ocean. There wasn’t another soul around, save the two most important men I’d ever looked up to. It was just a little cover, but it was totally ours in that moment.
To this day, they were the largest crappie I’ve ever caught. It might be one of the single biggest hauls I’ve had in terms of total volume as well. Grandpa showed me how to put them on a stringer for the fish fry later. It was a simple action to teach a boy, but it was like the passing of knowledge, tradition, and love. From setting out there without a real hope to catch anything, it showed me how an adventure can take incredible turns when you go with the winds of fortune and embrace the moments around you.
For another two hours, we caught more and more crappie until we couldn’t handle even one more. Groaning under the weight and laughing like fiends, we hiked back up to our cabin in the gathering night, fully satisfied as we went off to bed. I can’t describe the way it gets ingrained in your memory. I’ve never been back to the lake ever since, but I can still see it vividly when I see a crappie or smell the initial sizzling wafts of oil and searing fish from a fry.
For me, it was all about getting to fish with my grandpa, and spending time with these great men who towered above my life. These gargantuan titans who not only defined the world I knew, but taught me how to shape and define it for myself. They were my first guides as I grew and explored and learned how to place myself in the bigger picture.
I’ve not been back to Lake Texoma in many years, but the booming economy I mentioned is enough to draw both avid fisherman as well as wandering tourists. Some jokingly call the area Texomaland now, maybe as a nod to the commercialism in parts, but it’s still a gorgeous lake that offers great boating, a ton of houseboats, as well as over 70 species of fish. If 70 sounds like a lot, consider this — it only takes one like a good crappie along with great company to make memories that last a lifetime.