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November, 2001

If you love to flip and pitch baits to catch fish, have I got a place for you.  It isn’t the first place that everyone thinks about when they are planning a fishing trip.  It is the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System also known as the “Ditch”.  You can get on the navigation channel at the Port of Catoosa (Tulsa, OK) and follow it all the way to the mouth of the White River and then right into the Mississippi River (West Arkansas).

Some people are reluctant to go to rivers because the channels are hard to follow and they are afraid that they will damage their boats.  That’s not the case at the “Ditch”.  The channel is clearly marked with red and green buoys.  As long as you are on the main river channel you are safe from beaching your boat.  However, it’s important to note two cautions.  First, any time you are on a body of water that has current, you must beware of floating logs that may be partially submerged.  These are frequently in the channel and you must keep a sharp lookout for them.  Second, any time you are leaving the main channel and heading for a creek or bayou, slow down to an idle and start watching for stumps.  All of the creeks there have huge stumps in them that are broken off just below the waters surface.  Hitting one of them at fifty miles an hour is the fastest way to ruin a fishing trip.  Just remember, when in doubt, IDLE.   

There are many boat ramps to use with easy access.  I have fished several tournaments out of the Three Forks Ramp.  Just take the Muskogee Turnpike to Highway 62 and head east a couple of miles.  The reason that they call it Three Forks is the Arkansas and the Grand Rivers join the Verdigris River within a few miles.  As soon as you leave the ramp, you can start looking for log jams and stump beds on both sides.  There are many feeder creeks that are loaded with both stumps and dead laydowns that have washed in.  At any time you can drop the trolling motor and start fishing.  Some of these creeks are Coody, Maynard, Joe Branch, Budinot, Greenleaf, Spaniard and Sulfur Creeks.  This is just a few of the creeks that you have to choose from in the thirty mile stretch between the Chouteau Lock and the Webbers Falls Lock.  Most of the creeks are long and have enough water that you can fish all day and fish them all day.  In addition to fishing the creeks, you can also go into the many pockets and lakes that are just off the main channel. 

There is one thing that the “Ditch” has that few of our lakes in Oklahoma have, aquatic vegetation.  We just don’t have an abundance of grass in the lakes in North Oklahoma.  The water has to be at the top of its pool in order to have enough water in the grass to catch a fish.  Greenleaf is full of grass that is usually in three foot of water.  There is a boat ramp in Greenleaf that you can get too easily.  Go past the Three Forks Ramp and continue east on Highway 62 until you get to Highway 10 and go south about fifteen minutes.  When fish are using the grass to hide in, you can have a blast catching them by flipping spinnerbaits, plastics and jigs in and around grass.  It always has an abundance of baitfish and that usually translates into a large number of bass for you to catch. 

There is no way I could tell you about all the great fishing spots on the “Ditch” even on this thirty mile section between locks.  The next chance you get, just take a trip down to Muskogee, get on the river and try it out.  No matter what type of cover you like to fish, the “Ditch” has it.  It is a great fishery and a fun place to go and not have to fight with cruisers and Jet Ski’s.  While fishing the “Ditch”, there are times that you feel like you are the only one on the water.  Add the peace and quiet with the chance to catch six pounders and you have heaven on earth.

If you have any questions or comments about this column, just drop me a line at fishermansfamily@aol.com.  If you have any topics that you would like to see in this column, please feel free to let me know.

Leave a few for seed,

Chris Roberts