Discover the Official State Fish of Oklahoma (And Where You Can Catch Them This Summer)

Written by Mike Edmisten
Updated: September 9, 2023
© Eric Engbretson / Public domain – License / Original
Share this post on:


Oklahoma could have chosen a large, imposing fish as their state fish. The state is home to some lunker largemouth bass, for example. The state record largemouth weighed 14 pounds, 13.7 ounces. But Oklahoma is home to much bigger fish than that. The state record blue catfish, for example, weighed 98 pounds. Now that’s a big kitty! But the Oklahoma state record alligator gar puts them all to shame. That behemoth weighed 254 pounds, 12 ounces! 

Oklahoma could have chosen any of these beasts to represent their state, but they didn’t. Instead, they chose a fish that was smaller in size but quite large in importance.

The official Oklahoma state fish is the white bass.

Only The Top 1% Can Ace our Animal Quizzes

Think You Can?

White Bass (Morone chrysops)

The white bass, also known as sand bass or sandies, is a temperate bass species. Temperate bass is also known as true bass. 

It can be a bit confusing, but several fish species that are known as bass are not true bass. Largemouth, smallmouth, and rock bass are not true bass. They are actually in the sunfish family (Centrarchidae). It is the same family as popular panfish species such as crappie, bluegill, pumpkinseed, and others.

White bass
The white bass is a temperate (true) bass.

©Eric Engbretson / Public domain – License

The white bass is in the true bass family (Moronidae). The striped bass, yellow bass, and white perch are also in this family.

The white bass is, as its name suggests, lightly colored. Its body is silvery-white with six to eight black lateral stripes on its sides. Its eye is a distinct gold color, which is noted in the fish’s scientific name. The species epithet, chrysops, comes from the Greek language and means “golden eye.”

As noted earlier, white bass doesn’t grow terribly large. An average mature white bass weighs one to two pounds and measures around 12 inches long.

White bass and striped bass (or stripers) sometimes hybridize. The result is known as a hybrid striped bass or a wiper (combining the white bass and striper names).

Hybrid striped bass
White bass and striped bass can hybridize, producing hybrid striped bass or “wipers.”

©USFWSmidwest / Public domain – License

Prey and Predators

The white bass may not be a large fish but is a fierce predator. Juveniles feed on insects and crustaceans. Adults are mainly piscivorous, feeding on shad, small sunfish, and other small fish species. It will even cannibalize smaller white bass.

White bass are intermediate predators, meaning they are in the middle of the food web. They predate smaller fish, but they are also prey for larger animals.

White bass are an important prey species for largemouth and smallmouth bass and other larger predatory fish. They are also prey for aquatic birds such as herons, bitterns, and egrets.

Great Blue Heron fishing in the low lake waters.
Great blue herons are among the white bass’ primary predators.

©Joseph Scott Photography/

State Fish of Oklahoma

Oklahoma legislators adopted the white bass as the official state fish in 1974. The fish was chosen because of its proliferation throughout the state and its importance to the lake and river ecosystems in Oklahoma.

Fishing for White Bass

Pound for pound, white bass are among the hardest-fighting fish that swim in Oklahoma waters. They are small enough that even the youngest anglers can reel them in, but they also provide enough action to keep the most seasoned anglers coming back for more.

White bass are often caught in huge numbers. Fishing Booker reports that Oklahoma anglers catch around 1.5 million pounds of white bass each year. This haul has not hurt the overall population of the fish in the Sooner State, though. Even with such a large yearly harvest, there are still no bag or creel limits on white bass imposed by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Fishing for white bass
White bass are caught easily and often in Oklahoma.

©Virginia State Parks staff / CC BY 2.0 – License

How to Catch White Bass

White bass are schooling predators. When you hook one, there is a good chance you will catch more. 

Live shad, silversides, or minnows are great bait for white bass. If you prefer artificial lures, soft plastic shad, small crankbaits, jigs, and spinners can be highly effective.

Where to Catch White Bass

White bass migrate upstream to spawn in the spring. If you’re heading out to catch these fish from March until May, a river or stream that connects with a lake is a great bet. The Arkansas River and its adjoining lakes hold copious amounts of “sandies.” So do the Upper Illinois and Deep Fork Rivers.

Other than the spring spawn, the highest numbers of white bass are typically found in lakes and reservoirs. 

Eufaula Lake, the largest lake located completely within Oklahoma, is brimming with white bass. The same goes for Lake Thunderbird, Lake Texoma, Ft. Supply Lake, Robert S. Kerr Reservoir, Lake Lawtonka,  Fort Gibson Lake, and many others. If the lake holds a large amount of baitfish, it probably holds a lot of white bass, too.

Sunset over Eufaula Lake
Eufaula Lake is a top white bass fishery in Oklahoma.


Record White Bass

The Oklahoma record white bass weighed five pounds, one ounce. R.R. Karch caught that monster in the Verdigris River, a tributary of the Arkansas River, on April 1, 1976. This was no April Fool’s prank, though. That fish was the real deal!

There is a tie for the world record white bass. Both fish weighed a whopping six pounds, 13 ounces. The original record was caught in 1989 in Virginia. The record was tied by a white bass caught in Louisiana in 2010.

White Bass as Table Fare

The white bass is not going to appear on any list of the best-tasting freshwater fish. It is well-known for its strong “fishy” flavor that many people find off-putting. There are ways to mitigate that strong taste, though.

You will want to clean and prepare the fish soon after catching it. The fresher the fish, the better it is going to taste. Also, keeping the fish on ice will improve the flavor and simplify the fileting process. If you are catching white bass for table fare, skip the livewell and put them directly in a cooler filled with ice.

White bass on ice
White bass can be tasty if they are iced down immediately and prepared soon after they are caught.

©Tomwsulcer / CC0 – License

Fileting White Bass

First, and most importantly, cut away all the red meat when you filet the fish. You only want to keep the white meat. That will result in a smaller filet per fish, so you’ll need to catch a “mess” of white bass if you want a decent fish fry. The good news is that these fish can often be caught in large quantities.

The video below is a great primer on how to filet white bass so you end up only with the tasty white meat.

After cutting away the red meat, rinse the filets thoroughly with cold water and pat them dry with a paper towel. This will help remove the remaining strong-tasting oils. 

Soaking and Cooking the Filets

Then you can soak the filets for about two hours, which will pull a lot of the residual gamey taste out of the fish. Place the filets in water with salt and possibly lemon and/or lime juice. Refrigerate the fish in this mixture.

Some chefs prefer to soak the filets in milk or buttermilk. Others prefer straight lemon juice. Still, others prefer a combination of the liquids. It depends on your taste, but brining/soaking the filets is an important step to remove the overpowering fishy flavor.

After soaking for a couple of hours, you’re ready to cook up your white bass. The most popular method is to bread the filets and fry them. There are innumerable breading recipes, so choose one that fits your taste. It takes a little extra effort, but white bass can make for a wonderful Oklahoma fish fry!

Share this post on:
About the Author

A freelance writer in Cincinnati, OH, Mike is passionate about the natural world. He, his wife, and their two sons love the outdoors, especially camping and exploring US National Parks. A former pastor, he also writes faith-based content to encourage and inspire. And, for reasons inexplicable, Mike allows Cincinnati sports teams to break his heart every year.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.