Fishing on GRDA lakes is big business, big economic boost

Power for Progress…
A weekly column from the Grand River Dam Authority

Langley — From the earliest days of Grand Lake (created in 1940) and Lake Hudson (created in 1964) water enthusiasts have been drawn to the lake shores for boating, swimming, sailing and of course, fishing. And, in Northeast Oklahoma, fishing is big business and a major contributor to the lake area economy.

That “big business” is backed up real figures. Each year, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) releases its Oklahoma Bass Tournaments Annual Report. This report uses five “fishing quality” indicators to rank the state’s best bass lakes. Those indicators include 1) Percent Success; 2) Average Weight; 3) Average First Place (tournament) Weight; 4) Average Number Caught; and 5) Average Hours per 5-pound Bass.

In the most recent report, from 2010, Grand Lake ranks third to continue “its annual showing at or near the top of our list,” states the ODWC report. In past years, Lake Hudson has also been a frequent visitor to the top 10 list.

GRDA Biologist Sam Ziara (seated) and Fisheries Coordinator Brent Davis speak with a visitor to the GRDA booth during a hunting and fishing expo in Claremore. Educating the public on fisheries issues and conducting ongoing water quality monitoring of Grand and Hudson lakes are just a couple of ways GRDA works to mainain the reputation of those lakes as popular fishing destinations. That is also good for the economy of Northeast Oklahoma.

However, like a perfect cast hitting the waters and causing a ripple effect, the impact of so many tournaments – and so much fishing success – on GRDA lakes also ripples across the area economy.

In 2009, Grand Lake hosted a total of 162 fishing tournaments which included 14,250 anglers. It is estimated that each of those anglers spent an average of $120 dollars per tournament (for food, fuel and lodging). If that is the case, the economic impact totals $1.7 million for 2009 alone.

As for Lake Hudson, it hosted a total of 143 tournaments combined in 2010 and 2011. What was the economic impact from the 3,800 anglers who participated in those tournaments those years? Approximately $2.3 million in two years.

According to Grand River Dam Authority Fisheries Coordinator Brent Davis, who works closely with tournament organizers on both lakes, larger, more prestigious tournaments like the B.A.S.S. Bassmaster Classic (coming to Grand Lake in February 2013) equal even more money spent per angler, per day.

“I am going to say $300 to $400 per day,” said Davis, pointing out that those numbers are just for the anglers themselves, and do not include the dollars spent by the fans who attend the events.

According to Grand Lake Association Executive Director Tad Jones, the Bassmaster Classic will also give Grand Lake unprecedented notoriety around the nation. “We will get nearly $11 million worth of free advertising for the lake on the internet, TV and magazines,” said Jones.

Earlier this year, the editors of Bassmaster Magazine published their rankings of the top 100 bass fishing lakes across the United States. It was no surprise to many that Grand Lake was ranked in the top 20 of that list, coming in at 17. 

GRDA understands good management techniques will help preserve that type of status in the years ahead. That is why the GRDA Ecosystems Management Department, established in 2004, has made fisheries enhancement and protection a top priority. Through programs like its “Rush for Brush” and good working relationship with tournaments, GRDA hopes to preserve the well-earned reputations Grand and Hudson have for fishing success.

Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Directly or indirectly, GRDA’s low-cost, reliable; electricity serves nearly 500,000 homes in Oklahoma and stretches into 75 of 77 counties in the state. At no cost to Oklahoma taxpayers, GRDA also manages 70,000 surface acres of lakes in the state, including Grand Lake, Lake Hudson and the W.R. Holway Reservoir. Today, GRDA’s 500 employees continue to produce the same “power for progress” that has benefited the state for 75 years.


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