Kayak Fishing Zink Lake


After work on a Friday, I drove from downtown Tulsa and passed over the Arkansas just a mile or so north of the city's Zink Dam. The lake's level was down. There was a little flow of water running over the rock ridge just above highway 75 at the very top of Zink Lake.

I decided to paddle upstream from Zink lake to the ridge and throw a few spinners. There's a boat ramp on the south side of Zink where the rowing club keeps it's storage facility and I unloaded the kayak there. There's a sign at the ramp warning everyone about the invasion of zebra mussels. Of special notice, is the warning of the water's quality. I've seen some do it, but it's best not to swim Zink.

I noticed the rowing club's young members were outside their facility, busy practicing on their rowing machines. The long boats were nowhere to be seen and no one appeared to be readying for an exercise on the lake. After paddling twenty yards from the ramp, I realized why. I hit shallow sand.

Off came the Hobie's peddling fins which need at least a foot of water to work. Out came the paddle. With the water flow from Keystone Dam cut off - this little lake is extremely shallow. Most of it is no more than one to two foot deep. If you can find three feet of water, you're quite lucky. Water clarity was near zero, brown, although from the bank I've seen it better many times. Even in a kayak, I kept finding myself scraping bottom and having to back out to search another route. I knew that Zink was shallow, but had expected it to be easily navigable by kayak.

I was the only person on the little lake. Or even fishing it, that I could see.

I had to chuckle aloud as I thought of the Designor's renderings of the new proposed lakes. The carefully crafted drawings had shown boat slips in man-made riverside coves. Sailboats are shown floating the lakes painted aqua-blue.

Unless the new lakes are dammed deeper and often dredged, the depiction is totally unrealistic.

I paddled upriver, searching for navigable water. I had to get out of the yak and pull it across the rocky shallows below the graffitied-covered piers of the highway 75 bridge. Then, under the heavily trafficked railroad bridge next to highway 75, I looked with amazement at the track's tall supporting piers. They appear to be ancient structures built of mortar and two-foot square sandstone blocks. They're deeply pockmarked by the current and debri and not far from starting to crumble. The piers looked to be a part of Tulsa's early history. A time when Tulsa really got it's start - when the railroad was established and oil was discovered on the opposite bank of what is now West Tulsa. The piers may or may not have been replaced once, but it would have been long ago.

I paddled further upriver a short distance and fished the nearby ridge. I believe the rocky ridge stretching across the river is where early day wagons and cattle crossed the Arkansas if I remember my history right. I even got out the yak and walked around the ridge, looking for signs of those early crossings. There was of course, nothing other than some pop cans and other flotsam tossed in the river by today's citizens.

The river was starting to rise rapidly as I was fishing, just as I knew it would if the past summer's dam release schedule ran true to form. Before heading back downstream, I threw a few top-waters on the east side of the river along a steep rocky bank. The water ran four or five feet deep under the overhanging limbs of trees and brush. The bank was littered with signs of the homeless that had set up permanent camps along the river. Most of the homeless were routed out by the police in the recent past after a murder in the camp. No one was visible from my spot. If anyone was there, they were hidden by the heavy foliage. It was a little eery. Too many bodies are discovered in this area.

I may have had one fish hit my lure. Or it may have been a snag. But the only visible sign of fish was a small catfish floating the surface, gasping for air and the backs of a few rolling sucker fish.

The paddle back was fast and uneventful in the current and I was happy to get off the water. That immediate area is interesting for it's history, but for fishing or having fun on the water, I'd be hard pressed to give it a favorable rating. I'd fished it hoping to find some optimism for the future. The reality is - more dams will be built. It's just a matter of when.

The park around Zink Lake is a pleasant area with running trails and other fun activities. It's a vital part of the city's beauty. I enjoy it. The lake even adds to that enjoyment. But, I definitely prefer the cleaner waters above the dammed lake and I won't try to paddle it again.

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