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Lake rising

By Dave Baker from September 2013 Issue


Lake Cumberland is poised to become one of the hottest fishing destinations in Kentucky in the coming years.

A dam repair project, which kept the lake 43 feet below its normal level for six years, is now wrapping up. By next spring, Lake Cumberland, which is located in southeastern Kentucky, could reach 723 feet above sea level in pool elevation, which would return the lake to its seasonal level covering 50,250 acres.

What happened to the 15,000 acres of new shoreline exposed while the water was held down? Thousands of trees sprung up in the backs of creeks, coves, and areas where sediment covered the rock. Those trees will create a tremendous amount of much-needed cover for both predator and prey fish.

"I think that two years from now - and even through the next decade - Lake Cumberland is going to be a heck of a place to fish," says Ron Brooks, fisheries director for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

Lake Cumberland added 7,000 acres of water when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers raised the lake by 25 feet this spring. That added a substantial amount of cover for fish. The lake will have even more fish habitat in the form of submerged trees once the Corps raises the lake by the final 20 feet, to its normal summer level.

John Williams, district fisheries biologist for the area, predicts a bright future for Lake Cumberland. "I think the lake will have a mini-boom of fish in the coming years, especially among the warm-water species such as bass, bluegill, and crappie," he says. "I think the survival of young fish will be good because they will not be exposed as much to predators."

Fisheries Assistant Director Gerry Buynak notes that the submerged plants will release nutrients into the lake as they deteriorate - a boost to the base of Lake Cumberland's food chain. This "new lake" effect should help all fish in the lake.

In the meantime, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife plans to give nature some added assistance. "We're planning to kick-start the fish populations to get them back to the levels they were at prior to 2007, when they dropped the lake," Brooks says.

This year, due to a good hatchery year with a surplus of striped bass, the lake will receive 700,000 fingerling-sized striped bass. The normal stocking rate is 350,000 fish. The department also increased the number of walleye stocked in the lake this year, from 350,000 to 500,000.

Anglers should expect the walleye to reach keeper size in two years; the stocked stripers will take three years to grow large enough for anglers to keep.

September is a prime time for fishing. Take a trip to Lake Cumberland this fall and experience some great fishing in a beautiful location.


INSIDER TIPS

September is the month to apply for public lands quota hunts. Apply online now at www.fw.ky.gov.