Kentucky Living Home

Trove of Trout

By Dave Baker from January 2014 Issue

Anglers from throughout the southeastern United States flock to the Cumberland River each year for the opportunity to wrestle a trophy trout from its cool waters.

Fed by outflows deep within Lake Cumberland's Wolf Creek Dam, this big, brawny tailwater has produced every trout record in Kentucky.

Times have been tough over the past few years, however. Lake Cumberland has remained lower than normal since repairs to the dam began in 2007. Water conditions worsened as the tailwater temperatures climbed and oxygen levels fell.

During that time, the number of rainbow trout exceeding 15 inches dropped 98 percent. Populations of similar-sized brown trout fell by 78 percent.

With repairs now complete, the lake's water level is expected to return to normal in the spring. River conditions should return to normal as well.

Gerry Buynak, assistant director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, anticipates spectacular trout fishing in the tailwater this year.

"That tailwater is going to explode," he says. "The fish densities are down, so growth rates should explode because there's less competition for food. Fishing should be tremendous."

To help return big trout to the tailwater, Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery kept some brook trout and rainbow trout in the facility longer than usual so the state fish and wildlife agency could release bigger fish than the normal 9-inch stockers.

Hatchery Manager James Gray says the hatchery supplied 1,200 brook trout averaging 12 inches long for stocking last June. It also supplied 12,950 sterile rainbow trout ranging from 15 to 17 inches for a stocking last October. The 75 miles of the Cumberland River tailwater in Kentucky will continue to receive its normal stocking of 9-inch trout this year as well: 160,000 rainbow, 40,000 brown, and 40,000 brook trout.

The larger, sterile rainbow trout stocked in October channel their energy into growth rather than reproduction. Fisheries research biologist Dave Dreves believes these fish could grow past 20 inches within two years if conditions are ideal.

Among the regulations for the Cumberland River: Anglers must release all rainbow trout between 15 and 20 inches. The creel limit for rainbows is five fish, only one of which can be more than 20 inches. There is a one-fish, 15-inch minimum size limit for brook trout. The daily limit for brown trout is one, and it must be at least 20 inches long. Finally, make sure that you have a trout permit when fishing the tailwater.Anglers from throughout the southeastern United States flock to the Cumberland River each year for the opportunity to wrestle a trophy trout from its cool waters.

Fed by outflows deep within Lake Cumberland's Wolf Creek Dam, this big, brawny tailwater has produced every trout record in Kentucky.

Times have been tough over the past few years, however. Lake Cumberland has remained lower than normal since repairs to the dam began in 2007. Water conditions worsened as the tailwater temperatures climbed and oxygen levels fell.

During that time, the number of rainbow trout exceeding 15 inches dropped 98 percent. Populations of similar-sized brown trout fell by 78 percent.

With repairs now complete, the lake's water level is expected to return to normal in the spring. River conditions should return to normal as well.

Gerry Buynak, assistant director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, anticipates spectacular trout fishing in the tailwater this year.

"That tailwater is going to explode," he says. "The fish densities are down, so growth rates should explode because there's less competition for food. Fishing should be tremendous."

To help return big trout to the tailwater, Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery kept some brook trout and rainbow trout in the facility longer than usual so the state fish and wildlife agency could release bigger fish than the normal 9-inch stockers.

Hatchery Manager James Gray says the hatchery supplied 1,200 brook trout averaging 12 inches long for stocking last June. It also supplied 12,950 sterile rainbow trout ranging from 15 to 17 inches for a stocking last October. The 75 miles of the Cumberland River tailwater in Kentucky will continue to receive its normal stocking of 9-inch trout this year as well: 160,000 rainbow, 40,000 brown, and 40,000 brook trout.

The larger, sterile rainbow trout stocked in October channel their energy into growth rather than reproduction. Fisheries research biologist Dave Dreves believes these fish could grow past 20 inches within two years if conditions are ideal.

Among the regulations for the Cumberland River: Anglers must release all rainbow trout between 15 and 20 inches. The creel limit for rainbows is five fish, only one of which can be more than 20 inches. There is a one-fish, 15-inch minimum size limit for brook trout. The daily limit for brown trout is one, and it must be at least 20 inches long. Finally, make sure that you have a trout permit when fishing the tailwater.


INSIDER TIP

Kentucky offers catch-and-release trout fishing at 13 streams until the end of March to ensure good fishing during the winter. Find a list of these waters online at www.fw.ky.gov. Search for "trout waters" to locate the link.

Dave Baker is editor of Kentucky Afield magazine, with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Visit www.ky afield.com or call (800) 858- 1549 for more information.