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Going For The Record

Almost 40 years have passed since Jim Mattingly caught the state record rainbow trout: a 14-pound, 6-ounce monster pulled from the shadow of Wolf Creek Dam.

And nearly 30 years have passed since James Augustus took the state record 1-pound, 5-ounce brook trout from Martins Fork in Bell County.

These records, safe for so many decades, might not last another 10 years if an experimental program of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife proves successful.

The department’s fisheries division is stocking brook trout in the state for the first time since 1990. Unlike past stockings into small mountain streams with limited growth potential, these fish are going into the Cumberland River below Wolf Creek Dam near Jamestown.

The river, home to Kentucky’s record rainbow and brown trout, offers plenty of food for the brookies to grow fat.

“We think brook trout have the potential to do well in the tailwater, because they’ve done well in other tailwaters in the Southeast,” says Fisheries Research biologist Dave Dreves. (Tailwaters are the section of a river immediately below a dam.)

“We’re stocking the same strain of brook trout as they do in the Arkansas tailwaters, and their record is 5 pounds,” Dreves says.

More than 11,000 brook trout averaging 9 inches long went into the Cumberland River in March. Anglers can only keep one brook trout a day, and the fish must measure 15 inches or more. “A 15-inch fish is very close to the size of the state record,” Dreves says. “The first keeper brook trout caught could be the new state record. I expect the state record to fall several times during the first year that the fish reach keeper size.”

Brook trout are the jewels of the river. Their colorful dark bodies feature a series of red dots ringed in blue, worm-like markings on their backs, and lower fins edged in white.

For anglers who want to battle the big fish, there’s some exciting news. Kentucky is now stocking a special strain of sterile rainbow trout. Although indistinguishable from other rainbows in the river, this type of fish puts all of its energy into growth instead of diverting it into reproduction. As a result, once these sterile fish reach 14 inches, their growth takes off.

“We’re hoping to get a 20-pound fish,” Fisheries Director Ron Brooks says.

Mattingly says he isn’t too worried about his record being broken, however. “Once that new strain is stocked, I fully intend to go down to Wolf Creek and catch a 40-pounder—and keep the record,” he jokes.


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