The Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife has issued its 2017 fishing forecast. Here is the outlook for “papermouths” this year.
Barkley Lake and Tailwater
Barkley Lake is a little tougher fishing for crappie than Kentucky Lake, though the numbers of crappie are good. You can expect this to be a very memorable year for Lake Barkley crappie. Consecutive good year classes have created an excellent fishery for both black and white crappie. Many fishermen are changing tactics, casting or trolling light jigs and roadrunners year-around.
Barren River Lake
Excellent numbers of crappie (black and white) available. Good numbers of larger white crappie (10-inch plus), but few larger black crappie (10-inch plus) available. Ratio of black to white crappie is about 50-50. Target shallower water to find black crappie in spring and early summer. Summer and winter fishing is best around deeper structure in creek/river channel and fish attractor/brush sites.
Cave Run Lake
In recent years, anglers have been experiencing outstanding crappie fishing. High numbers of fish in the 2- to 3-year-old range in angler creels from 2015 will translate to another good year in 2017. Starting in May, fish around department placed and natural brush piles. If there are weeds present, summer fishing will be tougher; fish are still there just not as congregated around brush piles.
Modest density, but very good size range. Large crappie (12-14 inches) fairly abundant compared to historical averages. Try jigs or minnows in headwaters of the lake (near mouth of Laurel and Rockcastle Rivers) in early spring for some excellent fishing. Fall fishing should also be good in major tributaries.
Fishtrap Lake and Tailwaters
Distribution and numbers are good through 13 inches with some larger fish available to 15-16 inches
Green River Lake
Good numbers of harvestable-size white crappie (9-inch plus). Expect to weed through lots of sub-legal fish to find keeper fish.
Backwater areas and creek mouths with brushy habitat are best producers.
Very good number of fish at and above the 9-inch size limit. Good spawns of white and black crappie were found in 2015. Many of these fish will be entering the fishery (≥9 inch) in spring of 2017. Note: Daily creel limit 15 fish.
Small population; good numbers of fish between 8-10 inches; larger fish possible.
Benjy Kinman Lake
Good numbers of fish between 8-10 inches; larger fish possible.
Numerous crappie in the 6- to 8-inch range, with an occasional 10 incher. Best fishing during spring in areas of aquatic vegetation and around woody structure. The population is considered stunted; therefore it is ok to harvest the small crappie.
Abundant; majority of fish between 6-8 inches; larger fish possible.
Large fish present. Fish laydown trees, stakebeds and brushpiles in late winter and early spring
Buckhorn Lake and Tailwater
July and August can provide some very good fishing over shallow mud flats adjacent to main lake channel. Try trolling bait tipped jigs or small crankbaits over the flats. Also, October-November during drawdown to winter pool can be very good in the same locations. Most of legal fish are 9-12 inches with occasional fish to 14 inches.
Bullcock Pen Lake
Abundant population of small-size fish (mostly 6-7 inches); a few larger fish are present.
Carr Creek Lake
Larger black crappie from 9-12 inches and white crappie from 10-16 inches. Deadfall trees and submerged brush piles will congregate large numbers of fish during most of the year. Numbers of keeper size fish are increasing.
Cedar Creek Lake
Stable crappie population provides good numbers of 9- to 11-inch crappie and a fair number of larger fish. Try jigs tipped with minnows around submerged brush, particularly in late fall.
Low numbers; most fish between 8 to 9 inches.
Black and white crappie are present with larger white crappie to 14 inches and black crappie to 10 inches. Popular with bank anglers due to many bank access areas.
Elmer Davis Lake
Most around 9-11 inches.
Fagan Branch Lake
Best fishing early and late and at night under floating lights using minnows. Fair numbers of fish, but not many larger fish (10-inch plus).
Population appears to be on the upswing. Search out cover (there are several department-placed brush piles placed throughout the lake) or fish deep near channel edges around standing timber.
Fish tributary mouths, below locks and dams, and brush along bank in spring and fall with live minnows.
Guist Creek Lake
Most in the 7- to 10-inch range; larger fish are present.
Difficult to locate but many quality-size fish (9 inches or larger) available; best around brush or fallen trees in upper half of lake. Potential for large black crappie around debris in inlets in main lake.
Anglers fishing deep are catching good numbers of keeper-size white crappie. Anglers fishing shallow along rocky shoreline are catching fair numbers of black crappie. Try casting toward the shoreline with a curly tail jig. Crappie are vulnerable during late winter or early spring as they move toward shallow water areas for spawning. Fish are shallow in early to mid April around buttonball bushes, brush piles and stake beds. Crappie move to secondary channels, drops and flats near creek channels during the fall and winter, and are most frequently found near structure. On mild winter days, crappie may move shallow to brush piles. A lot of short crappie being caught, just means better fishing to come.
Currently good number of crappie in the Kentucky River; locate in backwater/creekmouth areas with low current. Fish up to 12 inches or larger possible.
Abundant; most between 6-9 inches.
Moderate number of 9- to 10-inch fish. Fish brush piles and fallen trees along some of the steeper banks.
Laurel River Lake
Low density population, but some larger (9-inch plus) crappie are caught each year. Upper Laurel River arm near city dam is best area.
Marion County Lake
Large fish available. Fish laydown trees in the upper end of the lake in spring and brushpiles in late winter and summer.
Martins Fork Lake
White crappie are present. Harvested fish are typically 9-10 inches. Occasional large fish up to 12-13 inches. Crappie are scattered in shallow water in spring and congregate in tight groups in standing timber in summer.
Low numbers, but quality-size fish possible. Fish near weed beds and fallen trees, particularly in the spring.
Metcalfe County Lake
Smaller-sized (8-9 inch) on average; better sizes available but not overly abundant.
Mill Creek Lake
Fair number of 8- to 9-inch fish. Larger crappie present but at low numbers.
Nolin River Lake
Crappie numbers down somewhat for 2017; however, still good number of harvestable 9- to 11-inch fish in the population. During summer fish deeper brush piles 16- to 18feet deep mid lake for larger fish.
Paintsville Lake and Tailwater
Most of successful fishing occurs on the upper end of the lake into Open Fork and Little Paint Creeks; fish sampled up to 15 inches. Late March can often provide good catches of keeper fish in shallow water near Patoker boat ramp. Look for sunny days at this time of year for best fishing. Lower lake will have larger fish often holding at edges of hydrilla beds.
Rough Lake and Tailwater
Good number of 9- to 11-inch fish in the population; many 12- to 13-inch fish as well. Deeper brush piles in mid-lake hold larger fish during summer.
Shanty Hollow Lake
Large fish (10-14 inches) available. Fish stakebeds and shallow brushpiles in spring; deeper brush in late winter and summer.
West Fork Drakes Reservoir
Good numbers of fish, but will have to weed through smaller fish to find larger fish.
Wood Creek Lake
Good density of smaller fish with some fish exceeding 9 inches. Fair Good density of smaller fish with some fish exceeding 9 inches.
Best numbers of keeper fish will run 10-13 inches. There is large number of fish in 5- to 7-inch range that should increase keeper fish numbers in 2018. This fishery consists only of white crappie. Larger crappie will aggressively go after shad or minnows. Traditional brushy areas and deadfall trees are good for spring spawning fish, with shallow mudflats being good in the fall during drawdown to winter pool.
Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources