Jeff Ross has insider information about the best fishing that Kentucky has to offer. That’s because Ross, who is assistant director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, also assembles the annual fishing forecast.
For anglers looking to catch a mess of panfish for the table, Ross suggests they head west to Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake.
“Those lakes are just ridiculous for the number of big bluegill and big redear sunfish in there,” he says. “They have redear up to 12-13 inches and bluegill measuring 8-10 inches or more. You just don’t see that size and numbers in our smaller state-owned lakes.”
Largemouth bass anglers wanting to tie into a big fish should head to Lincoln County. “Cedar Creek Lake right now is very good for largemouth bass of all sizes,” Ross says. “It’s also one of the best places in the state to catch a largemouth bass over 20 inches.”
Anglers may keep only one bass a day from the lake and it must exceed 20 inches.
Lake Cumberland will return to its old summertime level this year. That will improve striped bass fishing, which suffered while the lake was drawn down for repairs to Wolf Creek Dam. The higher lake levels will provide more cool-water habitat that these fish need to thrive.
“Our surveys show the fish are in better condition now than in the past few years,” Ross says. “They’ll have better water this year. They’ll be hungry. Anglers can expect to find bigger, healthier fish this year.”
Lake Cumberland’s size limit for striped bass will remain 22 inches for now. Previously, fish had to exceed 24 inches for anglers to keep them. A loss of bigger fish during the lowered lake level period prompted the department to reduce the size limit.
Ross says Kentucky and Barkley lakes will remain destinations for crappie anglers from all over the Midwestern United States. Both lakes have good populations of 10-12-inch fish.
As the number of black crappie has increased, anglers are switching tactics by casting 3-inch, curly-tailed grubs around rocky shorelines. Anglers still catch good numbers of spawning white crappie in mid-April by dousing minnows around shallow cover such as buttonball bushes, fish attractors, and submerged brush.
These are only a few of the places featured in the new fishing forecast. Use it to plan your own trophy trip or find a good place to fish close to home.
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.