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Top places to catch bottom feeders

Sarah Jenkins with catfish. Photo: Rick Hill
Kevin Kelly. Photo: Obie Williams
John Boone and Rick Hill with catfish. Photo: Dave Baker
Joe Ben Hogancamp with his wife Brooke, of Bardwell, Ky. Photo: Joel Imel
Photo: Obie Williams

It’s time to empty the grocery store of chicken liver and hit the water in search of catfish. Here are the top places to catch cats in Kentucky, according to the Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources.


Rated as Excellent


Barkley Lake and Tailwater

Channel catfish – Best fishing is during May along rocky banks and during summer along the main river channel and adjacent flats.  Try stink-bait in shallow water in the spring. Jug fishing is a great choice. Channel catfish can also be caught year-round in the tailwater.

Blue catfish – Good numbers of 10- to 20-pounders with the occasional 50+ pounder.  Best fishing is during late spring and summer along deep river channels.  Look for good flow in the lake for best fishing conditions. Blue catfish can be caught year-round in the tailwater. Fresh caught shad or skipjack is best, but cut up pieces of silver carp also works well.

Barren River

Good populations of channel and flathead catfish present with good numbers of larger individuals. Fishing best near creek channels and at night. Blue catfish have been stocked annually since 2010, with some of these already over 35 inches. Fish for blues with live or cut bait in open water areas with jugs or rod and reel.

Beshear Lake

High numbers of 10- to 15-inch channel catfish in the population. Channel catfish are stocked every other year at 10-12 inches. This is an underutilized fishery. Most anglers fishing for catfish use jug lines or noodles. Catfish are one of the reasons people go to Lake Beshear to fish.

Buckhorn Lake and Tailwater

High numbers of channel catfish with good recruitment of young fish each year.  Some flathead catfish available up to 40-50 pounds. Tailwater provides additional good fishery.

Cumberland Lake

Excellent population of 2- to 5-pound channels with some larger fish in the mix. Nightcrawlers still fished or slowly trolled on main lake flats and cuts during late summer or fall should pick up some quality fish.

Dewey Lake

Good numbers of channels found in the lower lake during winter months. The upper lake is best in the summer months. Lots of good bank fishing access.

Fishtrap Lake and Tailwater

Good size distribution and numbers of channels found throughout the lake and into Levisa Fork. Provide good opportunity for tickling/noodling during nesting. Flathead catfish Excellent Numerous large fish with good numbers found in the lake and into Levisa Fork. Numerous rocky ledges and banks around.

Green River Lake

All sizes of channels available. Hook and line fishing best at night or when water levels are on the rise and muddy. Jug fishing good mid-summer to fall.

Guist Creek Lake

Catchable-size channel catfish stocked last year; very good numbers of catfish with potential for trophies.  Flatheads present in lake. Note: this lake is home to current white catfish state record.

Kentucky Lake and Tailwater

Blue catfish – In the lake, the best fishing is along the main river channel.  Fish congregate along the ledges of the main river channel when there is current, and scatter along the adjacent flats during periods of low flow. Drift fish vertically using live shiners or cut shad/skipjack in areas where creek channels meet the main river channel and along the main river channel near bends. Use a depth finder to determine if the fish are near the bottom or suspended, and then fish appropriately. Other baits to try include chicken hearts, night crawlers, grasshoppers, or catalpa worms.

Channel catfish – The best fishing occurs during the late spring along chunky rock shoreline in the lake, and rip-rap shoreline around the dam and marinas. Good fishing is available along the river channel during summer and on flats along the secondary channels. Jug fishing in the embayments is often a good way to catch a mess of channel catfish.

In the tailwaters there are year-round fishing opportunities. However, blue catfish outnumber the channel catfish in the tailwater area. Two piers offer good bank fishing access points, while fishing from a boat might be best downstream around woody debris, stumps, and creek mouths.

Ohio River

Look for silt-free, rocky habitat and embayments.

Rough River Lake and Tailwater

Large number of 18- to 25-inch channel catfish with many over 25 inches. Lower number of flathead catfish, but trophy fish available. Fish upper lake areas in early spring and steeper rocky banks during mid-May through June for spawning fish. Fish upper river areas in the fall/early winter.

Taylorsville Lake

Blue catfish population stable; stocked annually since 2002. Fish with live bait, cut bait, or crank baits (open water areas). Fish over 40 inches possible. Many channel catfish of all sizes; look for bigger fish in the timber in spring; head of creeks in fall, points next to channel any time. Numbers of flathead catfish are increasing.

Yatesville Lake

Quality size distribution and densities of channel catfish exist in all areas of the lake; recent stockings have greatly increased numbers. During fall to early winter many fish are shallow in upper lake; popular lake for jugging and limb lines.

Rated as Good

A.J. Jolly Lake

Catchable-size channel catfish stocked in summer of 2015. Good numbers of channel catfish over 12 inches present. Low numbers of blue catfish. Catchable-size blue catfish were stocked in 2016; 25-inch plus blue catfish possible. Flatheads present in lake.

Beaver Lake

Good catchable-size channel catfish stocked last year; fish over 15 inches common. Fall fishing good in shallows in coves.

Briggs Lake

Channel catfish. Good, all sizes available. Stocked every other year.

Carpenter Lake

Stocked annually with channels. Excellent growth rates produce good numbers of 15- to 20-inch and larger fish.

Cave Run Lake

Good numbers of channel catfish up to 24 inches are fairly common along with a few larger sizes. Many are found along shallow rocky shoreline areas in early May-June where they seek cover in rock piles and submerged logs to spawn. Later they tend to be found in deeper water. Although not as plentiful, some trophy-size flathead catfish are found in the lake.

Corinth Lake

Catchable-size channel catfish stocked in 2015; fish over 15 inches common,

Elkhorn Creek

Large channel catfish possible in bigger pools; good numbers of “keeper” channel catfish, especially in the lower section of the main stem. Flathead catfish are present.

Elmer Davis Lake

Catchable-size fish stocked last year; fish over 15 inches possible.

Fagan Branch Lake

Good numbers of 11- to 14-inch fish. Stocked every other year.

Grayson Lake

Widespread throughout the lake. Fair numbers of channel and flathead catfish up to 20 inches long, some trophy-size flathead catfish. Try fishing the middle and upper sections in early fall.

Green River

Good populations of channel, blue, and flathead catfish. Trophy-size blue and flathead catfish available. Good bets are tailwaters below locks and dams, in deeper holes, and around logs, brush, or rocks.

Greenbo lake

Stocked every other year; many 2- to 3-pound fish observed during fall sampling. Note: limb lines (set lines), jug lines, and trot lines are illegal to use at this lake.

Herrington Lake

Flathead catfish. Good, all sizes present; usually feed at night on sunfish and shad.

Kincaid lake

Catchable-size stocked last year; good potential for fish over 15 inches.

Lake Malone

Stocked annually, good number of 14- to 16-inch fish with a few 20-inch plus available.

Lake Reba

Stocked every other year. Sampling shows high numbers of these stock-size fish, and several over this size. Note: 12-inch minimum size limit; limb lines (set lines), jug lines, and trot lines are illegal to use at this lake.

Lake Wilgreen

Blue catfish. Good. Stocked every third year. Good catches regularly reported in the summer.

Marion County Lake

All sizes of channels available. Stocked every other year.

Martins Fork Lake

Most fish are less than 20 inches; fingerlings were stocked in 2016. Fish at night for better results as water is very clear. There are several good bank fishing areas. Cranks Creek and Martins Fork Creek where first entering the lake when murky can have good numbers of fish.

Mauzy Lake

Stocked every other year; many 15- to 22-inch fish in the population.

Mill Creek Lake

Stocked every other year. Note: limb lines (set lines), jug lines, and trot lines are illegal to use at this lake.

Nolin River Lake

Good number of 15- to 20-inch channel catfish  and many larger. Fish upper lake (Sportsman’s Paradise and Cane Run) and river area in early spring and rocky main lake banks mid-May through June. Flathead catfish: lower numbers than channels but several large fish (30+ lbs) harvested annually. Fish late May through June along the steeper rocky banks.

Smoke Valley Lake

Stocked every other year. Note: limb lines (set lines), jug lines, and trot lines are illegal to use at this lake.

Spurlington Lake

All sizes present. Stocked every other year.

Three Springs Lake

Good numbers and good size fish (15-inch plus) available. Stocked periodically through the spring and summer.

Washburn Lake

Stocked annually. Good number of fish in the population, many 15-20 inches.

West Fork Drakes Reservoir

Numerous sizes available. Fishing best at night near creek channel.

Wood Creek Lake

Stocked in odd-numbered years. Consistently produces 12- to 18-inch fish.

See the full fishing forecast here.


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