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2018 Kentucky Family Fishing Destinations

2018 Kentucky Family Fishing Destinations

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Taking kids fishing is more than just spending time with them; it's a way to really connect and become mentors. However, be sure to plan well to make trips comfortable and fun. Photo By Shutterstock

 Some of the best memories are made when the family is in the outdoors, fishing, camping and exploring, away from the electronic cares of the world.


Summer is the favorite time of year for a lot of people. There is so much fun stuff to do and a lot of extra daylight in which to do it. The coming weeks are also when many families plan vacations and weekend getaways. For families that like to fish, those trips often are planned around locations with a hole of water and plenty of fun fishing adventure suitable for the whole family.

Getting away for a while is always fun, but it does not always have to be a major undertaking with a trip hundreds or thousands of miles from home. Sure, those trips are fun too, but there are plenty of great destinations in Kentucky to get away for a weekend or even an entire week, with lots of things to do the whole family will enjoy, not to mention some excellent fishing opportunity.


The lake at Kingdom Come State Park is not very large, but it is certainly large on opportunity. The park is near the small town of Cumberland near the Virginia state line, and features 1,283 acres of some of the best natural scenery in the state.

The park is at the crest of Pine Mountain and has an elevation of 2,700 feet. There are eight overlooks with stunning views, and some very interesting rock formations are also found in the park. There is a natural sandstone bridge, Log Rock and Raven Rock, which is a giant rock exposure that extends 290 feet at a 45-degree angle. The park was named after Kentucky author John Fox Jr.'s Civil War novel, "The Little Shepard of Kingdom Come."

The lake is part of the Fishing in Neighborhoods Program and is managed to provide excellent family fishing. FINs was started in 2006 by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources with the goal of providing good family fishing opportunities close to home. It has grown through the years and now has 43 lakes in the program.

The KDFWR monitors the lakes and directly manages individual fisheries. Kingdom Come Lake is stocked with rainbow trout three times a year. There are 500 trout stocked in January and 1,000 stocked in March and November. Catfish are also stocked twice a year with 500 in the spring and another 500 later in the summer. Largemouth bass and bluegills are also in good supply at the lake and the populations are checked regularly. Supplemental stockings of these species occur if natural reproduction does not keep the fisheries where they need to be.

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According to Dane Balsman, fisheries program manager for the KDFWR, a couple of bonuses at Kingdom Come Lake are that it has some trophy bass swimming in the clear mountain water and anglers have the opportunity to catch a species of sunfish they may not have caught before — redbreast sunfish.

The lake offers excellent bank fishing opportunities and it is a great place for youth fishing. Youths age 15 and younger do not need a license, but adults need a fishing license and if trout fishing, a trout permit is also required.

Along the Way: There is a lot to do right at the state park including picnicking, horseshoes, pedal boats and miniature golf. There is also mountain biking along the Little Shepherd Trail as well as 14 hiking trails through the rugged and scenic mountain terrain. The state park is very near the Daniel Boone National Forest and for a bigger fishing or boating experience, Buckhorn, Fishtrap and Carr Creek lakes are not far away either. Plenty of stream fishing is also close. The Cumberland Gap National Historic Park is a must-see day trip while in the area.


Rolex Lake at the Kentucky Horse Park in Fayette County was recently added to the FINs program and is a great spot for a family trip. The fishing is terrific and there is stuff to do right at the horse park. Not only that, but with its close proximity to Lexington, there is an abundance of family activities, attractions, lodging and dining options available.

Rolex Lake is stocked with 900 rainbow trout in February and another 900 in March. Then in November another 1,800 trout are stocked. The lake is also heavily stocked with catfish in March, April, May and August. Some 1,100 cats are stocked each of those months. The largemouth bass and sunfish populations are also monitored frequently to make sure recruitment is good and fishing remains at a high quality.

There are also two other lakes on the property where fishing is permitted although they are not part of the FINs program. Camping is available on site or angling families may opt for a wide array of other lodging in Lexington.

While at the Kentucky Horse Park families may want to visit the International Museum of the Horse, which is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. It is the largest and most comprehensive museum in the world dedicated to the history of the horse. There are racing trophies, artifacts and more.

The American Saddlebred Museum and Gift Shop is another great attraction at the park. It is home to the largest collection of Saddlebred artifacts in the world and has lots of interactive exhibits. There are other exhibits in the park and the facilities often host various events throughout the year.

Along The Way: Lexington is the second largest metro area in the state and as such, there are plenty of family attractions. Of course, University of Kentucky is in Lexington and there are numerous sporting events throughout the year. Lots of concerts, festivals and other seasonal attractions happen in the city.

Many other attractions are family friendly, fun and educational. A few to consider are the Explorium of Lexington, Mary Todd Lincoln House, Hunt-Morgan House, University of Kentucky Arboretum, Living Arts and Science Center, and the Raven Run Nature Sanctuary. Nearby attractions include Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Harrodsburg and Bluegrass Railroad Museum in Versailles. In Frankfort, there is the Kentucky History Center, the Salato Wildlife Education Center and the KDFWR headquarters, including the Game Farm lakes, which provide lots more fishing opportunity.


Sprawling Lake Barkley is in western Kentucky, and this massive reservoir is one of the best fishing locations in the state, offering world-class fishing. There is no better place to experience all Lake Barkley has to offer than at the Lake Barkley State Resort Park near Cadiz.

Lake Barkley is an angler's paradise offering almost every freshwater species present in Kentucky. For adults and older children, the black bass fishing is phenomenal. Largemouth bass are rated excellent by the KDFWR and there are also decent numbers of smallmouths. Striped bass and big crappies are also plentiful.

For anglers of all ages, Lake Barkley offers some of the best panfishing action in the state. Hand-size bluegills and jumbo redear sunfish are very plentiful and a tremendous amount of fun for the whole family. The best redear fishing is in late April and early May. Bluegill fishing peaks about this same time, but good fishing for 'gills is available all summer long. Bluegills are abundant in shallow water in spring and some fish stay near the shore all summer. The better quality bluegills move to deeper brush, submerged trees and stake beds by early summer.

White and yellow bass offer additional fishing and are great targets throughout the summer months. Catfish are very plentiful and are caught from boats and the bank. Channel catfish and blue catfish are abundant and rated excellent by the KDFWR and there is always the chance of catching a true trophy. Flathead catfish are also in the lake, but harder to locate and catch.

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There is a launching ramp and marina at the state park with fishing boats, pontoon boats and even ski boats available for rent. The park even has free loaner rods and reels for families needing fishing equipment.

A variety of lodging is available at the state park. There are rooms at Lake Barkley Lodge and Little River Lodge. Cottages and campsites are also available. The main lodge features a restaurant acclaimed for its food and ambiance.

Staying at the state park offers lots of other amenities in addition to great fishing and boating access. There is racquetball, volleyball, swimming, hiking and horseback riding. Parents and older children may enjoy a round of golf at the 18-hole Boots Randolph Course.

Along The Way: One of the best attractions is the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. LBL straddles the Kentucky and Tennessee line and totals 170,000 acres. Miles of hiking, biking and horseback trails traverse the forested landscape. There is even an ATV and off-road vehicle area. Some of the attractions in LBL include an elk and bison prairie, Woodlands Nature Center, planetarium and the Homeplace 1850s Working Farm and Living History Museum.

Nearby Cadiz provides some shopping and dining options, as well as some of the most visited antique shops in the state. Eddyville is not far away and offers more shopping, dining and an excellent water park. Strung out along Highway 62 from Eddyville toward Kentucky Dam are numerous roadside flea markets open all throughout the warm months of the year.


This city in Daviess County, acclaimed by many as the barbeque capital of Kentucky, offers lots of options for family fishing. Within the city proper, there is bank fishing available at Jack C. Fischer Park and at Waymond Morris Park. The latter is a FINs lake and offers lots of fishing options. It is stocked with 900 trout in February, 1,800 trout in March and 1,800 trout in November. Catfish are stocked to the tune of 1,000 per month in March, April, May and August. Additionally, a hybrid sunfish is also stocked at the rate of 1,500 annually.

But these two lakes are not the only options. Yellow Creek Park Lake and Panther Creek Park Lake are also part of the FINs program and therefore are stocked and managed for family fishing. Great shoreline fishing is available at both locations.

Panther Creek Park Lake is stocked with 3,750 trout annually divided through the months of February, March and November. Catfish are stocked in the months of March, April, May and August at the rate of 800 per month. Approximately 1,200 hybrid sunfish are stocked annually in June.

Yellow Creek Park Lake is stocked with the same species only the stocking rates vary a bit. Trout are stocked in February, March and November with 500 fish released at each stocking. Catfish are stocked at the rate of 600 per month during the same four months as Panther Creek Park Lake. Hybrid sunfish are stocked once per year in June at a rate of 1,500 fish per stocking.

Along The Way: Owensboro has lots of lodging and dining options ranging from local eateries to national chains. One of the most popular is Moonlite Barbeque, which is known across the country and has been visited by numerous celebrities and politicians throughout the years.

Smothers Park in downtown Owensboro on the bank of the Ohio River is a phenomenal destination for youths and adults. Activities include the International Bluegrass Music Museum, Museum of Science and History, shopping and more. Owensboro is also home to numerous festivals, concerts and other events every year. 

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