January 25, 2018
By Paul Moore
JANUARY - OHIO RIVER SAUGERS
The Ohio River has a fabulous population of sauger and right now is a perfect time for these fish. Sauger are typically scattered much of the year, making it difficult to locate and catch them. However, the winter months are when anglers have the advantage.
Sauger follow the urge to spawn and move upriver during late fall to be halted by the dams along the river. January is time to take advantage of the congregated sauger and fishing remains good throughout February.
Look for sauger congregated on the bottom in holes or depressions, along current seams, behind chunk rock or other current breaks. Use minnows, jigs or a combination to tempt bites. Blade baits are also good options.
Other Options: Laurel River Lake Smallmouths: This is one of the top spots in the state for quality-size smallmouths. Lake Cumberland Striped Bass: Target stripers in the backs of creeks where there is often slightly warmer water than the main lake.
FEBRUARY - DALE HOLLOW LAKE SMALLMOUTHS
February is a tough month to fish, not only because because the weather is often uncomfortable. However, catching a few smallmouths certainly warms the body and the action is great when the weather is nasty.
Smallmouths in Dale Hollow are known for suspending in the water column during the winter months. Although they bite well in the cold weeks, baits need to be presented slowly and kept in the strike zone long enough to trigger a hit. This is exactly why the float-n-fly tactic was developed.
Finding the suspended fish is job one, but it is a task made somewhat easier with electronics. Once fish are found, use float-n-fly tackle to get the baits in the strike zone and be patient.
Other Options: Paintsville Lake Rainbow Trout: Head to eastern Kentucky for good catches of stocked rainbows.
Cedar Creek Lake Largemouth Bass: This is one of the best spots in the state for trophy largemouths.
MARCH - KENTUCKY LAKE CRAPPIE
The spring crappie run is thought to be in April, but not so at Kentucky Lake. In most years, unless it is unseasonably cold, the action starts in March. This has been especially true since black crappie have increased at the lake.
Black crappie move shallower much earlier than white crappie and are often caught along sloping banks with pea gravel. As the water warms, both species are found on shallow brush, placed fish attractors and buck brush.
Minnows and tube jigs are great for tight lines, spider rigging and float fishing. Tipping the jig with a minnow or Berkley Crappie Nibble makes the bait more enticing. For casting, use Blakemore Road Runners or curly-tailed jigs in white or chartreuse.
Other Options: Lake Cumberland Walleyes: Lots of quality walleyes are present. Herrington Lake Largemouths: Herrington is often difficult to fish, but there are plenty of quality bigmouths available.
APRIL - BARREN RIVER LAKE LARGEMOUTH
The fishery is rated good to excellent by the KDFWR rating system.
Largemouths are moving shallower this time of year in preparation for spawning. Even better they are feeding voraciously and hitting most any bait. The big females are heavy with eggs and some of the largest bass of the year are caught this month.
There is a lot of woody structure in Barren River Lake and plastic baits are great for working wood. Crankbaits and rattlebaits are also good options. Spinnerbaits, swimbaits and others catch bass when the action is fast.
Other Options: Buckhorn Lake Muskies: There are plenty of quality-size muskies available. Rough River Lake Crappie: Plenty of keeper crappie are available at Rough River Lake with larger fish up to 13 inches possible.
MAY - KENTUCKY LAKE REDEARS
Late April through May offers some of the best redear fishing of the year at Kentucky Lake, which offers some of the largest shellcrackers in the state.
Anglers use a variety of baits including crickets, meal worms and wax worms, but a red worm or piece of nightcrawler is hard to beat. Shellcrackers feed on the bottom so baits need to be presented either on or near the bottom. Look for shallow spawning areas, especially spots with pea gravel.
Other Options: Wood Creek Largemouth: This lake produced the state record largemouth and the fishery is still cranking out lots of quality bass.
Elkhorn Creek Smallmouth: A spinning setup, a few baits and a float trip on Elkhorn Creek are a perfect combo.
JUNE - LAKE BARKLEY BLUEGILLS
Lots of fishing options are available but one of the most fun is tangling with the bluegills at Lake Barkley. The fishery is rated good/excellent and there are very good numbers up to 9 inches with some larger available.
Most bluegill spawning takes place in May, but there may still be some spawning activity ongoing in shallow bays with sandy or gravel bottoms. Other great locations are brush piles, downed trees and fish attractors. Bluegills move deeper as the water warms.
Most anglers opt for live bait and crickets are hard to beat. Use a small bait hook and a split shot beneath a slip float for plenty of action. Other great baits are red worms, pieces of nightcrawlers, wax worms and meal worms.
Other Options: Barren River Lake Hybrids: Troll or cast for hybrid striped bass. Lake Beshear Channel Catfish: The channel catfish population at Beshear is rated excellent.
JULY - RESERVOIR NIGHT BASS
Water temps are increasing along with lake traffic and sunlight penetration. These combine to push bass deeper and be more difficult to catch during daylight hours. However, the night bite for bass is soaring.
All major reservoirs provide excellent night fishing for black bass. Depending on the lake and conditions, bass may be on bottom structure, along humps or grass beds. They may also move shallower to feed. It takes a little experimenting to find what fish are doing, but once fish are found, the action is usually hot.
A great first option is slow-rolling a spinnerbait on underwater humps or along weed beds. Other great choices include surface baits, a large jig and trailer or a swimming jig.
Other Options: Taylorsville Lake Blue Catfish: The blue catfish stocked into Taylorsville Lake are now reaching quality size. FINs Lakes Mixed Creel: Lakes offer great offerings of catfish, bass, panfish and even trout, plus there are five new lakes in the program.
AUGUST - KENTUCKY LAKE LARGEMOUTH
The middle of summer is a tough time for bass anglers because fish are no longer congregated on shallow cover. Fishing deep open water is a little intimidating, but the learning curve is not that difficult. All bass fishing involves learning, so fishing deep water is just another step in the evolution.
Ledge fishing is the name of the game on Kentucky Lake in the summer and this lake offers some of the best ledge fishing in the country. Bass stack up on ledges and offer consistent action. Try main lake ledges first, but if the fish are not there, try secondary ledges and creek ledges.
Other Options: Farm Pond Catfish: This is a great time to hit a local farm pond for channel catfish. Nolin Lake White Bass: Wait until dark to hit Nolin Lake and enjoy some great night bite action for white bass.
SEPTEMBER - CAVE RUN LAKE MUSKIE
Fall is knocking at the door and that means time for muskies at Cave Run Lake. Some of the largest muskies of the year are taken in the fall when the big fish are feeding heavily for winter. Shad and other forage fish are moving shallow and muskies are close behind.
A lot of anglers like throwing big spinnerbaits and cranking them down the edges of the weed beds. Other good locations are shallow woody structure and along the beach areas. Big crankbaits and inline spinners are other great options.
Other Options: Ohio River Hybrids: The tailwaters below dams on the Ohio River offer good action on hybrids. Stream Trout: Fish low light times on stocked streams for good catches of rainbow and brown trout.
OCTOBER - STATEWIDE LARGEMOUTH
Now is one of the most productive times for catching largemouth bass all across the state. Water temperatures are dropping on big reservoirs, which triggers shad and other fish to vacate deeper summer haunts for the shallow coves and bays. Largemouths follow the forage and go on a feeding frenzy in preparation for winter.
When bass put on the fall feed bag, anglers enjoy the opportunity to use a lot of different baits and tactics. Identifying the forage is the first step. In lakes with shad, baits in shad colors are the obvious choice. If no shad are present, minnow-imitating baits and swimbaits are perfect for securing the fall bite.
Other Options: Dewey Lake Channel Catfish: The channel cat fishery at Dewey Lake is rated excellent and there are lots of fish in a wide size distribution. Green River Lake Muskie: The fish of a thousand casts is more cooperative this month at Green River Lake.
NOVEMBER - LAKE CUMBERLAND STRIPED BASS
This massive and deep lake once held the distinction as one of the best striped bass destinations in the country, but its prestige dropped some when Wolf Creek Dam was being repaired. The good news is the fishery has rebounded and the striper action is phenomenal. The numbers of fish are very good through a wide size distribution. Numbers of fish above 30 inches are greatly increased.
Most anglers run planer boards with live bait for stripers on Cumberland. Alewives and big shiners are the two most used baits. Fishing with down rods or casting baits is also productive at times.
Other Options: Fishtrap Lake Crappie: Fishtrap's crappie fishery is rated excellent and there are good numbers of big fish. Rough River Lake Hybrids: Main lake points and flats produce good catches of hybrids, some over 20 inches.
DECEMBER - GREEN RIVER LAKE CRAPPIE
Few people fish for crappie this time of year and that is precisely the reason to be on Green River Lake.
At the end of the year, the water temperature and weather conditions have evened off a bit, which allow crappie to get in a pattern. Typically, it means holding on deep brush piles. The winter bite is slower than in the warm water of spring, so get on a good location, drop down some baits on tight lines and be patient. Give the baits a little action occasionally and then let them settle again. If no bites within about 20 to 30 minutes, move to another brush pile.
Other Options: Ohio River Catfish: Wintertime is great for targeting trophy catfish for those who are not afraid of a cold weather. Kentucky Lake Sauger: The tailwaters below Kentucky Dam are full of hard fighting sauger.