This new 784-acre impoundment in Lincoln County has been specially created with trophy bass anglers in mind. Read on for the latest on our state's unique trophy bass lake!
When the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) closed the valve on Cedar Creek Lake in Lincoln County in September 2002, they had to know that the $4.2 million they had just invested in creating the state’s first and only true trophy bass lake was going to return huge dividends to the local economy. After all, anglers are going to want to fish this lake — a lot.
Even more than that, they also knew anglers were going to eventually find this 784-acre reservoir a unique setting, unlike anywhere else in the Commonwealth for catching fish, bass especially. In fact, anglers are already scoring well, reporting catches of a lot of undersized bass. It sounds a little strange to say it, but yes, some 15-inch and bigger largemouth are being hooked now. A 15-inch bass on almost any other lake wouldn’t be called “undersized,” but things are a little different on Cedar Creek. A bass of 20 inches is the minimum size limit here, which is more restrictive than on any other water in Kentucky. Here’s why.
This lake isn’t being managed like an average bass fishery might be elsewhere. The KDFWR is hoping for “gold” in this event, and from the first day of preparation, the goal has always been different. So far this contender seems to be doing well. It’s just a matter of a time before the “trophy” catching aspect for bass anglers should kick in, and then perhaps Cedar Creek will stand as the best big bass lake in Kentucky.
When the opportunity to construct a new lake arose, KDFWR fisheries biologists already had a vision in mind, one that would help fulfill a bass angler’s dreams of what a quality fishing environment and experience would be.
Imagine it. No personal watercraft. No jet-driven pleasure boats. No skiing or houseboats. Just pure, unadulterated fishing territory wherever you go. Talk about a unique and desirable approach to creating what most of us would consider as angling utopia! It’s unheard of. While all the other waterways in the Commonwealth also offer pleasure boaters a place to do their thing, this one spot goes to serve anglers’ wants as its primary recreational function. But there’s more.
To top it all off, the agency took the rare advantage of being able to control the development of the various fisheries of a water body from the get-go, and decided to go with trophy largemouth management. It was tried a time or two here and there in past years, in a small state-owned lake, but without much success.
Attempting to take an existing fishery and mold it into a trophy one is very difficult. Many dynamics are already set within an existing lake’s environment that can limit the kind of production it takes to generate and sustain a trophy-class bass fishery. It’s often harder to mold a fishery, if you have to try to come up with a combination of management plans (regulations) after the fish populations are already established.
Having control of more of the aspects of developing a fishery (except nature) from day one increases the chance that a trophy approach will work; Cedar Creek has been designed both in physical development and regulation to give it the best chance it can have to produce monster bucketmouths. How good it can become depends on many, many factors — and time holds the answer.
There’s not much any other way to describe what the KDFWR, with the help of several volunteers and county officials, did in creating fish habitat in Cedar Creek, than to say they just went nuts. Before the water began filling the lake, an unbelievable amount of manmade habitat was placed in the lake to supplement a tremendous quantity of natural cover the agency instructed the lake contractors to leave in the basin.
Numerous areas of the lake have been artificially enhanced not only for fishing cover, but also with spawning and feeding in mind. Biologists have tried to think of every facet of what maintains and supports the bass (and other species) fishery to ensure the needs of the fish to grow and multiply would be met.
It’s going to be hard for anglers to cast anywhere in about any direction, and not be in or near some type of cover for bass in this reservoir. There are stakebeds, brushpiles, old roadbeds, standing timber, fallen timber, rockpiles, gravel beds and submerged ponds. Of course, one of the best structures is the old U.S. Route 150 bridge and roadway. What’s particularly good is that a great deal of cover that will hold bass is easily visible.
One thing that makes bass fishing tougher in older lakes is that habitat eventually disappears, and sometimes a reservoir can have little natural cover remaining after a couple of decades. That makes it harder to fish, and requires anglers to develop new tactics besides just casting to visible shoreline cover. Cedar Creek won’t likely have a shortage of cover for most of our lifetimes. You could say it is literally “covered up” with cover.
In areas where standing timber and stumps were left, boat lanes were cut beneath the surface to allow access to the cover without fear of wrecking lower units and for easier navigation. Anglers looking for that 20-inch-plus bass this spring, some of which should be showing up in 2005, will be able to get into the spots where the big ones like to hide. By the way, you can keep one 20-inch or better bass per day if you want to, but returning legal keepers will help maintain quality fishing just like releasing the sub-legal sizes.
For a while, the lake will have some algae cover typical of new lakes. The nutrient load is usually high in new waters, which helps create explosive vegetative growth. The location of the lake, between Stanford and Crab Orchard, is in the Knobs Region of the Bluegrass. This is primarily a forested watershed.
Cedar Creek isn’t expected to be a tremendously fertile lake in the future because forest run-off isn’t as rich as agricultural land run-off. It will also likely mean clearer water conditions as time passes. Eventually, the heavier algae volume is expected to decrease, but algae cover does have some benefit as a good source of food for smaller aquatic organisms, baitfish and small game fish.
If you’re looking for a bass “hotspot” amid all the cover this lake offers, one such place is the old pond that was built up and then had trees cabled in around its banks. This structure is in the northeastern end of the lake, along the old Route 150 roadbed that runs out into the lake.
The KDFWR also took the foundations of some of the old farmhouses left in the basin and constructed a rock and debris underwater hump and reef out from the boat ramp near old Cowan Road. A great deal of what was usable in the area that is now flooded was put to good use for fish habitat and with anglers in mind. Just flip on your electronics and watch your graph to locate what’s below the surface, and the contour changes on the bottom that bass like to relate to at almost any time of the year.
A map of the lake and all the fish- attracting structure is currently in production. It will show stakebed locations out from the ramp at the dam, one near the center of the lake along the old Route 150 roadbed; there’s more structure to find up from the 150 ramp along the old Cowan Road submerged roadbed. Anglers will also want to check out stakebeds and gravel spawning beds where state Route (SR) 1770 crosses the upper reaches of the lake. This is also the location of a handicap accessible fishing jetty and parking area that’s available.
In addition to the opportunities for boat fishermen, the KDFWR purchased and created a 300-foot buffer zone around the entire lake. The agency has been working to increase the amount of bank-fishing that’s available around the smaller lakes it owns and manages. On Cedar Creek, anglers on foot will be able to fish around the entire lake from the bank, without concern of property owners and permission issues, or houses, outbuildings and private docks being constructed right on the water’s edge.
Some of the habitat created to hold bass and other species has been placed right along the shoreline so it is accessible to both boat- and bank-anglers. One of those areas is a large part of the bank on both sides of the lake, just up from the ramp at the dam. A third launching ramp is available off SR 1770 and Cowan Road toward the upper end.
Kentucky bass fishermen will have a real opportunity to connect with some high-quality largemouths this spring. Cedar Creek Lake offers it all. If you like to bass fish, with the thought of catching some bigger bass, this is the place for you.