We've done all the legwork on where you should fish throughout the season for bass, bluegills, trout and more! One or more of these top picks is near where you live. (February 2008).
Sometimes it gets a little tough to work in 36 fishing trips a year. But we've picked out at least three quality choices for you each month in our annual look at Kentucky's hottest angling opportunities for 2008. Hopefully, you can take advantage of all 36.
But if not, whenever you do manage to go, you can consult these recommendations for some of the best fishing in the Commonwealth, at any time of the year.
The following choices are based on current information from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) about the health of various fisheries, as well as historically good fishing for certain species at certain times, and angler-reported success.
We'll highlight opportunities for good fishing on streams, rivers and reservoirs throughout the year, and tip you off to several types of fishing that you personally like.
And who knows? Once you learn about some of the best times of the year to give it a shot, maybe you'll see a couple of new places somewhere you've never been and species you want to try.
Cave Run Lake
Cave Run Lake is known for two important facts pertaining to muskie fishing. One, the catch rate per hour is one of the best in the nation.
And two, the quality of the fish caught is exceptional.
In cold-water situations, muskies will remain active around submerged cover in timber-lined coves.
Also, they often concentrate along main lake channels or the ledges of creek channels. They follow the pattern of baitfish -- which for a muskie can be shad, sunfish or just about anything else that the muskie decides.
Baitfish suspend along dropoffs in fairly deep water.
And if there's something to hide around, like a crappie bed put there by anglers or natural occurring woody cover, that's where muskies will hang as well.
Use your electronics to locate changes in lake-bottom contours and to fish along channel edges.
Use heavy rods and line with a braided or steel leader.
Fish slowly. Even though muskie are a coldwater species, they won't go after a lure zipping past them when with a lot less effort, they can catch a cold bluegill hovering around a brushpile.
Having a big dip net is a pretty good idea, too.
Green River Lake
Those overcast, slightly warmer days of late February start beckoning the chunky smallmouths at Green River Lake to come closer to the bank and find something to eat.
Sloping banks, warmed by the sun for a few days in a row, are like magnets to smallmouths, which for a long, long period have stayed out in the deep water along the main river channel.
Good spots to work are gravel banks that lead down to a deeper, more pronounced drops. Points tend to attract baitfish when water temperatures finally start to climb into the high 40s or low 50s.
Smallmouths will track right in behind their prey on a gradual warm-up trend.
Smallmouths use cover, but aren't as timid about getting away from it as largemouths seem to be.
Long stretches of open rocky banks and sometimes, even barren-looking points will hold smallies.
And in late winter, the species can tend to school on spots with baitfish. The general rule of thumb is to downsize from summer lure sizes.
And especially if the water is super-clear, try to avoid getting right on the shoreline, to avoid spooking fish with your boat or big splashes from your cast.
Biologists continue to say that though it's small, Kincaid Lake in northern Kentucky has an excellent reputation for quality largemouth bass.
In March, the big female bass will be even heavier than in June, and now is the time to try to hook up with what could be the biggest bucketmouth of your career.
Smaller impoundments warm up a little quicker than major lakes. And when that first little warm-up stretch comes along, largemouths tend to come back to the banks surprisingly well.
They'll move in primarily looking for spots where the water feels more comfortable for them, but also trying to find some food to replenish what the winter has taken out of them.
Spots where you find heavy cover are good places to fish in late afternoon, after the sun has hit the bank most of the day.
Look for unusual features along the bank where bass can hold and warm up and perhaps ambush food fish.
Murky water coming in from run-offs or the head of the lake is also an advantage if you can find some.
Remember to think big fish this time of year, and adjust your equipment accordingly. But try to use a rod with a fairly sensitive tip: In colder weather, even monster bass are sometimes light-mouthed on the pick-up.
Late April's the time to get in on some of the best redear sunfish action of the year, and Barkley Lake is a superb choice for finding high-quality fish.
Shellcrackers start spawning in embayments and along banks where gravel and vegetation is present in three to six feet of water, and can be readily caught while on the bed.
On Lake Barkley, expect to come up with some fish 10 inches or better that will provide great fillets for the frying pan.
These fish are widespread and can be caught anywhere on the lake.
Redears tend to feed closer to the bottom than bluegills, so check your depth closely and get your bait just a few inches off the bottom.
If you work it right, you should be able to locate several beds in a day's fishing.
Action is particularly good near the heads of coves after a rain, because it keeps the fish actively after items that wash or drift in close to the spawning depressions.
Also remember the new 20-fish daily limit on shellcrackers now in place on Barkley. If you want to take home more fish to supplement your freezer stock, go with bluegills.
Hybrid Striped Bass
Rough River Lake
Biologists report that the hybrid striper fishery at Rough River is taking off, big time. They have found large numbers of fish over 15 inches and good numbers of trophy-sized hybrids as well.
After the March and April spawning run, hybrids begin returning to the main lake. They'll gradually move from the headwaters to the upper lake in May to the lower lake and main stem portions later in the summer.
Rocky points, creek channels and the main lake channel where shad are present are good spots to try.
Late in the month, you may start noticing surface jumps where schools of hybrids are hammering on groups of baitfish up on top.
Another spot for hybrid action in May is below the dam.
Fish that have slipped through will congregate in the immediate tailwaters there and can be caught by a variety of methods.
Lake Linville is a 300-acre, state-owned water in Rockcastle County that many anglers have probably not heard of.
Though the name might be unfamiliar, anglers on this smaller impoundment find that its reputation for very good bluegill fishing in early summer speaks pretty loudly.
Good numbers of 6- to 8-inch bluegills can be found in Lake Linville, and the fishing action remains hot through June.
Most of the spawning will be over as the month wears on, but fishing along shoreline cover, brush, stickups and stumps is still very productive.
Larger 'gills seem to like slightly deeper waters, so keep that in mind as you move around the banks. Going with light tackle will make the fun that much more enjoyable.
Looking for a new spot to try so you can lay in some fillets for the Fourth of July fish fry? Give Linville a try for high-quality bluegills this summer.
Fisheries personnel are noticing an upswing in the popularity of angling for giant Kentucky catfish.
Catfish angling has always been popular with state fishermen, but these days, more guys are trying their hands at going after the truly big ones.
When the heat is on in July, dams along the Ohio River attract some very big flatheads into the currents below these structures.
These tailwaters' uneven bottom and the relative abundance of baitfish in areas below dams sets up a perfect environment for big flatheads to lounge and feed in.
Anglers who want to connect with 20-pound -- and sometimes much larger -- flatheads, like those you see on magazine covers, will find no better place than the Ohio River.
Most anglers, recognizing the value of truly big fish, are now releasing them, much like bass anglers with a catch-and-release mentality who have no real need to eat an 8-pound largemouth.
Big flatheads are present throughout the Ohio River system. Most of the time, they are oriented to the bottom around big sunken structure, and are generally caught during low-light periods or after dark.
In recent years, they've been doing quite a bit of supplemental stocking of various fish species in the Kentucky River.
The agency is trying to raise the river's fishing potential, which tends to go up and down from year to year, depending on weather conditions and water flow.
This will be the third year the KDFWR is putting white bass in the system. They're already being caught pretty consistently below the in-stream dams.
Anglers will likely notice that hybrids are starting to show up, also thanks to stocking efforts.
White bass are being released in many of these pools as well, so this fishing opportunity is going to be widespread.
When fishing the main river channel, looking for surface feeding activity along the way is a good bet.
White bass and hybrids come up early and late to get after little schools of baitfish.
For good summer success, also spend some time in the bends and curves of the river, or around sandbars that drop out into deeper pools.
Laurel River Lake
The clear waters of deep Laurel River Lake hold a good number of rainbow trout for late-summer anglers who like fishing the coolness of a September evening under the lights.
Laurel River Lake is one of Kentucky's few major reservoirs where holdover trout are available. These fish can be caught pretty consistently once the right depth is determined.
The mouths of coves or steep banks provide the cover that rainbows like. Once the sun goes down, these fish become active, usually all night long.
Sometimes after dark the lake looks like a small city, with little spots of light dabbled around here and there from all the boats and pontoons on the water.
But there are enough fish to go around, especially if you're willing to try a couple of spots to find where the trout are.
Be sure to have some insect repellant handy to keep the mosquitoes at bay.
Kentucky Lake's above-average crappie population gets back on bank cover and the shallower drops this month.
That can make for a great fall afternoon of fishing for big slabs.
Fishing around vegetation in embayments often yields a lot of good fish, regardless of whether you're on the dam end of the lake or near the Tennessee border.
Brushpiles and manmade stakebeds also hold fish that as water temperatures start to cool, return to a somewhat spring-like pattern.
The fall feed can mean pretty fast action as crappie try to add on a little extra weight for the upcoming winter.
With the average crappie caught on this reservoir checking in at 10 inches, the quality of what's available surpasses that of most other lakes in the Commonwealth, making it a top choice to consider.
When the Corps is generating water discharge through Barkley Dam in mid-fall, anglers can score on some very nice striped bass in the tailwaters. Big stripers await wounded baitfish that come through the generators, or are drawn to the current.
Cooler water temperatures tend to activate striped bass. The best fishing is usually within 1,000 yards of the dam. But don't ignore what you might observe outside that immediate tailwater area.
Expect to lose a few sinkers or jigheads, and have plenty of bait on hand.
For best success on these hard-fighting eating machines, focus on fishing in the flow of the released water, rather than the slack-water sides.
It doesn't sound exactly right, but at the onset of winter, biologists routinely have good-to-excellent catches of channel catfish reported from Yatesville Lake.
In fact, a number of lakes in the Eastern Region of Kentucky report the same type of good catfishing.
Catfish are often thought of as a late-spring, early-summer fishing opportunity during their May/June spawn. But they are quite active at other times as well.
On Yatesville, the recommendation is to fish in the upper part of the lake, in shallow-water areas off points and creek channels. Catfish in a variety of sizes are present and numerous. Biologists would call this an "underutilized resource."
It's up to you to change that label and give the whiskerfish a try during this nontraditional fishing time.
Kentucky anglers have a host of fishing experiences available to them. Granted, those opportunities are more limited in the winter.
For some reason, the bigger fish, regardless of the species, seem to show up during the cold-weather period. Maybe they need more meals than the smaller fish do to make it through the leaner times.
At any rate, any of these suggestions will put you where the potential for success has been proven and observed by both fishermen and fishery managers.
They also give you some ideas of the variety of fishing that Kentucky offers -- and hopefully, will spur you to expand your horizons on the water in 2008.
If you decide to try some new things this year, you'll need to familiarize yourself and your fishing partners with the regulations you'll be fishing under.
As always, remember that each year, the new fishing laws take effect on March 1.
The 2008 Kentucky Sport Fishing and Boating Guide is now available at license outlets and online at fw.ky.gov, as well as from the state fish and wildlife department by calling 1-800-858-1549 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
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