When you begin to map out an entire year's worth of good fishing trips in Kentucky, it doesn't take long to realize there's a lot out there to choose from no matter the month.
So let's get started, and see what some of the top locations and opportunities are available, and get you primed for 2012.
Striped bass are a cool-water species that thrive in large open waterways. They are nomadic in nature, which means they need a good bit of room to roam.
Lake Cumberland fills the bill in size and habitat, and mid-winter is an excellent bet for finding active fish in quite cold water.
Stripers can be taken on Cumberland a variety of ways, but two of the best are drifting shad on downriggers, or using planer boards along creek channels. Mark any bait or bigger fish with your electronics, and adjust your fishing depth accordingly.
Another good technique is simply casting big topwater lures off points to attract tremendous surface strikes from these powerful fish.
An alternative choice for this month is sauger fishing below McAlpin Dam on the Ohio River, where good numbers of the fish congregate.
Also you can take a crack at crappie on Barren River where the population is doing well. Drawn-down water levels make finding fish along main-lake channels easier.
Dale Hollow Lake
Dale Hollow Lake supports a world-class fishery for smallmouth bass, but also has an excellent population of largemouths. February is a great time to give those largemouths a try.
Fishing deeper structure with slow presentations is a tried and true tactic for big winter bass. Locating even a slightly warmer water temperature pays off.
Banks that warm in the afternoon sun produce better. At times monster largemouths slip into shallower water around fallen trees or shoreline debris where baitfish hold.
Another choice to consider is the prespawn walleyes moving up the Cumberland Lake to the headwaters of the reservoir.
Or try some trolling along the banks of Wood Creek Lake in Laurel County for rainbow trout.
Late this month several waterways come alive with white bass, providing excellent action. One of the best is the Dix River that feeds Herrington Lake in Central Kentucky. White bass begin to run as water temperatures creep up, and the action continues into April.
Anglers have the best chance of the year to get on this species in good numbers and size during this spawning run.
Minnow-imitating lures, inline spinners, and spoons are the top lures. Begin watching for surface activity as you near the headwaters. Continue upstream until you locate the feeding schools.
Heading east to Cave Run Lake to take advantage of a little early season crappie fishing is another plan.
A tad farther east, Buckhorn Lake holds spawning muskellunge. Break out your big tackle and target woody cover in creeks and coves.
Kincaid Lake is a superb choice for largemouth bass this month. According to Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources biologists the lake has traditionally given up big bass. Those largemouths become more active as the water warms in April.
On Kincaid don't overlook fishing some slightly deeper water for better fish. Bass feeding times will lengthen all month with the changing spring weather.
Kincaid has a variety of habitat and depths to work. Fishing to submerged brush at medium depths or along contour changes is always worth a try this month.
Nolin River Lake walleyes should be ramping up activity this month in the upper reaches of the lake or tributaries.
Brown trout are feeding below Wolf Creek Dam on the Cumberland River. Try the stretches known as Rainbow Run and near the Rockhouse for success.
Check out the hot spots for Kentucky fishing for May, June, July and August on page two
The first really hot action of the year for bluegills is in May, when they can't seem to stop drowning your bobber every time it hits the water. A hotspot to join this action is Fishtrap Lake in extreme eastern Kentucky.
Bluegill bedding along the banks are often in less than a foot of water. A good mess of 6-inch or better bull 'gills can be taken from these nesting areas.
Any little pocket of water with some stickups or flooded shoreline cover attracts these fun-to-catch fish.
Cast a worm or cricket to beds you can see, and there should be no shortage of action on Fishtrap all month long.
This month is ideal for targeting big smallmouth bass on the east side of Kentucky Lake. Pay special attention to rocky banks and points.
Largemouths should be foraging frequently on Rough River Lake around shoreline cover and sloping gravel points.
Anglers tend to associate summer catfishing with targeting deep water, and fishing after dark to have much success. Not so this month.
Channel catfish go into spawning mode and start cruising rocky banks for both places to bed and find food. Lake Barkley provides the right habitat and has plenty of forage for catfish in shallow water.
Overcast days are excellent times to locate cats on rocky structure, or around submerged logs and stumps. Cover along the shoreline or in the backs of coves that is in close proximity to a creek channel is a good place to fish.
Barkley teams with channels up to 3 pounds, and, of course, larger fish are there as well. Almost any type of organic bait gets their attention.
If you're interested in some faster paced action, give white bass a try below any of the dams on the Kentucky River. They fish stack up at these manmade roadblocks and aren't at all shy about taking flashy baits in flowing water.
Additionally, as the spring rains subside and creeks settle down a bit, high quality smallmouth bass fishing is turning on in Elkhorn Creek, especially in Franklin, Scott and Woodford counties.
Kentucky spotted bass are a pretty aggressive species. While its cousins in the black bass family tend to slow down as summer heat arrives, spots are less affected. Rather, spots school to pursue baitfish on the surface despite warm water temperatures.
Paintsville Lake is one of the better places to find such action.
Although unpredictable, such surface feeding provides a ton of fun when you catch the bass in these "jumps." At times the spots herd the shad against bluff walls or in the backs of coves to pick them off for several minutes. If you see it happening, get there quickly. It won't last long.
Dewey Lake channel catfish provide plenty of enjoyment this month. Fishing at night along channel drops or steeper banks is a good bet.
Night fishing for largemouths on Herrington Lake is a good way to beat the heat. Fish along the creek banks with cover, around docks, and off points in shallow water.
Hybrid stripers pack a lot of punch and give you a run for you money when hooked. These fish are strong, formidable opponents. Taylorsville has
been stocked with hybrid bass for some time now, and has a good stable population.
Finding hybrids on the surface only happens at certain times of the year. And, summer on Taylorsville Lake is one of the better places to experience this memorable angling.
In August baitfish begin to come to the surface in schools, and sooner or later hybrid find them. The linesides then do a good deal of their daily feeding on top. Mostly it happens at first light, out in open water away from the shoreline in deeper water parts of the lake.
Anglers needing one more good bluegill trip for the year should consider Martins Fork Lake in southeast Kentucky this month.
Excellent fishing potential for large striped bass is taking place on the Ohio River in August. Most all pools formed by locks and dams hold good numbers of stripers.
Discover the hot spots for Kentucky fishing for September, October, November and December on page three
Cedar Creek Lake
Cedar Creek Lake is Kentucky's only impoundment managed for trophy bass fishing. The quality and quantity of largemouths here is superb, and in September fishing should just be red hot.
Lots of shoreline cover is present waiting to be probed with plastic worms or large crankbaits to entice the bigger bass. Topwaters should produce early and late, as surface temperatures drop and fish come to the banks.
Big muskellunge are also transitioning back to shallow water the month and Cave Run Lake offers the Bluegrass State's best muskie fishery. Late summer is a good time to visit any of the trout streams in the Daniel Boone National Forest that are stocked with rainbow trout. Dates of most stockings are available on the KDFWR website at www.fw.ky.gov.
Black crappie become active this month at Kentucky Lake, where the quality of the average fish is unsurpassed statewide.
Jigs fished around shoreline cover or over brush piles are productive. Kentucky Lake's Blood River arm is well known for good slabs and an abundance of habitat that attracts crappie.
Good fall channel catfishing can be had on northeast Kentucky's Yatesville Lake this month. Find creek channels with moderately deep water and downed trees or other cover.
Largemouth bass at Green River Lake head to shallow water and feed more often this month. Spinnerbaits and shad imitators are top lure choices.
Carr Creek Lake
This quiet little lake tucked away in southeast Kentucky has been gaining a reputation for walleyes in recent years. The biggest challenge is locating the walleyes, but the effort is well trouble, when these fish become more active in the fall.
Trolling banks in 10 to 20 feet of water with a walleye spinner rig is a good approach on cloudy days.
Fishtrap Lake offers a good opportunity for smallmouth bass in the lower end of the reservoir. Fishing off points with soft plastic craws or live minnows drifted down sloping banks are good tactics.
Minnows fished for crappie along channel stump rows or amid standing timber in Rough River Lake is equally hard to beat in the fall.
Lake Barkley Tailwater
Sauger in the tailwater of Lake Barkley is a great choice this month. Sauger keep biting well in colder water, and this part of the Cumberland River supports a good fishery.
Sauger moves upstream in good numbers until they reach the dam and can't get any farther. That sets up a good chance of catching fish in a relatively small area.
Jigs tipped with plastic grubs or live bait work well. Fish either deep, just above the rocks on bottom. Watch the current and try to locate "pockets" that hold stacked up sauger waiting for food to drift in from the flow.
Green River Lake is quite good for muskellunge when it's cold. Try trolling crankbaits slowly in the creeks and on big, open flats.
Good largemouth bass action can be found on deep structure at Lake Mauzy in western Kentucky. Biologists are seeing an upswing in quality fish on this reservoir.