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Kentucky Family Fishing Destinations for 2016

Kentucky Family Fishing Destinations for 2016
Summer is a great time to get outside with family, and Kentucky has several destinations that offer much more than fishing — although the fishing is pretty good!

Summer is a great time to get outside with family, and Kentucky has several destinations that offer much more than fishing — although the fishing is pretty good!

Days are getting longer and sunshine is abundant. Every day it is feeling more and more like summer. That means time to plan day trips, weekend getaways and family vacations. Hopefully some of these trips include some great fishing because anglers in Kentucky have lots of options when it comes to getting the family out for some exciting fishing while enjoying vacationing activities such as diverse attractions, landmarks and more.


Scenic beauty is just one of the attributes making Nolin Lake a great weekend or vacation destination. The lake offers fantastic family fishing and there are plenty of other activities in the area. With some 5,795 acres in Grayson, Edmonson and Hart counties, Nolin Lake provides lots of fishing area plus opportunities for boating, skiing, swimming and more.

One of the most notable fishing opportunities at Nolin is for white bass. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) rates the white bass fishery as "Excellent" with all sizes of fish available.

White bass make an excellent species to target with youngsters or novice anglers. But they are also a tremendous amount of fun for seasoned anglers, youth or adult. White bass bite aggressively and, pound for pound, fight about as hard as anything in the lake. They are not extremely difficult to catch through the summer months, and once fish are located anglers usually have the opportunity to get a lot of action in one location before having to move.

Locate white bass by searching for baitfish with electronics or look for surface activity where baitfish are being pushed to the surface by hungry white bass. This surface feeding disturbance is often called "the jumps" or "the boils" because all of the feeding commotion at the surface makes the water appear to churn or boil. Another way to locate feeding frenzies is by watching for circling gulls and birds diving to the surface. This indicates shad or other small fish are being herded to the surface by feeding predator fish.

Getting into one of

these jumps is tremendously exciting and very fast paced. Most any bait that resembles a shad or minnow that works on the surface or just below the surface is terrific for catching feeding white bass. Small spoons, a white plastic grub or even a small bait with a spinner on it works excellent. Just cast baits into the fray and reel quickly through the feeding fish. Fish hit so aggressively, they pretty much hook themselves.

Channel catfish are also abundant at Nolin and provide great fishing day or night. If the kids want a special adventure, treat them to some night fishing for catfish from the bank or boat. If utilizing a boat, a floating light can be put out to attract minnows. This in turn attracts white bass, crappies and other species.

There are plenty of lodging and camping options nearby including the Nolin Lake State Park. Several boat-launching ramps are available on the lake and boat rentals are available at some of the commercial operations on the lake.

Along The Way


One of Kentucky's most famous attractions is just south of Nolin Lake. Mammoth Cave National Park makes a great side trip to fishing and there is much to do at the park in addition to touring Mammoth Cave, the longest known cave system in the world. Lodging, camping and fishing are available within the park as well as biking, swimming, horseback riding, canoeing and much more. There are more than 80 miles of hiking trails ranging from easy to backcountry.


This small Lyon County town in western Kentucky makes an excellent jumping off spot to enjoy two highly diverse fishing destinations. Kentucky and Barkley lakes offer almost anything an angler could want from panfish to massive catfish to rob-bending bass. The twin lakes are hard to beat as a family destination in Kentucky.

There are numerous boat ramps, resorts and bank-fishing locations on the outside shores of the two lakes and boat rentals are easily obtained at one of many commercial marinas and resorts. In the middle is the sprawling Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area (LBL), which offers not only excellent tourism activities, but also ample camping, boat ramps and bank-fishing access.

For novice anglers, the two lakes offer tremendous panfishing for the largest bluegills and redears to be found anywhere in the state. Simply bait up with a cricket or redworm beneath a bobber and wait for the action to begin. More experienced anglers can use a slip float to put the baits right near the bottom to tempt some of the huge shellcrackers weighing up to a pound.

For a change of pace, catfishing is excellent at both lakes and fish bite readily throughout the summer. Use cut bait to target blue or channel catfish or fish on the bottom with nightcrawlers, chicken liver, shad guts or dip bait for tasty channel cats. Yellow bass are numerous and easily caught at Kentucky Lake, while white bass make a better alterative at Lake Barkley.

Along The Way

The LBL is a terrific family destination, with plenty to see and do during a weekend or entire week. Visit the nature center to see live animals and reptiles or spend some time under the stars at the planetarium. Step back in time at The Homeplace, a working farm circa 1850, complete with period clothing, animals and demonstrations on leatherwork, basket weaving and more. LBL also features an elk and bison prairie, horseback riding trails, hiking, wildlife viewing and even a designated area for riding ATVs and off-road vehicles.

Eddyville also has the Venture River Water Park, which has numerous water slides, wave pools, sand volleyball and more. Other attractions at the park are a 560-foot super zip-line and five-point zip-line course.


This big lake near Morehead spreads through parts of four counties and totals some 8,270 acres. Known throughout the state, and even nationally, as a top muskie destination, Cave Run Lake also provides lots of family oriented fishing opportunities, too. The big toothy muskies may get most of the acclaim, but they are certainly not the only game in town.

There is a really good population of channel catfish at Cave Run and they are readily caught from boat or bank during this time period. Simply bait up with live or commercial bait, something that really puts out a scent trail, and fish on or near the bottom, especially in areas near rocky shorelines.

The cats tend to be less numerous around the shoreline after June, but are still caught in shallow water, especially in the late evening and throughout the dark hours. Anglers with boats have the option of getting out on the lake to seek whiskerfish in deeper haunts. Catfish provide good family angling all summer long.

Bluegills offer another great option at Cave Run. The KDFWR rates the fishery as "Good" because most of the 'gills in the population are 7 inches or under. However, there are good numbers of jumbo-size bluegills. These are not only a lot of fun on ultra-light tackle, but they are big enough to fillet and provide a great fish fry.

Bluegills are easy targets from the shore, but most of the larger fish tend to hang out in deeper water, especially when the sun is intense. Being able to reach them by casting from the bank is sometimes a problem for younger anglers. However, good bluegill locations such as deeper weedy areas and fish attractors are easily reached by boat.

If family members are advanced beyond the novice stage, Cave Run offers excellent fishing opportunities for largemouth bass, crappies and the aforementioned muskies. Boat rentals are available at some of the commercial marinas and plenty of ramps are scattered around the lake. Hotel lodging and eateries are plentiful in Morehead and camping is available at the Twin Knobs and Zilpo campgrounds.

Along The Way

Cave Run Lake is located within the northern portion of the Daniel Boone National Forest. There are numerous opportunities to get out and enjoy this massive forest. Hiking, wildlife viewing and camping are only the start. The Red River Gorge is designated a Geological Area, National Natural Landmark and National Archaeological District and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The forest contains breathtaking rock formations, cliffs, sandstone arches and other natural wonders. Adjacent to the Red River Gorge National Geologic Area is the Natural Bridge State Resort Park offering numerous activities, lodging and amenities. Guests enjoy fishing, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, swimming and much more.


Covington is just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Ohio, providing plenty of big city activities in the area to entertain most any family member. But there is also some excellent fishing nearby, and not just in the Ohio River, as there are two nearby lakes solely for the purpose of family fishing.

The KDFWR implemented a fishing program in 2006 designed to offer high-quality angling opportunities close to cities throughout the state. The program is named Fishing in Neighborhoods or FINs for short. Lakes in the FINs program are stocked and diligently managed to ensure the fishing quality stays in great shape. The lakes are governed by a standardized set of regulations that are a little more strict than state regulations, but are in place to ensure the fisheries stay where they needs to be.

Near Covington are two lakes within the FINs program that make excellent family destinations all summer long. Both of these lakes are small, but they are certainly big on opportunity. Each lake is stocked up to four times per year with catchable-size channel catfish. Rainbow trout are stocked in the spring and again in the fall. KDFWR fisheries personnel sample the lakes regularly and stock largemouth bass and hybrid sunfish as needed to keep the fisheries robust.

Prisoner's Lake is just west of Covington in Kenton County. To reach the lake, take the 5th Street Exit in Covington, go right onto Route 8 and then left onto Western Avenue. The lake is within Devou Park. The lake is close to four acres in size and allows bank fishing only.

Southgate Park Lake, or simply Southgate Lake as it is also known, is southeast of Covington and southwest of Fort Thomas in Campbell County. Follow U.S. 27 and take the Walnut Street Exit at Southgate and follow it to the lake, located at 301 West Walnut Street. Southgate Park Lake is just shy of two acres in size.

Although these lakes do not allow boat fishing, there is plenty of bank access. There are also restrooms and picnic facilities on site. Limited concessions are available, too.

Along The Way

There is plenty to do in the Covington and Cincinnati areas. If looking for a larger fishing experience, Doe Run Lake offers fishing for panfish, channel catfish and largemouth bass, plus boats are allowed. Other side trips in Covington include a railroad museum, the Behringer-Crawford Museum, MainStrasse Village and much more.

A really great side trip the whole family can enjoy to the Newport Aquarium to get up and personal with all types of fish, sharks and more, including penguins and river otters. Special shows, backstage animal encounters and other seasonal happenings make this an unforgettable experience.

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