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Art Lander’s Outdoors: Cutthroat trout becomes fourth species of trout to be stocked in Ky. waters


With the recent stocking of Cutthroat trout there are now four species of trout in Kentucky waters.

All four species are non-native members of family Salmonidae, and can be caught in the Cumberland tailwaters, which extends for 75 miles from Wolf Creek Dam, which impounds Lake Cumberland, downstream to the Kentucky/Tennessee line.

Cutthroat Trout

On April 16 the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) reported that Cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii) were stocked in Kentucky for the first time.

The Cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii) is a species native to cold-water tributaries of the Pacific Ocean, Rocky Mountains, and Great Basin in North America. There are 14 sub-species, two of which are extinct.

KDFWR personnel stocked 38,000 Cutthroat trout in the Cumberland River below Wolf Creek Dam.

The surplus Yellowstone strain Cutthroat trout were spawned and raised up to stocking size at the Norfork National Fish Hatchery in Arkansas. KDFWR crews stocked 5,100 trout at Bakerton, Ky., 21,600 at the ramp at Burkesville, Ky., and 11,300 at the Ky. 61 bridge, just downstream from Burkesville.

The trout stocked averaged just over 6 inches long. Cutthroat trout have a distinctive orange slash on their lower jaw.

There’s a one-fish daily creel limit on Cutthroat trout, and a 20-inch minimum size limit.

“At his time we can only guess at what their growth rate is going to be,” said Dave Dreves, assistant director of the Fisheries Division for KDFWR. “But their growth rate is comparable to the Brown trout, which takes about five years, on average, to reach 20 inches. In the White River in Arkansas there’s a 25-inch minimum size limit on Cutthroat trout, so we know these trout and capable of reaching a large size.”

Hopes are that more Cutthroat trout will be available for stocking in the Cumberland tailwaters in the future, Dreves said.

The Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) was likely the first trout species ever stocked in Kentucky. Stocking records go back to 1956, when 1,200 adults were stocked in the Cumberland tailwaters (Photo from Wikipedia Commons)

Rainbow Trout

The Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) was likely the first trout species ever stocked in Kentucky.

“Our stocking records go back to 1956 when 1,200 adults were stocked in the Cumberland (tailwaters),” said Dreves. “After that, from 1961 to 1964, stockings became more consistent.”

Today, populations of Rainbow trout in selected cool water streams, tailwaters, and large reservoirs are sustained by annual stockings. During the winter months, Rainbow trout are also placed in a number of small, state-owned lakes, as part of the Fishing in the Neighborhoods (FINS) program.

Rainbow trout can be caught on live bait — nightcrawlers and red worms.

In tailwaters, anglers often cast small crankbaits and spinners on ultralight spinning tackle. Fly fishermen cast nymphs, dry flies and streamers to coax rainbows into striking.

Statewide, there’s an eight-fish daily creel limit, with no minimum size limit.

In the Cumberland tailwaters, a 15 to 20-inch protective slot limit is in effect. All Rainbow trout that measure between 15 and 20 inches in length must be immediately released. There’s a five fish daily limit, and only one rainbow trout in the creel may be longer than 20 inches.

The Kentucky state record Rainbow trout weighed 14 pounds, six ounces and was caught by Jim Mattingly, of Somerset, Ky., from Lake Cumberland tailwaters on September 9, 1972.

Brown Trout

The Brown trout (Salmo trutta) is a European species that has been widely introduced into suitable environments globally.

In April 1884, the U.S. Fish Commission, released 4,900 brown trout fry into the Baldwin River, a tributary of the Pere Marquette River in Michigan. This was the first release of brown trout into U.S. waters.

The Cumberland tailwaters has always offered the best fishing in Kentucky for Brown trout. Fall fishing is especially good because Brown trout are fall spawners and that time of year they become aggressive, opportunistic feeders (Photo by John Lander)

Between 1884 and 1890, brown trout were introduced into suitable habitats throughout the U.S. By 1900, 38 states had received stocks of brown trout. Their adaptability resulted in most of these introductions establishing wild, self-sustaining populations.

The Cumberland tailwaters have always offered the best fishing in Kentucky for Brown trout.

Fall fishing is especially good because Brown trout are fall spawners and that time of year they become aggressive opportunistic feeders.

Casting crankbaits is a good tactic because you can cover a lot of water. Larger browns are likely to be in deeper water, off the banks, below islands, shoals, gravel bars or hiding under deep shelf rock on outside bends of channels.

Drift down the middle of the river, casting towards both banks, and the center of the river, especially around tree snags.

The Rapala Shad Rap crankbait is a good lure choice in the fall when browns are feeding heavily on crayfish. One of my favorite models of the lure is the SR05, a 2-inch, 3/16-ounce crankbait that dives 4 to 9-feet deep. A preferred color is the Dark Brown Crawdad.

Fly fishermen catch brown trout in the fall, casting streamers and large Wooly Buggers around shoreline timber.

In the Cumberland tailwaters, there’s a 20-inch minimum size limit and one fish daily creel limit.

In recent years three small lakes have been stocked with Brown trout, including 243-acre Cannon Creek, in Bell County; 140-acre Fagan Branch, in Marion County, and 181-acre Greenbo lake, in Greenup County.

Kentucky’s state record Brown trout weighed 21 pounds and was caught by Thomas Malone, of Crofton, Ky., from the Cumberland tailwaters on April 30, 2000.

Brook trout were first stocked in the Cumberland tailwaters in 2011. The stocking goal is 40,000 a year, but because of production difficulties at the Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery that goal hasn’t always been met.

Brook Trout

The brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) is a species of char native to eastern U.S. and Canada, with populations in the U.S. mostly confined to higher elevations of the Appalachians.

“Ichthyologists who have studied the regional fish distributions (present and historical) do not consider the Brook trout to be part of Kentucky’s native fish fauna,” said Matthew Thomas, Ichthyologist for KDFWR. “There is no evidence that they occurred here naturally or prior to European settlement.”

“Brook trout were first stocked in the Cumberland tailwaters in 2011,” said Dreves. “The stocking goal is 40,000 a year, but because of production difficulties at the Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery that goal hasn’t always been met. 2015 was the last year for a full allotment.”

In the Cumberland tailwaters there’ s a one fish daily creel limit and 15-inch minimum size limit on Brook trout.

The Kentucky state record Brook trout weighed 3.65 pounds and was caught by Wyatt Hoefer, of Louisville, Ky. from the Cumberland tailwaters on March 15, 2015.

Lake Trout

A look through the current Kentucky state record fish reveals a listing for a fifth species of trout, the Lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush), a char living mainly in lakes in northern North America. In Canadian lakes, they grow to enormous size.

“My records show Lake trout being stocked in Dale Hollow Lake from 1977 through 1997,” said Andy Currie, Manager of the Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery, in Celina, Tennessee. “There were years when the lake didn’t get stocked due to a lack of eggs from cooperating hatcheries.”

Currie said today Lake trout are stocked in Watauga and South Holston Reservoirs, in Tennessee.

Dreves said Kentucky stocking records indicate that in 1977, 80,000 Lake trout fry were placed in Lake Cumberland.

Where Kentucky’s state record Lake trout came from is anybody’s guess.

On April 4, 1983, John McDonogh, of Jeffersontown, Ky., boated a 5 pound, 5 ounce Lake Trout from the Lake Cumberland tailwaters.

Special Regulations on Trout Species

Some lakes, tailwaters and streams have special creel and minimum size limits on trout.

Anglers are advised to carefully read the regulations. Visit fw.ky.gov.

Trout are game fighters on light tackle and delicious table fare. Spring is a great time go trout fishing. Get out there!

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Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for KyForward. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.


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