A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Fall and winter are ideal times for brown trout fishing in Kentucky waters

The brown trout (Salmo trutta) is a European species that has been widely introduced.

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.

By 1900, 38 states had received stocks of brown trout. Their adaptability resulted in many of these introductions establishing wild, self-sustaining populations.

Kentucky’s first stocking of brown trout in the Lake Cumberland tailwaters was in 1982. That first year 1,500 were released; the number peaked at 104,000 in 2009.

The brown trout is a member of family Salmonidae.

Size and Coloration

Brown Trout (Illustration from KDFWR)

The brown trout has a streamlined body, but is a bit stockier than the rainbow trout.

The tail is squarish, and its sides are yellowish. Males may take on a brilliant golden hue during the fall.

Brown, black and reddish-orange spots on its sides, back and dorsal fin are encircled by white, light blue or green halos.

Largest of the four most common trout species in Kentucky, the brown trout may reach weights of more than 20 pounds in tailwaters and large rivers.

Distribution in Kentucky

Through the years brown trout have been stocked in several major lakes and their tailwaters.

Historically, the Lake Cumberland tailwaters has offered the best fishing for brown trout in Kentucky. There is some evidence of natural reproduction, but it is incidental.

The fishery is sustained by periodic stockings. The brown trout stocking size is 8 inches and 38,000 are stocked in the tailwaters annually.

The only other major lake in Kentucky stocked with brown trout at this time is Greenbo Lake, which receives 2,000 fish annually.

Lake Cumberland tailwaters (Map from KDFWR) (Click for larger image)

Food Habits

Brown trout feed heavily on aquatic insect larvae, pupae, and nymphs. As they age and grown larger, they become more piscivorous, eating live minnows, forage fish such as shad and alewives, and other small fish.

Crayfish are a favorite food in the fall.

Fishing Tips

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

Lake Cumberland brown trout (Photo by John Lander)

In tailwaters, casting crankbaits is a good tactic because a lot of water can be covered. 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. The SR05, a 2-inch, 3/16-ounce crankbait that dives 4 to 9-feet deep, is a good choice. The preferred color for fall fishing is the dark crayfish pattern.

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

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.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment