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Art Lander’s Outdoors: Keep an eye on water, weather trends for early fishing opportunities


Anglers can access daily water conditions at Green River Lake and other U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes in Kentucky by visiting lake websites. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

Anglers can access daily water conditions at Green River Lake and other U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes in Kentucky by visiting lake websites (see below). (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)


 

Spring begins on Thursday, March 20, but most anglers would probably say they want to go fishing now.
 

It’s been a long, cold winter.
 

Late winter offers good fishing opportunities for many fish species, most notably trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, sauger, striped bass and crappie. The best fishing days are when water and weather conditions are right.
 

Late winter is an excellent time to catch smallmouth bass at Dale Hollow Lake. (Photo by Art Lander Jr.)

Late winter is an excellent time to catch smallmouth bass at Dale Hollow Lake. (Photo by Art Lander Jr.)

Kentucky’s rivers and lakes are likely to flood when all the snow melts, creating dangerous wading and boating, and poor fishing conditions. Wait until the high water subsides, and levels stabilize, before attempting to fish.
 

“The worst fishing conditions are high, muddy and cold waters, followed by a bluebird day,” said Lee McClellan, a fishing expert with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “My favorite conditions in late winter on our smallmouth lakes (Lake Cumberland, Dale Hollow, Laurel River Lake and Green River Lake) are stable and clear waters, with a slight warming trend and overcast skies.”
 

Even light rain or snow is preferable to high pressure and bright, sunny skies. In late winter, water temperatures can range from the upper 30s to the low 50s.
 

Weather trends
 

Keep an eye on weather trends and you’ll be ready when fishing conditions are best. Keep track on KyForward.
 

Kentucky streams and rivers
 

Anglers who fish Kentucky streams and rivers can get a lot of information from the US Geological Survey website. For current water data click here, then click on Statewide Streamflow Table.
 

There are 208 reporting stations. Water levels and discharge rates in cubic feet per second are plotted on graphs. Water information can be organized by Kentucky county or major river basin.
 

Cumberland tailwaters
 

The 75-mile Cumberland tailwaters below Wolf Creek Dam, is home to Kentucky’s premier rainbow and brown trout fisheries. Some of the best trout fishing of the year is in late winter as daily discharges stabilize and waters warm into the 40s.
 

The most popular stretch of the river with trout fishermen is from the dam to Burkesville. For current water conditions click here.
 
Call 606-678-8697 to hear the generation schedule at Wolf Creek Dam.
 

Additional information on how to fish the Cumberland tailwaters, and the details of river access (put-in and take-out points) in the upper 16 miles, can be found here.
 

Major reservoirs
 

For daily water conditions — lake level, water temperatures and fishing reports — on Kentucky’s major reservoirs, click on the links below:
 

The Cumberland tailwaters below Wolf Creek Dam offer the state's best trout fishing. Anglers can get current water conditions by calling (606) 678-8697 to hear the daily generation schedule. (Photo by John B. Lander)

The Cumberland tailwaters below Wolf Creek Dam offer the state’s best trout fishing. Anglers can get current water conditions by calling (606) 678-8697 to hear the daily generation schedule. (Photo by John B. Lander)

Barren River Lake, 10,000 surface acres at summer pool, elevation 552. Winter pool is elevation 525. 270-646-2122.
 

Buckhorn Lake, 1,230 surface acres at summer pool, elevation 782. Winter pool elevation is 757. 606-398-7251.
 
Cave Run Lake, 8,270 surface acres at summer pool, elevation 730. Winter pool elevation is 724. 606-784-9709.
 
Dale Hollow Lake, 27,700 surface acres at summer pool, elevation 651. Winter pool elevation is 631. 931-243-3408.
 

Green River Lake, 8,210 surface acres at summer pool, elevation 675. Winter pool elevation 664. 270-465-8824.
 

Herrington Lake, 1,860 surface acres at summer pool, elevation 730. Winter pool elevation is 715. 859-748-4685. For lake level click here.
 
Kentucky Lake, 160,300 surface acres (49,511 in Kentucky) at summer pool, elevation 359. Winter pool elevation is 354. To check daily elevations and projected levels of Kentucky Lake call 800-238-2264, select lake No. 33.
 

Lake Barkley, 57,900 surface acres (42,020 in Kentucky) at summer pool, elevation 359. Winter pool elevation is 354. 270-362-8430.
 
Lake Cumberland, 50,250 surface acres at summer pool, elevation 723. Winter pool elevation is 673. 606-678-8697.
 
Laurel River Lake, 5,600 surface acres at summer pool, elevation 1,012. Winter pool elevation is 982. 606-878-9298.
 
Taylorsville Lake, 3,050 surface acres at summer pool, elevation 547. Winter pool elevation is 545. 502-477-8882.
 

 
1Art Lander Jr.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.
 
To read more from Art Lander, click here.


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