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Art Lander’s Outdoors: Kentucky fall fishing update — watch the weather and monitor water levels

Fall has arrived with a blast of cool air, invigorating both fish and fishermen. Two sure signs of the season are shorter days and cool, foggy mornings.

Some of the best fishing of the year has started and if favorable weather and water conditions continue, the good fishing could last into late November.

(Photo by John Lander)

Generally in major reservoirs, black bass, crappie and other game fish move seasonally, spring and fall, from deep water to shallow water, using creek channels and other bottom structure as highway road maps.

The combination of shortening photoperiod and declining water temperatures send fish into a feeding frenzy, to fatten up for the coming cold weather. So that’s why fall fishing can be as good as, or better, than the spring warmup.

As the days shorten and the air temperature falls, waters cool down. Game fish move up into the shallows and stay there until water temperatures drop into the 50s, then they start moving back to deeper water where they’ll spend most of the winter.

Monitor Water Conditions and Fishing Activity

Use the Internet and your phone to monitor water conditions and fishing activity.

A good place to start is the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) website.

• Click here for the Fall Fishing Festival, a series of informative where-to and how-to fall fishing articles:

• Click here for the Fishing Forecast: https://fw.ky.gov/Fish/Documents/CurrentFishingForecast.pdf

• Click here for the department’s weekly video fishing report: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_srqCZthW8

• Click here to get contact information for the seven district fishery biologists. They are an excellent source for up-to-date information:

• Click here to view maps of lakes with fish attractors:
maps. When fish move up shallow in the fall they often concentrate on these manmade structures: https://fw.ky.gov/Education/Pages/Department-Lakes-with-Fish-Attractors.aspx

Fall Fishing on the Kentucky River

It’s hard to imagine a more ideal fishing destination than the Kentucky River and its major tributaries.

Fishing is at its best in the fall, when water levels are lowest, and anglers can catch a wide variety of species from black bass and hybrid striped bass, to sauger and muskies, crappie, catfish and freshwater drum.

(Photo by John Lander)

Tributaries such as Elkhorn Creek, in Franklin County and Eagle Creek in Owen County, offer high quality fishing for smallmouth bass.

In the upper pools of the river, above Lock 6, populations of muskies offer trophy possibilities. In the lower pools, below Lock 3, big catfish and freshwater drum can make light tackle fishing exciting.

This scenic and productive waterway flows through the heart of the state for 255 miles, and access points are an easy drive from almost everywhere in central Kentucky.

Arising from three forks that join near Beattyville, Ky., in Lee County, on the eastern boundary of Daniel Boone National Forest, the Kentucky River flows past small towns, rural communities, and bottomland farms as it makes its way to the Ohio River at Carrollton.

Impounded by 14 locks and dams, the Kentucky River is more like a series of lakes, with minimal current at normal pool, and quiet backwaters in tree-shaded tributary streams.

The river corridor is rich in plant and animal life. In some of the more remote stretches of the river, where the shoreline is undeveloped, the scenic qualities of the fishing experience rival any stream in the state.

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.

Fish populations are supported by periodic stockings and natural reproduction, but flooding can depresses spawning success of bluegill, crappie and largemouth bass.

Anglers have many cover types to fish, from sand and mud flats, to gravel bars, undercut banks, stump beds, submerged timber, vertical rock palisades, and miles of chunk rock banks.

Shad or crayfish-colored crankbaits are proven fish producers (every species from bass to catfish and drum).

Fish white and chartreuse spinnerbaits, with combinations of gold and silver finish Colorado and willowleaf blades, for smallmouth and largemouth bass.

In the fall most fish can be found wherever there is current, below dams, creek mouths or outside bends of the channel, where current flows through submerged beds of water willow.

Limited, but improving access, sparse facilities and cycles of poor fishing, are the main reasons why the Kentucky River is by-passed by many anglers.

Fishing pressure has slightly increased through the years, but it’s still possible to drift for miles, and never see another boat.

For information on boat ramps, and the lock schedule, visit the Kentucky River Authority website: http://finance.ky.gov/offices/kra/Pages/default.aspx

River and Streams Levels

For current water levels and c.f.s (cubic feet per second) discharges consult the USGS Current Water Data for Kentucky website, which includes 218 reporting stations, organized by river basin: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ky/nwis/current/?type=flow

Lake Levels

Here’s a link to a page on the KDFWR website that lists the telephone numbers for water level information on more than 30 small lakes and major reservoirs:

Fall fishing is off to a good start from a weather standpoint. Enjoy the cool mornings and evenings as the leaves begin to turn colors. Go fishing now!

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