A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Despite a year of unusual weather, waterfowl season looks promising

By Lee McClellan Special to KyForward The shot of cold that greeted Kentucky earlier in November pushed many waterfowl into the state, which should portend a great opening to the waterfowl hunting season on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28. “We have more birds early than we’ve had in a really long time,” said John Brunjes, migratory bird coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources....

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: A fall fishing festival, the reservoir smallmouth bass season is in full swing

By Lee McClellan Special to KyForward Reservoir smallmouth anglers are a weird lot. They dangle tiny little hair jigs under bobbers in air so cold ice forms in the guides of their rods. They think the best late fall fishing days feature leaden, low skies, light rain and highs in the 40s. The record heatwave of early October is now a memory. The bracing morning air and cooler, longer nights signal to...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: During early to mid-fall spotted bass schooling makes for good fishing

By Lee McClellan Special to KyForward They were not even recognized as a distinctive fish species until 1927. People for many years believed these fish only existed in Kentucky. In 1956, the Kentucky legislature designated this species the “Kentucky bass” and made them the official state fish. Many anglers, especially in the south-central portion of the United States, still call the spotted bass...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Reviewing proper boating safety procedures in advance of Labor Day holiday

By Lee McClellan Special to KyForward The sun sets earlier each day and the kids are back in school. Summer is all but over. This inevitability prompts many to visit lakes, rivers and streams to get in that last weekend of the summer boating season during the Labor Day holiday weekend. “Our busiest weekend of the year,” said Maj. Shane Carrier, assistant director of law enforcement for the Kentucky...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Two tailwater floats for summer small mouth bass fishing

By Lee McClellan Special to KyForward Anyone who loves floating streams for smallmouth bass out of a kayak, canoe or personal pontoon boat did not enjoy last year much at all. Many areas of Kentucky set annual rainfall records in 2018. It seemed a 3-inch rain hit every third day from spring through fall. Streams flowed raucous and so muddy it seemed you could cut the water with a knife. These conditions...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Decoding spring white bass run after heavy rains, near-record water levels

By Lee McClellan Special to KyForward With all of the rain we received early this year, many Kentuckians are wondering when will the white bass run. “We are about there, 60 degrees is the magic number for water temperature,” said Mike Hardin, assistant director of Fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “The redbud blooms are as good an indicator as anything.” Redbud...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: FINs lakes stocking begins, offering productive late winter fishing

By Lee McClellan Special to KyForward The long train of heavy rain in 2019 has Lake Cumberland at its highest level since April 1998. Barren River Lake is 35 feet above winter pool while Rough River Lake is a little more than 30 feet above winter pool. Late winter fishing is one of the most overlooked, but often highly productive, times of the year to catch trophy fish. This year, however, the fishing...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: New fishing regulations to take affect across Kentucky beginning March 1

By Lee McClellan Special to KyForward An old blues song “High Water Everywhere” lamented the damage caused by the great 1927 Mississippi River flood. Kentuckians so far this winter can empathize with those sentiments. Many rivers still run high, Lake Cumberland is at summer pool in January and other reservoirs are well above winter pool. The weather forecast calls for more rain, followed by wicked...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Colds temperatures mean optimistic outlook for upcoming waterfowl season

By Lee McClellan Special to KyForward The first snippets of snow fell last week, making most people frown, but put a smile on the faces of Kentucky waterfowl hunters. The cold weather the week before the waterfowl season opener on Thanksgiving Day is a good sign. “Waterfowl hunting in Kentucky is nearly 100 percent weather dependent,” said Wes Little, migratory bird biologist for the Kentucky Department...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Ideal habitat conditions should make for a productive dove season

By Lee McClellan Special to KyForward For the middle of August, much of Kentucky looks as green as late May. Corn is high and robust, pastures are green and streams run bank full. The lush conditions should translate into productive hunting when the dove season opens Sept. 1. “Sunflowers look great overall,” said Wes Little, migratory bird biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Stick it to dangerous currents and uneven terrain with a wading staff

Those of us who wade rocky streams for smallmouth or tailwaters for trout sometimes bite off more than we can chew. An eddy on the other side of the stream looks inviting and the more you stare at it, the more you want to cast there. The only problem is a waist-deep run with strong current lies between you and the enticing water. You begin crossing the stream, but about halfway, the current begins...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Wild weather makes deciphering Spring white bass runs challenging

By Lee McClellan Special to KyForward This spring seems like one long continuation of late winter. As soon as we get a warm day, the temperature plunges and we are back in February again. It even snowed on Monday of the third week of April. This up and down weather combined with cold rains has the spring fishing season behind by a few weeks. The spawning runs of white bass into the headwaters of reservoirs...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Kentucky announces updated 2018 fishing regulations effective March 1

By Lee McClellan Special to KyForward A reduction in the statewide daily creel limit from 30 fish to 20 fish for crappie highlights the new fishing regulations for 2018. The regulations go into effect March 1. “Anglers requested this regulation,” said Ron Brooks, director of Fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “The amount of hours spent crappie fishing and the...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Tail waters of Lake Cumberland offer excellent winter fishing

By Lee McClellan Special to KyForward Consistency is a trait all anglers love in a body of water. Most lakes and rivers in Kentucky go through seasonal temperature swings that make fishing tough during the hottest and coldest months of the year. The Cumberland River below Lake Cumberland fishes as consistently as any body of water in Kentucky. The water temperatures of the Cumberland River at Burkesville...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Conditions are ideal across the state for opening of waterfowl seasons

By Lee McClellan Special to KyForward The outlook for the upcoming waterfowl hunting seasons looks as promising as any seasons in recent memory. “It is shaping up to be a phenomenal year,” said John Brunjes, migratory bird coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “We are still at all-time highs for duck numbers with as many breeding ducks as we’ve ever had. It’s...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Take advantage of falling temperatures to find fall spots to bank fish for bass

By Lee McClellan Special to KyForward The length of day relative to the time of year never changes. As the nights lengthen slightly with each passing day in fall, the overnight temperatures drop and pull heat from the top layers of lakes. This development is already underway, but will peak over the next month and make excellent fishing conditions for black bass. “The cooler, oxygenated water in...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Signs are positive for a better state dove hunting season this fall

By Lee McClellan Special to KyForward The morning fog we’ve seen a few times lately portends that fall hunting seasons are right around the corner. For many Kentuckians, the best time of year begins on Sept. 1, the traditional opener for dove season. Dove hunting is a social event as old friends reunite while standing on the edge of a field, telling stories and keeping their eyes peeled for incoming...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Wade the Cumberland tailwater if you want to beat the summer heat

By Lee McClellan Special to KyForward The dog days of late summer slow everything down. The heat and humidity along with the long days make outside work sweaty and arduous. Fishing slows during the dog days as well. Catching game fish from a lake or stream during a 90-degree plus day provides a challenge that anglers often fail to conquer. Wading the cold waters of the Cumberland River below Lake Cumberland...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Use the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website to find a great place to fish

By Lee McClellan Special to KyForward Two employees of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources recently used the department’s website at www.fw.ky.gov to glean information on catching saugeye. They used the 5-foot contour maps on the “Find a Place to Fish” to study the bottom of Guist Creek Lake in Shelby County and determine a place to fish. They later fished those areas and caught...

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Like the summer temps, Lake Cumberland striped bass are heating up

By Lee McClellan Special to KyForward Few things in the outdoors in Kentucky can top being on Lake Cumberland at daybreak on a summer morning, watching a planer board or large bobber disappear, followed by the sound of a slipping drag. Striped bass pull like no other fish in Kentucky and landing a 22-inch or longer keeper brings a rush of adrenaline that gives you the shakes. Now in the fourth year...