Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Streams eventually will return to normal and so will the smallmouth bass fishing
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Many of us who
remember the March 1997 floods in Kentucky recently had uncomfortable pangs of
foreboding as storm systems dropped heavy amounts of rain freight-trained
across the state.
It looked like
another 1997 for a day or so. Small, normally docile neighborhood creeks
suddenly filled basements, eroded roadways and carried away belongings.
Lexington set an April record for rainfall over the span of one day.
problem from all of this rain is not only is the flow too high to fish, but it
will take awhile for the clarity to come back,” said David Baker, stream
biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
“Temperatures are in the mid-to high 50s on some streams, so it will soon be a
good time for fishing. We just need a little more time.”
smallmouth bass waters lying downstream of major lakes such as Green River or
Barren River will likely be blown out for a considerable time. Smaller streams
clear and return to normal much quicker than larger streams and make the best
option for smallmouth bass right now.
“This is a time
when you can catch some of the biggest stream smallmouth of the year as they
prepare to spawn,” Baker said. “They are a little more accessible and easier to
Wading is an
excellent way to fish smaller streams for smallmouth bass, especially after the
recent high water events likely undercut many streamside trees, tipping them
over into the stream, providing potentially dangerous impediments to paddling.
The streams in
south-central Kentucky near Bowling Green in the Barren River drainage such as
the Gasper River and the Drakes Creek system are good places to try.
usually will come down pretty quickly,” Baker said. “We do see smallmouths up
to 18 inches and we get reports of 20 inchers from Gasper.”
Baker said the
Drakes Creek system drains a large geographical area in karst topography and
takes longer to flow out, but contains a healthy population of smallmouth bass
from 12 to 16 inches long, with a few in the 18-inch range.
The Drakes Creek
system and Gasper River are part of the Warren County Blueways, a cooperative
project from governmental agencies, Western Kentucky University and other
groups to provide access to streams in south-central Kentucky. The website at www.trailsrus.com/blueways/
contains good information on access points with a detailed map.
Baker said those
streams flowing through public land in eastern Kentucky provide productive
wading fishing opportunities for smallmouths. The Middle Fork of the Red River
inside Natural Bridge State Resort Park in Powell County holds a decent
population of smallmouth bass with good access.
Rock Creek inside
the Daniel Boone National Forest in McCreary County offers wading anglers easy
access with roads paralleling the creek for most of its length. The best
fishing is upstream of Rock Creek’s junction with White Oak Creek. Rock Creek
is known as one of Kentucky’s true mountain trout streams, but the creek holds
a stable population of smallmouth bass.
The Russell Fork
in Pike County offers several productive public wading spots for smallmouths.
The public river access at Ratliff Hole (also known as Potters Ford) inside the
boundaries of Breaks Interstate Park on KY 80 south of Elkhorn City makes one
of the most scenic wading spots in Kentucky.
Wading anglers may
also access the Russell Fork at Carson Island Access via Carson Island Road off
KY 80, just east of Elkhorn City. The Elkhorn City Park in downtown Elkhorn
City grants anglers public wading access to a productive stretch of the Russell
Elkhorn Creek in
Franklin County fishes well even when the water is up a bit. Anglers may wade
fish the Elkhorn at T.N. Sullivan Wildlife Management Area off KY 1262 and at
the two Voluntary Public Access spots near the junction of Peaks Mill Road (KY
1900) and KY 1262.
All the lures you
need for a successful wade easily fit inside a cigar box. A pack of 1/8-ounce
leadheads, some black finesse worms, a bag of green-pumpkin tube baits along
with a bag of 4-inch Senko type soft plastic jerkbaits in the same color all
catch stream smallmouths. Add a floating/diving minnow lure like a Rapala and
“Look for gravelly
bottoms adjacent to the current,” Baker said. “A lot of times you can see the
smallmouths in spring. Pitch a tube or soft plastic bait rigged on a leadhead
near them and they will attack. Also, work areas adjacent to current with a
soft plastic jerkbait or a floating/diving minnow for smallmouths. The thing I love most about smaller streams
is that any cast can be a good one.”
information about smallmouth streams in Kentucky, visit the Kentucky Fish and
Wildlife website at www.fw.ky.gov. Click on the “Fish” tab, followed by
the “Recreational Fishing” tab and then the “Kentucky Smallmouth Streams” tab
under the “Where to Fish” banner.
The license year
expired Feb. 28, so remember to purchase your fishing license before fishing