Fall is the prime time for trout fishing in Kentucky.
As the days get shorter and the water temperature begins to drop, cold water species become more active. The waterways are shrouded in fog in the morning.
Arguably, trout are Kentucky’s most popular freshwater species, providing excellent sport fishing opportunities and unsurpassed table dishes.
Trout stored in tail water
The tail waters below Kentucky’s major lakes are the state’s top trout fishing destinations. Populations are supported by annual restocking, with a small amount of natural reproduction.
In most tail waters there is an interruption of the lows during the summer months, but the lows resume in the fall – October and November – which greatly improves the fishing.
Downstream waters downstream of 14 large lakes are stocked with rainbow trout throughout the year with varying totals; four streams are stocked with brown trout. In addition, brook trout and cutthroat trout are stocked in the downstream waters of Cumberland Lake in the spring when available.
Here are the latest trout stocking figures from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources ((KDFWR) website:
Tailwaters of Cumberland Lake
The Cumberland Downstream Waters, which stretches 75 miles from the Wolf Creek Dam downstream to the Kentucky / Tennessee line, is Kentucky’s premier trout fishing stream.
There is a boat launch below the dam in the Kendall Recreation Area. The launch fee is $ 5.
There is a unique trout fishing option just below the dam.
Hatchery Creek is located downstream from Cumberland Lake, just behind the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery.
The man-made stream originates from the flow of cold water from the hatchery and flows for 6,000 feet before emptying into the Cumberland River.
The flow of the stream is constant, ranging from 25 cubic feet per second to 35 cubic feet per second.
Along its nearly 47-foot descent, Hatchery Creek begins as a maintained park-like fishing area for the first 400 feet from the hatchery exit to a block-built waterfall. This section is called Upper Hatchery Creek. The regulations allow fishermen to keep up to five trout, combined species and with no size limit.
The remaining creek, from the waterfall downstream, is called Lower Hatchery Creek. Regulations there limit anglers to artificial lures, and catch and release only.
All anglers fishing either section of Hatchery Creek must have a trout license.
Lower Hatchery Creek begins as a gentle meandering creek with many underlying landslides and riffles with over 1,800 tonnes of spawning gravel, logs, and lots of rock piles to create eddies. Deeper pools can be found along the outer bends where undercut banks known as ‘Lunker Bunkers’ provide hiding places for trout, undercut banks, not visible from the surface.
Over five acres of wetlands connect with Hatchery Creek in a few places where the stream splits into several smaller canals providing refuge for forage fish and juvenile trout. In the final 500 feet, Hatchery Creek descends steeply through a series of boulder-strewn protective pools before joining the Cumberland River.
The stream provides healthy aquatic habitat that attracts trout, including the Cumberland River’s larger trophy trout, and other wildlife. It also offers an attractive and stimulating fishing opportunity for anglers with a good chance of catching bigger trout.
There is good fishing from the banks. Those who wish to wade should expect deeper water in the pools that could cover the upper waders. However, most guns are shallow enough to provide a walk-through area for those with boots or waders or anglers who don’t mind getting wet.
Hatchery Creek was built using only funds from the Kentucky Wetland and Stream Mitigation Fund; no amount of general state fund tax or fishing license fees were used.
The Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources, in partnership with the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, created Hatchery Creek to replace a deeply eroding ravine that threatened downstream fisheries.
Trout in the Cumberland tail waters
There are four species of trout in the downstream waters of Cumberland:
â¢ April 16, 2019 Cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii) were stored in Kentucky for the first time.
Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii) is a species native to the cold water tributaries of the Pacific Ocean, the Rocky Mountains and the Great Basin in North America. There are 14 subspecies, two of which are extinct.
KDFWR staff stocked 38,000 cutthroat trout in the Cumberland River below the Wolf Creek Dam.
Surplus Yellowstone cutthroat trout were sired and reared to stocking size at the Norfork National Hatchery in Arkansas. KDFWR crews stocked 5,100 trout at Bakerton, Ky., 21,600 at the ramp in Burkesville, Ky., And 11,300 at the Ky. 61 bridge, just downstream from Burkesville.
Stocked trout averaged just over 6 inches long. Cutthroat trout have a distinctive orange notch on their lower jaw. Plans are to store cutthroat trout in tail waters when available.
â¢ Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) was probably the first species of trout ever stocked in Kentucky.
KDFWR restocking records date back to 1956, when 1,200 adults were restocked in Cumberland tail waters. After that, from 1961 to 1964, the stockings became more consistent.
This year, 131,800 rainbow trout are expected to be stocked in the downstream waters of Cumberland over a 7 month period from May to November.
â¢ Brown trout (Salmo trutta) is a European species that has been widely introduced to suitable environments globally.
In April 1884, the US 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 in American waters.
Between 1884 and 1890, brown trout were introduced to suitable habitats across the United States. By 1900, 38 states had received stocks of brown trout. Their adaptability has allowed most of these introductions to establish wild and self-sustaining populations.
Cumberland Tail Waters have always offered the best fishing in Kentucky for brown trout.
This year, 30,000 brown trout are scheduled to be stocked in the tail waters over a 7 month period, from May to November.
â¢ Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) is a species of char native to the eastern United States and Canada, with populations in the United States mostly confined to the higher elevations of the Appalachian Mountains.
Brook trout were first stocked in the downstream waters of Cumberland in 2011.
The stocking target is 40,000 per year, but due to production difficulties at the Wolf Creek National Hatchery, this target has not always been met; 2015 was the last year for a full award.
Special regulations are in effect for the four species of trout in the downstream waters of Cumberland.
Brown trout: minimum size 20 inches, with a daily creel of one.
Cutthroat Trout: Minimum size limit of 20 inches, with a daily creel of one.
Rainbow Trout: Protective limit of 15 to 20 inches, with a daily creel limit of five, but no more than one fish may exceed 20 inches.
Brook trout: minimum size 15 inches, with a daily creel of one.
Trout can be caught by always fishing for live bait, nocturnal caterpillars and red worms, and by throwing small baits and spinners on ultralight spinning equipment. Fly fishermen cast nymphs, dry flies and streamers to entice trout to strike.
Plan a fall trout fishing trip. Trout are beautiful fish, game fighters on light tackle and great food. The best trout fishing of the year starts now.