The Fisheries Division’s Fishing Forecast each year presents its “Up and Coming Fisheries,” a savory menu of potential fishing trips for anglers to try in the coming year.
“The Up and Coming Fisheries on the Fishing Forecast are fisheries that are either a new opportunity or fisheries once considered average to poor that have been building up in quality,” said Jeff Ross, assistant director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Some of these are waters we don’t sample regularly, such as the upper Barren River.”
The black bass population in the upper Barren River upstream of Barren River Lake displayed its strength as Kentucky Fish and Wildlife stream fisheries biologist Jay Herrala conducted population sampling for walleye earlier this week.
“We saw some pretty nice smallmouth bass from 16 to 18 inches long in the upper Barren in the area around Coruth Ford,” Herrala said. “We consistently saw some decent fish.”
The Holland Boat Ramp off KY 100 in Allen County provides access to the upper Barren River. Dave Dreves, assistant director of fisheries for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, spent many hours conducting population sampling on the upper Barren. He said anglers start encountering smallmouth bass upstream of Jewsharp Bend, downstream of Holland Boat Ramp.
An angler in a johnboat, canoe or kayak could work upstream and downstream for smallmouth bass in this area. The woody cover in the deeper holes in this stretch hold good numbers of spotted bass.
The extreme headwaters of the Barren River arm of Barren River Lake holds impressive numbers of largemouth bass at this time of year. Anglers may access this section by using Browns Ford Ramp or Walnut Creek Ramp.
“We would put in at Browns Ford and conduct population sampling in early spring,” Dreves said. “The largemouth bass would stack up in the old river channel at winter pool. There are row after row of stumps lining the old river channel and we would go over those stumps with a shocking boat. There would be largemouths just stacked in there; we would pull three or four nice largemouths off the bigger stumps.”
Dreves also recommends that anglers fish the stump-lined channel of the main lake beginning at the narrow cut-through upstream of the Walnut Creek Boat Ramp. Continue following this channel toward the headwaters for good fishing opportunities. These areas are good to hit in the next couple of weeks, as the lake begins its 27-foot climb to summer pool by mid-March.
Population sampling of the smallmouth bass fishery in central Kentucky’s Elkhorn Creek revealed a dramatic improvement. “We are coming off historically high catch rates for smallmouth bass on Elkhorn Creek,” said David Baker, Central Fisheries District biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “For perspective, it is double what we’ve seen for the last 10 years.”
The average number of smallmouth bass captured and released per hour by electroshocking during population sampling is usually 60 to 70 fish. “In 2016, it was 162 per hour,” Baker said. “We had three phenomenal years of reproduction in a row and it’s showing in the population sampling.”
Baker said fisheries crews see smallmouth bass up to 18 inches in the Elkhorn with good numbers of fish from 12 to 16 inches long.
“People should have a field day for smallmouths,” Baker said. “We also have a fantastic number of rock bass in there up to the trophy size of 10 inches.”
Ross said several of the small state-owned lakes show improved populations of largemouth bass. “Wilgreen Lake in Madison County is showing improved bass populations by all indicators,” he said. “It earned an excellent rating for largemouth bass in the Fishing Forecast.”
Population sampling for largemouth bass on Wilgreen Lake showed impressive numbers of fish more than 15 inches long with a healthy number of large bass bigger than 20 inches.
“Carpenter Lake in Daviess County also shows an improving population of largemouth bass,” Ross said. The 68-acre lake holds an increasing number of largemouths over the 15-inch mark.
The up and coming fisheries are only a small tidbit of the information available in the annual Fishing Forecast. Print your own copy by logging on to the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website at fw.ky.gov and click on the “Fish” tab, followed by the “Forecast” tab.
Fishing licenses expired Feb. 28. Anglers fishing now should make sure they have the current license.
Author Lee McClellan is a nationally award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.