Crappie time on Barren River Lake

By Lee McClellan
Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
Although the redbud trees haven’t bloomed yet, it isn’t too early to start fishing for crappie.
Black crappie are likely along rocky banks now in lakes that have them.
“With the water temperatures still in the mid-40s, white crappie are likely staging in deeper water right now,” said Jeff Crosby, central fisheries district biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “With the longer photoperiod and the warmer temperatures on the way, they will be moving up to the shallows.”
The big twins of western Kentucky, Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, along with Green River Lake and Taylorsville Lake all receive oodles of fishing pressure for the crappie that swim in their waters. However, Kentucky is also blessed with other less known waters holding bountiful populations of crappie that don’t receive the adulation and fishing pressure of their more well known brethren.
While known for its excellent largemouth bass fishing, wood strewn 2,315-acre Yatesville Lake in Lawrence County holds good numbers of quality white crappie with many in the 15-inch range.
“In our latest population sampling, Yatesville had the most crappie we’ve ever sampled in the 10- to 14-inch range,” said Kevin Frey, eastern fisheries district biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.
Yatesville Lake, near the West Virginia border, more resembles a flatland reservoir with abundant woody cover than a mountain lake. Probe the fallen tree tops and submerged trees with live minnows suspended under a bobber and adjust the depth until you get bites. The timbered coves and banks near the confluence of Blaine and Greenbrier creeks hold crappie.
“In the upper part of Blaine Creek at the Rich Creek boat access, we’ve placed fish structures and cut down trees for bank anglers to catch crappie,” Frey said. “There are numerous pull offs along KY 32 for bank anglers. It is good fishing in that area in spring.”
Cave Run Lake is full of 2- to 3-year-old crappie, providing excellent opportunity for both black and white crappie. The deep weedbeds in the mouths of Skidmore and Leatherwood creeks in the Beaver Creek arm attract black crappie in March and into April. Black crappie tend to move into the shallows earlier in the year than white crappie. White crappie stay out in deeper water along creek channels while blacks may be in just a few feet of water along rocky banks at the same time.
The abundant woody structures around Bangor Boat Ramp and fallen trees along the island near Poppin Rock Boat Ramp in the North Fork Arm of Cave Run provide excellent fishing for white and black crappie.
One of the crappie sleepers flows off of Pine Mountain all the way to northern Kentucky. The Kentucky River holds considerable numbers of crappie a foot long or better. “The river goes in cycles, but there are some good fish in there,” Crosby said. “The crappie in the Kentucky like those creek mouths and backwater areas with little current.”
Tributaries at their confluence with the Kentucky River have abundant root wads, undercut banks and washed in tree tops and brush. Probe all of these with live minnows suspended under a bobber or with 1/16-ounce chartreuse Roadrunner style spinner baits dressed with a matching 2-inch curly-tailed grub.
“Another flowing water to consider is the Ohio River. It is really, really good for crappie right now,” Crosby said. The Ohio River offers good crappie fishing from Ashland downstream to the Purchase Region in far western Kentucky.
He recommends backwater areas along the river, often formed where tributaries meet the main stem of the Ohio. “With all of the flooding on the Ohio, those embayments should have fish right now. Target brushy areas with live minnows in those embayments.”
Guist Creek Lake covers 317 acres in Shelby County. It is also overlooked for crappie. “We saw some really nice crappie last fall in our population surveying,” Crosby said. “I think most of the fishing pressure there is on largemouth bass.”
Early spring is a good time to catch large white crappie 11 inches and longer on Barren River Lake in Allen and Barren counties. Known throughout the Midwest and upper South as a superior largemouth bass lake and written up in national magazines, Barren River Lake holds a burgeoning population of black crappie as well, which now make up 60 percent of the total crappie population in the lake.
Casting banks composed of pea gravel with lime-green 2-inch curly-tailed grubs rigged on red 1/8-ounce leadheads is a productive presentation for black crappie. Drifting live minnows along creek channels in March and early April fools big white crappie on Barren before they move into the shallows to spawn.
The huge snows of just a few weeks ago are now in the dustbin of history. It is time to get out and catch some crappie.

Warming water sets white bass running

By Lee McClellan
Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
Small creeks across Kentucky that normally run placid currently rage with brown froth. Reservoirs now cover marina parking lots and campgrounds.
Most Kentuckians are punch drunk from the blows of the latest salient of the Polar Vortex followed by dreary, cold rain.
Water temperature is the main driver of the white bass runs. With most waters across Kentucky hovering in the low 40s, they are likely still several weeks away. However, a prolonged warm front, similar to the one we are now enjoying, can bring the gorging bands of white bass upstream fairly quickly.
“In spring, look for that warm rain,” said Mike Hardin, assistant director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “The river temperatures can increase dramatically from warm rains. They warm up eight degrees or more quickly. The headwaters are often much warmer than the main lake.”
The U.S. Geological Survey streamflow gauges for Kentucky streams tell the story of how much water is coming into a lake. When you click on a gauge for a particular site on a stream, a box at the top of the page allows users to select parameters to display such as flow rate in cubic feet per second (cfs), gauge height and water temperature. You may access this important information at
“I try and look at the gauges for surrounding streams to estimate what the water temperature is in the river above a lake,” Hardin, an avid white bass angler said. “When the water temperature gets near 50 along with the increased flow and longer days, these factors trigger the white bass to move upstream. Soon after that comes the peak of the run.”
White bass aggressively strike practically anything that flashes silver in the water or resembles a shad or other baitfish. “You can drop down to about any flashy lure and cast it out, reel it in and catch white bass in spring,” said Jeff Ross, assistant director of fisheries for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “They are a great fish for families, kids and beginners because they strike so aggressively.”
Hardin said an angler can carry all they need for white bass in a shirt pocket. Buy a couple of bags of 3-inch white or chartreuse curly-tailed grubs along with some 1/8th-ounce leadheads and go.
White bass also strike white, grey, pink or chartreuse in-line spinners, small silver casting spoons and tiny shad-colored crankbaits.
Ross said another pleasant aspect of white bass fishing is the ability to catch a slew of them from the bank.
Get out this spring and enjoy the fast and furious nature of white bass fishing. When white bass are running, no other fishing offers as much action and excitement, perfect for hooking a youngster into a lifetime of fishing.

March 23 – 30 Fishing Tournaments

There is one fishing tournament scheduled for Barren River Lake this week.
March 28-
The Kentucky Skeeter / Yamaha Invitational bass tournament, sponsored by Anglers Outpost and Marine, will takeoff Saturday, March 28, at 7:30 a.m. CT from Port Oliver Recreation Area ramp, with weigh-in set for 3 p.m. CT at the ramp.
It is an open tournament.
For more information, contact Randall Christopher or Sherril Baker or email or You may also call 859-582-9347.

For upcoming fishing tournaments, click Barren River Lake Fishing Tournaments in the right column under “For more information.”

Weekend catch on Barren River Lake

Dave Ballard of Glasgow caught these this weekend trolling near the Beaver Creek ramp on Barren River Lake with his sister and her husband. He said that his fish finder wasn’t working so he just read the seagulls.
Share your catch (along with details) by sending photos to
Ballard catch 1Ballard Catch 3

Begin your Adventure Quest today

Barren River Lake State Park, along with state parks across the Commonwealth, will again offer families the opportunity to learn park trivia and seek the perfect photo using the parks’ Family Adventure Quest program.
For $15 groups of two-six people get a “Booklet of Quests,” an “F.A.Q. Hat” and a Kentucky state park kite.
Quest challenges will encourage teams to visit various parks and historic sites in search for adventure.
Most challenges will require use of a digital camera, and some might need a bit of online research before heading out.
In order to be eligible for prizes upon completion, Quest photos will need to be submitted as high resolution electronic images on CD (non-returnable) along with the booklet.
For the 10th year, participants have a choice of park-specific quests in the eastern or western half of the state (the non-park-specific quests can be done state-wide).
See map here.
Only one quest can be submitted for prizes per household.
The more quests that are completed, the more prizes earned.
Upon completion of 10 or more correctly, participants can receive a free night stay at any resort park (Sunday—Thursday) plus free passes to park museums/house tours for your team.
When teams complete 20 quests, participants will receive a $25 KY State Park Gift Card (plus the lodge stay and passes).
If teams complete 25 quests, they will receive a $50 KY State Park Gift Card (plus the lodge stay and passes).
To get your quest underway, Click here to download the registration form or call 1-502-564-2172 to request one by mail.

Stay one night, second FREE at Barren River Lake State Park Campground

Barren River Lake State Park Campground is offering a Stay One Night, Get the Second Night FREE, April 1 – May 21, Sunday through Thursday.
The state park campground has 100 campsites (98 electric, 2 tent).
This deal is available for all campsites.
The campground opens for the season on April 1. Reservations are currently being accepted for the season.
When booking online through ReserveAmerica or by calling the park at 270-646-2151, use the promo code SPRING15.
This offer is also good for all Kentucky State Parks.
The offer excludes the Kentucky Horse Park and Camper Appreciation Weekend, April 24-26.

March 16 – 22 Fishing Tournaments

There are two fishing tournaments scheduled for Barren River Lake this week.
March 21-
The Barren River Fishing League bass tournament takeoff is set for Saturday, March 21, at 8 a.m. CT from Port Oliver Recreation Area ramp, with weigh-in set for 3 p.m. CT at the ramp. It is an open tournament. For more information, contact Ronnie Stinson at 270-618-1436 or email him at
March 22-
The USA Bassin Prowler Next Generation bass tournament takeoff is set for Sunday, March 22, at 7 a.m. CT from Port Oliver Recreation Area ramp, with weigh-in set for 3 p.m. CT at the ramp. It is an open Tournament. For more information, contact Mike Skaggs at 502-718-5326 or email him at

For upcoming fishing tournaments, click Barren River Lake Fishing Tournaments in the right column under “For more information.”


Barren River Lake State Park will resume regular hours this Sunday, March 15

Barren River Lake State Park will resume its regular operating hours beginning Sunday, March 15.
The Louie B. Nunn Lodge and Driftwood Restaurant have been on off season operating hours since December.
With the resumption of regular hours, the lodge will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Driftwood Restaurant will be open from 7-10 a.m., 11 a.m.- 2 p.m., and 5-8 p.m., seven days a week, until Memorial Day, when hours will be extended.
The state park campground will remain closed until Tuesday, March 31.

New Walleye regulations proposed for Barren River and Barren River Lake

The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Resources Commission has proposed changes to the walleye fishing regulations on Barren River and Barren River Lake.
The proposals were made to protect the native strain walleye.
They include a two fish daily creel limit with an 18- to 26- inch protective slot limit for walleye in the Barren River below Barren River Lake downstream to Lock and Dam 1 and tributaries.
Barren River Lake is also included in this regulation proposal.
All walleye caught from the Barren River, as well as the Barren River Lake, from 18- t0 26- inches in length must be immediately released.
The commission recommends all hunting, fishing and boating regulations for approval by the General Assembly and approves all expenditures by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
All recommendations must be approved by legislators before they become law.
The commission’s recommended fishing regulations are scheduled to go into effect this fall.

Study long range forecast for best fishing

By Lee McClellan
Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
There is a saying in fishing that goes “the best time to go fishing is when you can.”
With the frenetic pace and busy schedules of modern life, the saying is true more than ever. However, if you only have a few weekends each spring to fish, the experience yields more stress reduction, enjoyment and memories if the fish bite like crazy.
Studying the long range forecast before planning a fishing trip and looking for the right trends helps bring you a glory day of fishing instead of a day of a thousand casts without a bite.
Barren River Lake Fishing Forecast
Several factors play into what makes ideal environmental conditions for fishing: barometric pressure, wind direction, sunlight and precipitation all play a major role.
“I think the barometric pressure determines what the fishing success will be that day,” said Chad Miles, administrative director of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Foundation and keen observer of weather trends for fishing. “The barometric pressure is a good indicator of how aggressive they are feeding.”
Barometric pressure is a measurement of the weight of an entire column of air pressing down on the Earth. Approaching storm fronts ease this weight, resulting in low atmospheric pressure. The old fishing adage that fish bite best before a storm is true.
High barometric pressure stems from a large mass of air that is slowly descending toward the Earth’s surface, while low barometric pressure is the opposite scenario. The rising air of a low pressure area cools and releases the humidity trapped in the air, causing either rain or snow.
Low pressure systems bring with them environmental conditions conducive for predator fish to feed such as increased winds, dark, cloudy skies and precipitation. These factors decrease light penetration into the water column, providing a better environment for predator fish to ambush prey.
The lower barometric pressure also exerts less force on the water’s surface which may trigger a feeding frenzy, although some debate exists on this point. However, there is nearly universal belief that approaching low pressure frontal systems provoke fish into feeding.
The opposite happens when the inevitable high pressure system follows the low.
“If you see small sticks in the water floating straight up and down, then fishing will be bad,” Miles said. “The sticks floating this way indicate really high air pressure. I’ve been in the boat too many times on high pressure days and wondered what happened to the fish.”
The shimmering bluebird days following a low pressure system really hurt fishing in late winter and early spring. Fish hold tight to cover, grow lethargic and often hunker on the bottom awaiting better conditions, especially in clear water lakes. Many believe the force of the higher air pressure on the water’s surface is a catalyst for this behavior.
In the Northern Hemisphere, air descending from high pressure flows out in a clockwise direction, often bringing winds from the north and eventually the east. The old saying “Wind from the east, fish bite least” has some basis in fact.
“In late winter and early spring, the best time to fish is on the third or fourth day of stable weather with a stable barometer,” Miles explained. “This is true regardless of the temperature, even it is cold.”
The descending air of a high pressure system does eventually bring good fishing in spring. Air moving toward the Earth’s surface warms while doing so; this warming retards the formation of clouds, bringing clear skies with lots of sunlight.
“On shallower lakes with stained water, some of your best fishing days in spring are bright days,” Miles said. “Stained water in the shallows warms quicker, attracting the fish. But, on deep, clear water lakes, bright days in spring kill you as these lakes warm much slower and the fish in them are more sensitive to light.”
Several apps for smart phones predict the barometric pressure over a two or three day period. Miles often consults these apps when planning fishing trips.
The National Weather Service offers excellent long range weather forecasts on its website at
Barren River Lake Weather
The later sunsets of March indicate that winter’s cold grasp is lessening and spring is on the way. If you have a choice of planning upcoming fishing trips, the day before a low pressure system or three or four days afterward are best.