Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY


April 30, 2014

OUTDOORS COLUMN: Rain raises Barren River Lake levels

GLASGOW — Rains this week have pushed Barren Lake levels to 555.5 as of Wednesday morning, three feet over summer pool. That puts a lot of debris in the water so you really need to be careful out there. It also means that spring crappie will be in the shallows around cover as the annual run winds down. Both crappie and bass were still being caught in good numbers before the sudden rise. The higher water will require some changes in tactics but after things settle down, fishing should be good again. The Cumberland River continues to be productive and a trio of Wilbur Carroll, Bob Siler and Carl Copass caught a variety of species there last week including trout and sauger. Many of the trout were in the slot, however. It’s also near the time for shellcrackers at Dale Hollow, Kentucky and Barkley.


A qualifying tournament for the USA Crappie Classic was held last Saturday at Green River Reservoir. It brought 125 fishermen from seven states. Mark and Keith Morris of Campbellsburg were the overall winners with 6.73 pounds in their required submission. Overall they caught 125 crappie long-line trolling in the Holmes Bend area. The big fish of the day was a 1.8 pounder. The USA Classic will be on Lake Cumberland on Oct. 16-18.


Sad to hear of the passing of veteran fishing guide John Rush of Burkesville. John was only 69. Services were held there on Sunday. Some folks you can describe as “characters” and John was one of those. He introduced hundreds, if not thousands, to fishing the Cumberland River and he delighted especially in teaching kids to fish for rainbow trout.

He loved being around youngsters and for years was employed by the Cumberland County school system in maintenance at Cumberland County Middle School. John was the first guide the Oldtimers hired to fish with for smallmouth on Dale Hollow. I had gone with John on successful outings and he was a cool dude.

I have also fished with his son, Johnny Rush, who I have mentioned here several times before. Johnny followed his dad in operating Rainbow Guide Service. Our condolences to Johnny and the Rush family.


The Barren River Rod and Gun Club will have its regular monthly membership meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the clubhouse at Lucas. Following the potluck meal, the business meeting will include a special guest speaker, Eric Cummings of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, who will report on Barren Lake.


As mentioned last week, some of the Oldtimers ventured to Kentucky Lake to try for crappie. Plagued by high winds the last day there on Wednesday, two of the group, Ed Darst and Glenn Debiak decided to change tactics and moved off to the Cumberland River below Lake Barkley Dam.

There, they ran upon Paul Rister, the KDFWR fisheries biologist for west Kentucky, an old friend of Brother Ed. Paul was there to study a massive fish kill of Asian Carp below the dam.

He suggested the two Oldtimers try their luck drifting minnows for big hybrids and for the next few hours, the Glasgow duo landed big fish after big fish, sharing their catch with some young bank fishermen who hadn’t had any luck. That jolly good time capped off a good visit to Kenlake even though the wind had prevented the group from covering the best crappie waters.

Back to that fish kill, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has declared the worst of the kill that has claimed upward of a half-million Asian carp is believed to be over.

On Friday, April 25, fisheries biologists with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources returned to the area as the focus shifted to learning what might have caused the considerable die-off of invasive silver carp.

“Anglers were seeing dead fish a week ago, some two weeks ago, which is very typical of a fish kill caused by some type of viral pathogen,” said Rister. “It’s kind of a bell-shaped curve. You start seeing a few die, and a few more die, and then you reach the peak of the massive die-off. I think we’re on that downhill side now.”

After conferring with Asian carp researchers from around the country, KDFWR Fisheries Director Ron Brooks said the belief among experts is that the fish kill found below Barkley Dam to the Cumberland River’s confluence with the Ohio River is the largest ever involving Asian carp in the United States.

Silver carp, which are not native to the United States, appear to be the only fish affected. To help move the mass of fish downriver, the U.S. Corps of Engineers on Thursday opened three gates at Barkley Dam to flush dead fish downstream.

“I don’t think people have to worry about those pathogens affecting native species,” Brooks said. “That’s probably the best news of all.”

While the cause has not been confirmed, possibilities include overstress from spawning or the presence of a pathogen that disrupts brain function in the fish, Brooks said.

“Anytime you have an event where there are a lot of fish congregating, it’s just like any other animal, the chance for a pathogen to spread increases,” he said. “Whether it’s that pathogen or some other stressor, no one will know until we get word from the researchers.”

Dying silver carp collected from the area by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife will undergo disease testing at Kentucky State University. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife also is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as agencies from bordering states and Purdue University.

Fisheries biologists visited nearby Kentucky Lake dam Friday after receiving reports of dead Asian carp on the Tennessee River. After investigating the area, the cause of death of those fish is believed to be due to bow anglers and snaggers.

Asian carp find the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers hospitable because the water discharged from Lake Barkley and neighboring Kentucky Lake is so fertile, Brooks said.

He is hopeful researchers find something from this fish kill that leads to the eventual eradication of Asian carp. Silver carp are plankton feeders and threaten the well-being of native fish and mussels by over-harvesting that vital source of nutrition.

“It’s comforting to know there’s something out there that might take these things out before they just devastate everything,” Brooks said. “Right now we just don’t have it.”

 I recall several years back when the winning bass in the Barren River Rod and Gun Club’s “big bass” annual contest came from City Lake in Tompkinsville. For the few months that followed, some other club members tried to duplicate the feat with trips to Tompkinsville. Nobody ever matched it. But it brings up an interesting subject. Some of the state’s smaller lakes hold some monster bass.

This week’s Kentucky Afield report by outdoor writer Kevin Kelly talks about big fish in small waters.

Dale Wilson cast a black spinner bait embellished with a split-tail pork eel trailer into Wood Creek Lake and started working it back to the boat with lifts and drops.

Lurking in about five feet of water near the base of a boulder, a largemouth bass found the lure and presentation irresistible. It struck. Wilson set the hook.

The 13-pound, 10.4-ounce lunker pulled from the Laurel County lake that April morning became the new Kentucky state record. Its status remains intact three decades later.

Kentucky boasts plenty of lakes known for producing high-quality largemouth bass. Foremost in many anglers’ minds are Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, but it wouldn’t surprise Gerry Buynak to see the next state record largemouth bass come from one of the state’s smaller lakes.

“Our last three state records came from either Greenbo Lake or Wood Creek Lake,” said Buynak, assistant fisheries director for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “My gut tells me Fishpond Lake, Greenbo, Wood Creek and potentially Cedar Creek Lake.”

Spring is an optimal time to pursue a hefty largemouth bass from bank or boat.

The lengthening periods of daylight and water temperatures warming into the 60s trigger an instinct to move shallow and spawn.

Buynak’s experience has taught him that largemouth bass like banks that receive the most sunlight in spring. The warmer water also attracts bait fish.

“It’s the most vulnerable time for the bass because they’re up on the bank where everybody fishes,” he said. “The big females always tend to spawn first. So, if you find a lake where spawning is just starting, that’s when the big fish are going to be near the bank.”

With water temperatures slow to warm after the long winter, largemouth bass are still in pre-spawn mode in many lakes.

That’s good news for anglers.

“This pre-spawn period is probably your best bet, and there are some big bass out there,” said Chris Hickey, black bass biologist with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “They’re going to be pretty voracious right now to regain that energy, those reserves that they lost over the winter.”

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s 2014 Fishing Forecast classifies more than a dozen lakes under 1,000 acres as good to excellent for largemouth bass.

Fishpond Lake in Letcher County falls into that category.

The 32-acre lake averages about a dozen fish over 20 inches during a one-hour population sampling, but the lake’s clear water can make daytime fishing challenging.

Largemouth bass will cozy up to Fishpond’s steeper shorelines in 6- to 8-feet of water in spring, Eastern District Fisheries Biologist Kevin Frey said.

“As the spring progresses, sometimes the algae near the shorelines can get really thick and create mats,” he said. “Casting to the edge of those algae mats or underneath them can be good for bass.”

Bullock Pen Lake in Grant County and 183-acre Kincaid Lake in Pendleton County offer anglers the potential to catch a largemouth bass over 20 inches.

“They’re almost identical to a degree, other than I think Kincaid is a little bit better,” said Jeff Crosby, central fisheries district biologist with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “There are just incredible numbers of fish over 15 inches at Kincaid, so your chances of catching a quality fish are excellent.”

A population sampling trip Monday evening on 134-acre Bullock Pen Lake turned up good numbers of 18-inch fish and quite a few 2- to 4-pound fish, Crosby said. He suggests working water willow beds and submerged timber with jerk baits, soft plastics and jig-n-pig combos for the bigger fish.

Shad-imitating lures worked along the edges of water willow and lily pads can be productive this time of year at 760-acre Lake Beshear in Caldwell and Christian counties. Lake Malone in Muhlenberg, Todd and Logan counties boasts good numbers of 15-to-20-inch fish in its 767 acres. Soft plastic baits fished near water willow along with spinner baits and jigs fished near submerged timber and brush also make good bets in spring.

The “Where to Fish” feature on Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s website offers anglers mapping of the location of fish attractors in many Kentucky water bodies.

Ample numbers of big largemouth bass were observed during saugeye sampling last week on Guist Creek Lake in Shelby County. Then there is Cedar Creek; the 784-acre lake in Lincoln County managed by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife for its trophy largemouth bass potential.

“Every year we keep catching more and more over that 20-inch limit,” Hickey said.

Smaller lakes and big largemouth bass go hand-in-hand in spring. Now is the time to give them a try, but make sure to have a valid Kentucky fishing license. The new license year started March 1.

“This time of year,” Buynak said, “I’d be up shallow after those bigger fish.”

Kevin Kelly is a staff writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

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Barren County vs. Glasgow Challenge Cup boys golf