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Productive Fishing During Deer Season

This is the fourth installment of a series of articles titled “Fall Fishing Festival” profiling the productive fishing on Kentucky's lakes, rivers and streams in fall

By: Kevin Kelly, Kentucky Afield Outdoors

Kentucky offers some of the finest deer hunting found anywhere, and the modern gun deer season stands as one of the most anticipated opportunities each year.

Its allure draws many anglers away from the water in November.

“A lot of people start to put up their fishing gear this time of year and head for the woods,” said Dane Balsman, urban fisheries research biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “There are a lot of good fishing opportunities in the fall and a lot less pressure. You can have some of your best fishing this time of year."

Anglers don’t have to travel far to find a productive spot.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife started the Fishing In Neighborhoods (FINs) program in 2006 as a way to expand fishing opportunities for anglers living in the state’s largest cities.

Initially limited to a handful of lakes in central and northern Kentucky, the program took off and now includes 40 lakes across the state.

In October and November, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife stocks a total of 57,000 rainbow trout in FINs lakes.

These 9- to 11-inch trout, reared at the Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery, are eager to bite and put up a fight that often belies their size. A small in-line spinner or a 1/8-ounce spoon in silver or gold are good bets. Brightly-colored dough baits formulated for trout and corn fished on the bottom or suspended under a bobber also are consistent producers.

"Pretty basic: small hook, small bait," Balsman said. "It doesn't take much."

The newest addition to the FINs lineup is the 11.6-acre lake at Maysville-Mason County Recreation Park. It joined the program this year and received its first stocking of catfish this past summer.

"It's a pretty lake with great access all the way around it," said Balsman, who added that the lake would receive its stocking of trout this month.

FINs lakes are stocked with channel catfish and hybrid sunfish in spring and summer. The bass and bluegill populations are monitored and supported with stockings as needed.

"Those other fish are still feeding pretty heavily in November trying to pack on some pounds for the cold winter months when they're not as active," Balsman said.

Daily limits for FINs lakes are five rainbow trout, four catfish, one largemouth bass over 15 inches and 15 bluegill or other sunfish.

Anglers ages 16 and older will need a statewide fishing license, unless exempt. Licensed anglers who intend to keep their trout also must purchase a trout permit. The permit is included in the Sportsman's license and Senior license.

“If you’re going to catch and release trout, practice good techniques,” Balsman said. “Don’t use a dry towel or step on the fish to get the hook out. Try to keep it damp with your hands. If it swallows the hook, you’re probably better off cutting the line.”

Feeling more adventurous?

The tailwater below Lake Cumberland's Wolf Creek Dam is a year-round fishery renowned for trout, striped bass and walleye.

"The tailwater is always good," said John Williams, southeastern district fisheries biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. "The upper part of the tailwater from the dam to Helm’s Landing or Winfrey's Ferry is better in terms of numbers of trout. As you go downstream from there you usually get some big fish. I always like fishing Helm’s to Winfrey’s. You have good numbers and some nice-sized fish, too.”

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife biologists sampled the area within the past week and found mostly rainbows around Helm’s Landing and mostly brown trout down around the Burkesville area near the KY 61 bridge. Crankbaits that imitate crawfish and minnows are effective for trout. Work either with a steady retrieve or quick jerks to entice strikes.

“We also saw some nice stripers below Hatchery Creek,” Williams said, “and several walleye pretty close to the dam.”

Anglers should consult the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil for the water release and generation schedule.

“If you like a big fish, it’s probably the best place to catch a huge striper because they’ve got plenty to eat and the water conditions are nice and cool,” Williams said. “You never see a skinny striper in the tailwater. They’re always bruisers. The walleye always look nice down there. I wouldn’t say there’s big numbers of either one of those but there’s some and they’re always in good condition. The brook trout are coming on, too.”

The license year doesn’t end until Feb. 28, 2015, so get out this deer season, enjoy some great fishing and get your money’s worth on your fishing license.

Kevin Kelly is a staff writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Get the latest from Kevin and the entire Kentucky Afield staff by following them on Twitter: @kyafield.

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