Commonwealth Journal


March 22, 2012

Water Hazard

Trout stream below Wolf Creek Dam poses hidden danger

Somerset — Money is in the federal budget for continued normal operation of the Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued safety guidelines for hundreds of fishermen who enjoy trout fishing in the Cumberland River below Wolf Creek Dam.

James Gray, project leader for the hatchery, said there have been no recent accidents below the dam. However, last summer, sudden opening of a sluice gate overturned a boat and a man and woman had to be fished out of the water, he said.

Fishing from the bank and from boats is highly popular immediately below Wolf Creek Dam. The often turbulent waters are teeming with rainbow trout stocked from the nearby hatchery.

Continued operation of the nearby trout hatchery was in doubt last year because $6.3 million to operate the facility at Wolf Creek and eight other national fish hatcheries was left out of the FY12 budget. The money has since been restored, Gray noted.

The hatchery at Wolf Creek produces 1 million trout each year with an annual budget of $907,000. “We’re operating normally,” said Gray.

 The Cumberland River below the dam and through Cumberland and Monroe counties attracts trout fishermen from all parts of Kentucky and the region. Gray said 160,000 rainbow trout were placed in the river from the dam downriver to Monroe County between April and November last year.

The rainbows, between 9 and 10 inches long, were placed immediately below the dam, and at Helm’s Landing, Winfrey’s Ferry, Crocus Creek at Burkesville, Ky. 61 ramp at Burkesville, Cloyd’s Landing and McMiallians Ferry in Monroe County. Also stocked in the Cumberland River were 40,000 brown trout in March and 40,000 brook trout in February.

In addition to stocking trout in the Cumberland River, the hatchery also supplies trout to tailwaters of Laurel River Lake,  Buckhorn Lake, Carr Fork Lake, Nolin River Lake, Rough River Lake, Barren River Lake, Licking River Basin, Cave Run Lake, Little Sandy River Basin, Grayson Lake, Yatesville Lake, Big Sandy River Basin, Dewey Lake, Fish Trap Lake, Martin’s Fork Lake, Brookville Lake, Kentucky Lake and streams, Paintsville Lake, Whitewater River Basin in Indiana and Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina.

The Corps in a recent news release from its Nashville District office, warns boaters that fishing below Wolf Creek Dam or any dam with hydroelectric generators can be dangerous. Generators can start without warning and water may “boil up” suddenly, capsizing an unprepared boat.

Following safety tips for fishing below a hydropower dam were issued by the Corps:

1. Always wear a life jacket.

2. Always leave the boat motor running. A stalled or hard-to-start motor as well as an overloaded boat can lead to disaster.

3. Never anchor a boat below a dam. A sudden surge of water can pull a boat under before the anchor can be pulled up and the boat moved to safety.

4. Stay out of restricted areas. At Wolf Creek Dam, the restricted area starts 500 feet below the power plant during generation start-up. However, during sluicing operations and/or spilling from the flood gates the restricted area applies at all times.

5. Move to a safe area immediately when warning devices are activated.

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