Commonwealth Journal

April 17, 2014

Rising lake levels are improving area fishing conditions

by Bill Mardis
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — The rising level of Lake Cumberland is covering banks that have been bare for seven years and increasing habitat for game fish such as bass, bluegill and crappie.

“There is a lot more habitat, especially in and around coves,” said John Williams, district biologist for the Southeastern Fishery District. “Growth on banks while the lake was low now provides good cover for fish,” he said.

One local fishermen complained that large sycamore trees, now in the water, make it impossible in places to get a boat nearer the water’s edge where crappie are this time of year.

“There’s good with the bad ... that may be true in some areas,” said Williams. However, he pointed out that water covering the formerly bare banks makes good spawning areas. This is much better for the fish propagating than steep rocky banks while the lake was low, he noted.

Also, Williams pointed out that with abundant habitat, anglers may be required to look longer for concentrations of game fish.

A late spring and this week’s snowstorm and cold weather have kept water temperatures in Kentucky lakes cooler than normal, Williams noted. Guessing that water temperatures are probably in the 50s,  he suggested warmer water is needed for fish to spawn.

Lake Cumberland traditionally gets more publicity for trophy stripers, but the lake is a haven for crappie, bass, bluegill and bream. More commonly known as a “Houseboat Lake,” the rising lake and improved fishing are getting national attention. Crappie USA Inc., America’s premier national crappie fishing tournament organization, will hold its prestigious $100,000 Cabela’s Crappie USA Classic on Lake Cumberland October 16-18.

Since January 2007 and until March 25 this year, Lake Cumberland’s level has been controlled to facilitate repairs to Wolf Creek Dam. For six years, the lake was kept about 40 feet below normal, and last summer the water was allowed to rise 20-25 feet.

A $594 million rehabilitation of the seepage-plagued dam was completed in March of last year., After a controversial delay earlier this year because of the presence of duskytail darters, a federally endangered species of minnows in headwaters of the lake, the issue has been resolved and the water is rising toward normal levels.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projected that with sufficient rainfall, the lake would reach pool stage by May 15, ahead of the summer vacation season. However, as of noon Thursday, the level was at 716.60, only 6.40 feet below the tree line, or pool stage.