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Winter Hotspots: Fishing in Kentucky

Many fishermen mistakenly believe that fish stop biting in the winter. The truth is, fish need to feed year round.

Their feeding patterns might change, but the possibility of catching trophy fish is certainly still there.

Kentucky is packed with lakes, rivers, and streams, many of which offer amazing winter fishing opportunities for the angler willing to conquer the cold.

Even better, you'll likely be the only one on the water. Check out some of the best waters for winter fishing in Kentucky.


Lake Cumberland

One of the best fishing destinations in the country, Lake Cumberland draws thousands of anglers from across the country in search of record smallmouth, largemouth, spotted, and striped bass.

It's 63,000-acre size makes it plenty big to hold multiple state record fish.

Many believe the next freshwater world record for striped bass could come out of Cumberland, as a fish less than two pounds shy of the record already has.

Cumberland River, just below the dam is another popular winter location.

The fact that water temperatures stay fairly consistent throughout the year means the fishing does too.

Large Brown and Rainbow trout will move into the shallows in the winter and anglers have a good chance of catching a personal best. Multiple trout over 10 pounds have been found in the Lake Cumberland tailwater.

There are plenty of skilled guides available year round to help you have a successful trip to Lake Cumberland.

Kentucky Lake

For anglers who like catching big fish (are there any that don't), there's good news: Some of the largest bass and crappie come out of Kentucky lake in the winter months.

It's nature's reward for braving the elements. This 160,000-acre lake has seen a lot of change in the last several decades.

It was known as a world class crappie fishery, then became a largemouth destination with the rising popularity of the fishing tournament, and the last decade has seen it turn into a fishery regularly producing 5 to 7 pound smallmouth bass.

What makes this lake convenient for winter anglers is the fact that recreational facilities and places to stay dot the shoreline of nearly the entire lake.

There are plenty of places to launch a boat and even more hotels, campgrounds and other lodging options.

Guides on Kentucky Lake favor winter warming spells, as they draw smallmouth out of their deeper holding areas and move them into shallower water to feed, but good fishing can be had all winter for multiple species with proper technique and location.

Check out this list of local guides if you're interested in catching some monsters.

Kentucky Lake

For anglers who like catching big fish (are there any that don't), there's good news: Some of the largest bass and crappie come out of Kentucky lake in the winter months.

It's nature's reward for braving the elements. This 160,000-acre lake has seen a lot of change in the last several decades.

It was known as a world class crappie fishery, then became a largemouth destination with the rising popularity of the fishing tournament, and the last decade has seen it turn into a fishery regularly producing 5 to 7 pound smallmouth bass.

What makes this lake convenient for winter anglers is the fact that recreational facilities and places to stay dot the shoreline of nearly the entire lake.

There are plenty of places to launch a boat and even more hotels, campgrounds and other lodging options.

Guides on Kentucky Lake favor winter warming spells, as they draw smallmouth out of their deeper holding areas and move them into shallower water to feed, but good fishing can be had all winter for multiple species with proper technique and location.

Check out this list of local guides if you're interested in catching some monsters.

Other Productive Lakes 

Most, if not all, of Kentucky's bodies of water are fishable in winter, including rivers and streams, but these lakes are particularly well-known for producing quality fish in large quantities, especially crappie, during the winter months.

Though not as large or popular as Lake Cumberland or Kentucky Lake, the lakes below offer great fishing opportunities for those willing to venture out on the water this winter.

Green River Lake
- This lake contains crappie, bass, musky, and walleye in abundance. A popular summer destination, this lake becomes much less crowded in the winter months, meaning fishing pressure is down and the likelihood of a trophy fish goes up.

Taylorsville Lake - This lake is a great option for anglers looking for largemouth at their heaviest weight of the year. Females start feeding aggressively as the water warms by a few degrees in late winter in preparation for the spawn. This unique time of year offers some of the best changes of landing a truly impressive bass. Other warm-water species are also starting to spawn and can be found heavier than usual as well.

Dale Hollow Lake - The world record smallmouth bass came out of Dale Hollow in 1955. It has yet to be broken, but every year bass are caught that approach it. The top 3 largest smallmouths have all come from this body of water. The lake's clear deep water makes it a perfect place to slow down your presentation and hook a winter monster.

Winter Fishing Safety

Winter fishing, especially from a boat, can be dangerous. In addition to the obvious danger posed by cold weather, winter often brings with it higher winds, fluctuating water levels, and unfamiliar currents.

In order to be as safe as possible, consider bringing with you the following items:
  • Warm winter clothing (in layers)
  • Heat source
  • PFD
  • Change of clothing
  • Boots, insulated, waterproof
  • Gloves, insulated, waterproof
  • Hat
  • Waterproof outer jacket or poncho
  • First aid kit/equipment

If done safely, winter fishing in Kentucky can be extremely rewarding and might even result in the biggest fish of your season!

Winter Fishing Safety

Winter fishing, especially from a boat, can be dangerous. In addition to the obvious danger posed by cold weather, winter often brings with it higher winds, fluctuating water levels, and unfamiliar currents.

In order to be as safe as possible, consider bringing with you the following items:
  • Warm winter clothing (in layers)
  • Heat source
  • PFD
  • Change of clothing
  • Boots, insulated, waterproof
  • Gloves, insulated, waterproof
  • Hat
  • Waterproof outer jacket or poncho
  • First aid kit/equipment

If done safely, winter fishing in Kentucky can be extremely rewarding and might even result in the biggest fish of your season!

Stay With Us During Your Fishing Trip

After a long day of winter fishing, warm up at one of our comfortable and inviting inns, many of which are located near these great bodies of water. If you're lucky, one of our innkeepers might even share a secret fishing hole with you!
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bed and breakfast association of kentucky near water