Experience World Class Freshwater Fishing
Some of the best freshwater fishing in the country can be experienced at Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley! With a combined 218,000 acres of water, these lakes are known for excellent fishing for largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, bluegill, redear, and yellow and white bass. There are dozens of marinas and lake access points all along the shore - plenty of room to enjoy a day of fishing at Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley.
We have several professional fishing guides who provide reports on a regular basis. Here you can get the most current information regarding the fishing scene at the lakes.
Looking for more fishing reports? Access all our contributors' fishing reports.
Before you head to the lake, you'll need to know the lake levels, current discharge rates, and level forecasts.
Current Air Temperature: 23°
Current Water Temperature: 42°
Current Kentucky Lake Level: 354.2'
Fishing: Get to Know Kentucky Lake & Lake Barkley
Kentucky Lake is a mainstem reservoir on the Tennessee River. This is the lowermost of nine reservoirs that stair step their way down the Tennessee River from eastern Tennessee.
Kentucky Lake was impounded by the completion of Kentucky Dam in 1944. The dam backs up about 160,000 acres of water (that's about 155,339 football fields), which is the largest of Tennessee Valley Authorities' (TVA) reservoirs.
TVA operates the Tennessee River system to provide year-round navigation, flood control, electricity, recreation, and water supply. The water levels at Kentucky and Barkley Lakes fluctuate from winter to summer. Winter pool is 354 (fasl) elevation, and rises during April to reach summer pool of 359 (fasl) by May.
Summer pool extends until the week after the Fourth of July holiday, and then the water level is slowly lowered back to winter pool by December.
Kentucky Lake lies parallel to its sister lake, Lake Barkley. Lake Barkley was built in the 1960's by the US Army Corp of Engineers, and is connected to Kentucky Lake at the northern end by a navigable canal. Recreational boating, wildlife viewing and fishing can occur year around at Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley.
During the winter months, many boaters take advantage of the water's view to watch eagles nesting in tall trees along the shoreline and swooping down to feeding on fish. Other migratory birds pass through the area making bird watching a must for outdoor enthusiasts. For those that like to hunt more than watch, those migratory birds include geese and ducks.
Late winter brings out the anglers for some crappie fishing, which last well into May. In February and March the crappie are found in deeper water along the secondary creek channels, but move very shallow by April. By then, largemouth bass anglers are starting to enjoy some trophy bass fishing.
Largemouth bass stay active along the shoreline throughout the spring, and move to the deeper ledges by summer. During late summer, fishing shallow for feeding bass in the backs of embayments offers some great topwater action. Follow that up with some fall Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley fishing along the rocky shoreline and woody structure.
If you prefer some relaxing fishing for panfish, such as bluegill, Kentucky Lake offers that also. However, be ready to have your line stretched. Kentucky Lake offers some nice size bluegill, but is also home to the 2-pound redear. The redear belong in the sunfish family, but feed along the bottom for snails and small clams, hence the name shell crackers.
If you chose, you can hire one of the many guides to direct you to a hot spot or at least tell you what is working for them. Check out the Kentucky Lake fishing reports.
The lakes regularly host some of the country's most outstanding fishing tournaments. Tours that visit our lakes for the tremendous bass population include the locally-based and nationally recognized FLW series, Stren Series, and the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League. Another regular visitor is the prestigious Bassmaster Elite Series.
Not to be out done by the bass leagues are the crappie tournaments. Our lakes are known for some of the best crappie fishing in the U.S. We are visited yearly by Crappie USA and Crappie Masters. Both are outstanding tournament series. These are just a few that visit the area yearly.
If you prefer fish on the larger scale, then Kentucky Lake has that also. Kentucky Lake has an excellent population of blue, channel, and flathead catfish. The channel catfish prefer the embayments, while the blue catfish prefer the main river channel.
The catfish normally move shallow, and into rocky areas to spawn during June. The best fishing for blue catfish is during the summer months. The main thing to key in on is current in the river channel. During the summer months hydropower at the dams are pulling water, this creates current along the river channel.
This current also makes for some fair fishing for white bass and striped bass. A great area to fish for white bass is in the canal. The lake also offers other fisheries such as sauger, yellow bass, and yellow perch. In addition to all the fishing, the large embayments of Kentucky Lake can offer hours of enjoyment for the recreational boaters.
Whether it is just sitting and soaking up the sun, or the thrill of skiing or tubing, there is something to do for all the outdoorsmen, or women, in your family.