could be a phenomenal year for fishing in Lake Cumberland. But the toll
could be heavy – both in the lake and for trout anglers throughout the
2007, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided to keep the lake some 43
feet below its normal summer pool while long-term repairs are being made
to Wolf Creek Dam. The drawdown will concentrate fish and give them
fewer places to hide. Anglers will still have 37,000 acres of lake to
fish, but they’ll have to relearn where to go.
that anglers are used to won’t be there anymore,” said Benjy Kinman,
fisheries director for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife
Resources. “There will be new hotspots that you have not seen before.
You’re really talking about a whole new lake.”
“I think,” he
added, “that it will be a banner year for fishing.”
lake more than 40 feet carries with it a variety of dangers for survival
of fish. Largemouth bass, crappie and bluegill will have fewer places to
spawn and hide, meaning their numbers could decrease. In a worst weather
scenario, Lake Cumberland could experience some die-offs of stripers and
walleyes. Low volumes and poor water quality flowing into the hatchery
below Wolf Creek Dam could curtail trout production. Trout habitat in
the Cumberland River from Burkesville to the state line could be
federal officials are now working together to help solve these looming
problems. Kinman vows to deploy his entire division if necessary to sink
trees, brush and fish attractors into the lake to help the largemouth
bass and panfish spawn. Plans are underway to divert bass stockings from
other areas to Lake Cumberland to boost its populations of fish if
problems occur during reproduction.
Lake Cumberland's drawdown left many spawning flats dry,
including this one at Burnside. Biologist predict grasses and brush will
naturally establish themselves in these areas, which will create superb
fish cover once the lake returns to its normal summer pool.
water from the tailwater at the base of the dam could supply the cool,
oxygenated water the trout hatchery needs to maintain its production.
However, that project is expensive and no one has found the money to pay
for it. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife officials are seeking money from the
Corps for a pumping system that would draw water from the river, or
funding to lower the trout hatchery’s intake.
underway to choke down the tailwater flow in case of drought, but that
could still mean that dozens of miles of the river would become too warm
to fully support the rainbow and brown trout.
As for the
potential of walleyes and stripers turning belly-up in the lake, only
normal or drier than normal spring rains over the next seven years can
solve that problem. A wet spring can potentially replace the limited
cool water stored in the lake with warmer water not as suitable for
walleyes and stripers. “Right now, we just have to take what Mother
Nature gives us,” Kinman says.