General Information

Click the Quick Navigation links for more information about Fishing in Kentucky.

boating at sunrise


Q: Can you sell fish caught while possessing only a valid Kentucky sport fishing license?
A: No. It is illegal to sell any fish caught without the proper commercial fishing license and gear.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife regularly creates and maintains fish attractors and habitat structures in lakes across Kentucky. These structures vary in material and benefit sport fish populations while providing anglers with productive fishing areas. GPS locations of many of these structures are found here.


man holding up catch

As a voluntary program, fishing event organizers are strongly urged to use the Tournament website at to register and report on their events. Tournament planners can avoid space conflicts with other previously registered events by adjusting the date, time, specific launch areas or weigh-in site for their activities.

Other recreational anglers and boaters can check the website to see when and where fishing events are scheduled. This will assist them in planning their activities and also help avoid potential space conflicts. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or the U.S. Forest Service or Kentucky State Parks may require additional permits.

If the launch site for your tournament involves using a marina ramp, please get in touch with the marina operator before scheduling your tournament.

There are over 1,000 fishing tournaments held annually in Kentucky waters. These can be valuable sources of information for our fishery biologists. Following each scheduled event, tournament organizers are asked to report their catch data directly on the tournament website or on forms that can be sent via postal mail. Voluntary cooperation from tournament organizers will be used in making fishery management decisions. At the end of the tournament season, a summary of tournament results will be sent to all providers. If not provided with one, contact your local fisheries district office. They will provide a packet.


Fishing tournaments involving 100 or more boats are regulated and permitted by the Division of Law Enforcement, 1-800-858-1549.


Kentucky Fish and Wildlife recommends tournament anglers and directors follow some simple procedures to keep bass alive during summer tournaments that run from June through August. Summer tournament fishing places great stress on bass due to high water temperatures. You can view a list of these procedures here.

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The Kentucky Departments for Environmental Protection, Health Services and Fish and Wildlife Resources jointly issue a fish consumption advisory to the public when fish are found contaminated. Trace contaminants such as polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), mercury and chlordane are found in some fish in Kentucky. An advisory cautions people about potential health problems that may result from eating fish caught from a particular area. An advisory does not ban eating fish; it is a guide to reduce your risk. This guide provides information on how often fish may be safely eaten. Most fish are healthy to eat and are an excellent source of low-fat protein.


Women of childbearing age, children 6 years of age or younger, pregnant and nursing women and women who plan to become pregnant should follow the advisories in the "Sensitive Population" category.


All waters are under advisory for mercury. Women of childbearing age and children 6 years of age or younger should eat no more than six meals per year of predatory fish and no more than one meal per month of panfish and bottom feeder fish. The general public should eat no more than one meal per month of predatory fish and no more than one meal per week of panfish and bottom feeder fish.

Organic mercury can occur naturally in the environment and does not affect swimmers, skiers or boaters. Fish can accumulate low levels of mercury by eating plankton and other small aquatic creatures.


A new method for reporting fish consumption advisories has been adopted. Consumption rates for specific fish have been developed based on a meal of ½ pound of fish (before cooking) eaten by a 150-pound individual. Following these guidelines and spacing your meals of those fish species will limit your health risks by reducing your total exposure. See the table below for fish consumption advisories.

Due to expanded testing on more waterbodies and additional fish species, the fish consumption advisories changed this year due to a wider presence of organic mercury than previously found.

Fish consumption advisories now delineate between predatory fish, bottom feeder fish and panfish. Predatory fish include black bass (smallmouth, largemouth and spotted), white bass, striped bass, hybrid striped bass, sauger, saugeye, walleye, muskellunge, flathead and blue catfish, yellow bass, chain pickerel and all gars.

Panfish include bluegill, crappie, and rock bass as well as green, longear and redear sunfish. Bottom feeder fish include the bullheads, buffalo species, channel catfish, common carp, redhorse species, shovelnose sturgeon, drum, and creek chub as well as the white, spotted, northern hog and carp suckers.

For the most up-to-date consumption advisory information, visit the Fish Consumption Advisory page.


Risks from eating contaminated fish can be reduced by the following:

  • fillet the fish, remove the skin and trim all fat
  • do not eat fish eggs
  • broil, grill or bake the fillets instead of frying or microwaving
  • do not eat or reuse juices or fats that cook out of the fish


Kentucky anglers will occasionally clean a fish and find a white or yellowish color worm in the fish's flesh that is about the size of a grain of rice. Or, when stream fishing, an angler will encounter a smallmouth bass or sunfish with small black specks on its belly or across its body.

This is a parasitic fluke that requires different host animals to complete its life cycle: a fish-eating bird, a snail, and a fish. The grub matures and produces eggs inside a host fish-eating bird such as a Great Blue Heron. The eggs enter the water from the bird's droppings or its mouth. The eggs hatch and tiny larvae of the parasite burrow into a snail. After a time in the snail, the parasite changes form and swims to its next host, a fish. Inside the fish, the parasite changes to a grub form and waits for the fish to be eaten. Then, the cycle repeats.

The angler's first instinct is to discard any fish with either the grubs in the flesh or black specks on the body. Grub-infested fish are safe to eat. Grubs do not infect people. Remove any grubs found and prepare the fish as you normally would.


Blue-green algae are a type of bacteria found in lakes in Kentucky and throughout the United States. They occur naturally, but if their numbers get too high they can pose health risks to humans and animals. Anglers, hunters, boaters and all others who might use these water resources should be aware of the potential risks associated with these blooms. Both the Kentucky Division of Water and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have initiated testing of lakes in Kentucky to document these blooms and provide updated information to the public.

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Predatory fish (mercury)1/month6/year
Bottom feeders and panfish (mercury)1/week1/month
DRAKES CREEK (from dam on W. Fork at Franklin, KY downstream to confluence with Barren River)
All species (PCB)No consumptionNo consumption
FISH LAKE, Ballard Co.(from lake headwaters to outflow of Shawnee Creek)
Bottom feeders (mercury)1/month6/year
FISHTRAP LAKE, Pike Co. (from VA/KY state line to Fishtrap Lake dam)
Bottom feeders and white bass (PCB)1/month6/year
Predatory fish (PCB)1/week1/month
GREEN RIVER LAKE(from lake headwaters to dam)
Bottom feeders (PCB and mercury)1/month6/year
KNOX CREEK, Pike Co. (from VA/KY state line to Tug Fork River)
Flathead catfish (PCB and mercury)No consumption
Bottom feeders (PCB)6/yearNo consumption
Predatory fish (PCB) and panfish (PCB and mercury)1/month
All species (PCB)No consumptionNo consumption
All species (PCB and mercury) No consumption
MUD RIVER, Logan Co. (from headwaters to Wolf Lick Creek)
Bottom feeders (PCB)No consumption
Predatory fish and panfish (PCB)1/month6/year
MUD RIVER, Butler and Muhlenberg cos. (from Wolf Lick Creek to Green River)
Bottom feeders (PCB)1/month6/year
Predatory fish and panfish (PCB)1/week1/month
All species (PCB)No consumption
All species (mercury)No consumption

Special Ohio River Advisories:

The Ohio River has different advisories than other Kentucky waters. Any fish species not listed in the table below, falls under a 1 meal per week advisory for mercury.
OHIO RIVER, UPPER AND MIDDLE REACH (mouth of the Big Sandy River to J.T. Meyers L&D)
Common Carp (PCB)1/month1/month
Channel catfish under 18 inches long (PCB)1/month1/month
Channel catfish 18 inches and longer (PCB)6/year6/year
Flathead catfish (PCB)1/month1/month
Striped, hybrid striped and white bass (PCB)1/month1/month
All suckers (PCB)1/month1/month
Freshwater drum (PCB)1/month1/month
Black bass (largemouth, smallmouth and spotted) (mercury)1/month1/month
OHIO RIVER, LOWER REACH (J.T. Meyers L&D to mouth of Ohio River)
Common carp 22 inches and longer (PCB)1/month1/month
Blue catfish 20 inches and longer (PCB)1/month1/month
Channel catfish 18 inches and longer (PCB)1/month1/month
Flathead catfish (PCB and mercury)1/month1/month
Striped and hybrid striped bass (PCB and mercury)1/month1/month
White bass (mercury)1/month1/month
Freshwater drum 14 inches and longer (mercury)1/month1/month
Black bass (largemouth, smallmouth and spotted) (mercury)1/month1/month

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Click on a fish to learn more detailed information.


These five species of fish are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act. It is illegal to take these fish species and utilize them for any purpose including as live bait for fishing.



No live fish, live minnow, or live bait organisms not native or established in Kentucky shall be bought, sold, possessed, imported, or in any way used or released into Kentucky waters.

Sport anglers unintentionally and intentionally stock fish in Kentucky’s public waters. These species mainly include gizzard shad and alewives that are present in several water bodies. Gizzard shad have been illegally released in several small public lakes where they previously were not present. They interfere with the lake’s ability to support a quality bluegill population. Alewives are non-native fish illegally stocked into several Kentucky lakes. The total impact of these fish is not known, but they are known to eat young fish, including sport fishes.

Additionally, many non-native aquatic species invaded the country, particularly in the Great Lake states. These include both plants and animals such as Eurasian watermilfoil, Asian carp, hydrilla, spring water flea, and zebra mussels.


  • CLEAN your boat and trailer before launching into or leaving any waterbody.
  • REMOVE all plants and animals.
  • DRAIN all water from bilges and livewells.
  • DISPOSE of unwanted live bait on shore – DO NOT STOCK THE LAKE!
  • RINSE your boat, trailer and equipment with high-pressure hot water.
  • DRY everything for at least five days.


Two species of Asian carp, the big head and silver, have invaded river systems in Kentucky. Any river or large stream tributary to the Ohio or Mississippi Rivers most likely possesses Asian carp. Both of these species are plankton eaters and may exceed 50 pounds in size. Their impact on native species is not presently known, but they represent a competitive threat to other plankton-eating fish such as our native paddlefish and most of our sport fish at early life stages.

Very young Asian carp in these river systems can be easily mistaken as shad or skipjack herring. All bait collectors using cast or dip nets should never dispose of any live bait into other water bodies due to the potential threat of spreading these aquatic nuisance species.

Asian Carp 

zebra muscle


Kentucky has zebra mussels present in our waters and are at nuisance levels in the Ohio River. They attach themselves to any solid submerged surface in a cluster, reproduce rapidly, and pose a serious threat to native freshwater mussel populations. These mussels have elongated pointed shells less than two inches long with a zebra-like pattern of stripes. Zebra mussels can live 8 to 10 days out of the water and be transported to another water body while attached to a boat.


Hydrilla is an exotic plant invading Kentucky through the transfer of plant fragments by boats and personal watercraft. All it takes is a small fragment of the plant to start a new colony. This plant forms extremely dense mats that grow to the surface of the water body making boating and swimming difficult.  It literally fills shallow areas from top to bottom with vegetation.

Hydrilla also chokes out native plants and displaces fish. It is extremely difficult to eradicate once it becomes established.

In order to limit the spread of this nuisance plant, please check all trailer parts, boat motors and other equipment for mud or pieces of plant and remove them before leaving the lake.

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