FRANKFORT, Ky. – The dramatically cooler nights of the last few weeks are a blessing for anglers. These longer, colder nights pull the residual heat from the water, signaling to game fish that it is time to fatten up on the fall harvest of baitfish born earlier in the year.
The picturesque panorama of the changing leaves rings many of our reservoirs in fall. The fishing sometimes takes a backseat to the pleasure of soaking in all of the exquisite scenery. A fall weekend of staying at a Kentucky State Resort Park and fishing in the most superb setting of the year is a great stress reducer before the hub bub of the holiday season arrives.
Here are three of the best Kentucky State Resort Parks for a fall weekend fishing getaway:
Kenlake State Resort Park, Kentucky Lake: Kentucky Lake – along with its twin to the east, Lake Barkley – rank among the nation’s best largemouth bass fisheries. The lakes check in as the fourth best bass fishing destination in the southeast by Bassmaster Magazine for 2016. Few places produce as many largemouth bass weiging 4 pound or more, as well as mind-boggling numbers of 2- to 3-pound largemouths. A 25-fish day here is just so-so.
Fall is one of the best times to book a weekend at Kenlake State Resort Park (http://parks.ky.gov/parks/resortparks/kenlake). This park’s location provides excellent access to great bass fishing spots on Kentucky Lake and the lake is often nearly empty in fall.
During fall, Kentucky Lake’s largemouth bass are making the transition from deep water summer haunts on main lake ledges and channel drops back into shallow water. The sloping banks in the bays on the Land Between the Lakes side of the lake directly across from Kenlake State Resort Park provide outstanding action. The changing leaves on this undeveloped side of Kentucky Lake provide spectacular scenery.
Try bottom-crawling a 1/2-ounce football jig in the Okeechobee craw or Cumberland craw colors down these sloping banks in Barnett Bay, Vickers Bay or Rhodes Bay. A 7-inch straight-tailed green pumpkin worm rigged on a 1/4-ounce Shakey head fished the same also produces numbers of largemouth bass. You also may stumble across a brute smallmouth bass in these areas as well.
Lake Cumberland State Resort Park, Lake Cumberland: Striped bass in Lake Cumberland are thriving. The fishery is returning to its former glory after the lake was lowered for several years to repair Wolf Creek Dam. Southeastern Fishery District Biologist John Williams reports the number of fish exceeding 30 inches is dramatically improving. Anglers are catching fish heavier than 25 pounds with much greater regularity. This fishery will continue to improve for the foreseeable future.
Fall is a fantastic season for Lake Cumberland striped bass fishing and the location of Lake Cumberland State Resort Park (http://parks.ky.gov/parks/resortparks/lake-cumberland/) places anglers in the perfect spot on the lake.
In October, stripers usually hang from 35 to 70 feet deep along main lake flats and points. These same areas in the lower ends of major creek arms such as Beaver, Indian and Wolf creeks also hold stripers. The lower lake region, from Lake Cumberland State Resort Park down to the dam, seems to produce slightly better fishing in fall.
Bottom fishing live alewives, shad or large shiners is one of the easiest and most productive ways to catch fall stripers on Lake Cumberland. The small coves on the south bank of the lake from the mouth of Beaver Creek to the mouth of Indian Creek make great places to bottom fish in fall. Most of these coves have bank areas comprised of broken shale mixed with mud. Smart anglers beach the nose of their boats on these soft banks and fish their live bait rigs off the back of the boat.
A slip-sinker rig comprised of a 1/2-ounce egg sinker, barrel swivel and leader of 17-pound abrasion resistant monofilament line with a 5/0 circle hook on the business end works wonders. If you don’t get a bite within 45 minutes, move to the next cove.
Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park, Dale Hollow Lake: Few other lakes in the country produce as many robust 3- to 6-pound smallmouth bass as Dale Hollow Lake. The 6,614 acres of the lake in Kentucky make good water for fall smallmouth bass fishing. Bonus: Dale Hollow is one of the most scenic lakes in the upper South.
Leitchfield’s David L. Hayes caught the 11-pound, 15-ounce all-tackle world record smallmouth bass not far from the boat ramp now named for him at Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park (http://parks.ky.gov/parks/resortparks/dale-hollow/) on July 9, 1955. The weedbeds found in the coves adjacent to the ramp hold smallmouth bass in fall.
Drifting large crappie minnows or medium-sized shiners over these weedbeds produces the best numbers of smallmouth bass and fools the big ones. Use a size 1 Octopus style hook with a few slip shots gently crimped on the line 18 to 24 inches above it.
Weedbeds abound in Wolf River arm of the lake, as well as in Sulphur and Illwill creeks. Fishing the minnows or shiners on points in these areas also produces smallmouth bass, but the weedbeds seem to the more consistent producer of bigger fish.