Full Hook Queen

Mary Anne Andrews 

Chilly, gray, misty days this fall and winter could make for great fishing, according to Eric Cummins, fisheries biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife at Barren and Green River Lakes.

That mixed with the winter pool draw down and the recipe for catching is still in the forecast.

According to Cummins, Barren River Lake is in the process of being drawn down nearly 25 feet to winter pool.

“What that does, it’ll cut the surface acres of the lake in half. Whereas Barren’s a 10,000-acre lake, they’ll drop it to just under 5,000,” he said.

“Yes, it eliminates a lot of your spots, but also from a fisherman’s standpoint it’s concentrating the fish a lot for you too.”

With deserted boat ramps and quiet waters, cool days at the lake will offer nearly the same number of fish in far less water. 

As the water level changes, different fish react in different ways. Open water fish, including white bass, hybrids, crappie and catfish, may go over the dam with the flow, he said.

“It depends on how much they’re dropping it. Sometimes they can drop it a little over a foot in a day so that can really mess with the fish. They’ll kind of pull off and be a little deeper than you might expect.”

Cummins said the biggest effect of the pool change on fish is the temperature and oxygen level changes. In the fall, the cool and warm layers of the lake combine.

“It’ll cause oxygen levels to fall and it’s adding different gases, so those fish are just kind of out of sorts until that settles down,” he said.

As the lake level lowers, river levels can rise rapidly.

“When you get that much water going and the flow rate increases, it can make fishing a little more difficult in the river, and that effect, you can follow all the way down until the Barren River dumps into the Green River,” he explained.

But once the waters and fish have a chance to calm down, the big ones will be waiting.

Cummins said fishing in the winter may be uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean it’s unfruitful.

“They’ll still feed through the winter,” he said. “Some crappie fisherman certainly like the wintertime because those fish are more confined and they can get on the fish better.”

He said although the fish may move and eat less, the cold season is an excellent time to catch big fish.

“Those predatory fish like lower light levels so generally in the summertime they’re a little more actively feeding at dawn and dusk and then maybe some at night,” he said. “So on a cloudy day they may be a little more active throughout the day, which may explain why guys catch on a nasty, rainy, cloudy days.”

Predatory fish include my infamous and illusive muskie, which I’ll now be chasing on the nastiest days.

— Mary Anne Andrews is a copy editor at the Daily News and loves spending time outdoors.