Kentucky River

by John Kirkland

Books, documentaries, and academic research have all been produced that discuss the Kentucky River.  I’ve read fishing stories, and looked at other folk’s blogs and websites that detail methods and locations for fishing the Kentucky River. All in all, that river is still a mystery to me.

Yesterday was the second time I have fished the river, so I am definitely not an expert.  As I uncover new access points (new to me, anyway) and, hopefully, methods that work for catching fish, I’ll update this page, sorted by location.

Lock 7, High Bridge KY

June 11, 2011

A friend on Facebook keeps posting pictures of fat fish he has been catching on the river.  I try to nudge him a bit to tell me where and how, with little luck.  In a recent shot he posted, showing a nice keeper hybrid striped bass, the background is clearly the Mother Ann Lee Hydroelectric Station, situated on Lock Seven, near High Bridge.

Lock 7, Kentucky River

I had been close to this location once before (see Dix River page), but didn’t know how to access the lock and dam area. A quick Google map showed how to get to the site.  From Wilmore, take Highway 29 south, about 4.5 miles toward High Bridge–when you pass the High Bridge Fire Department  (a red building on the right), slow down , and go right on Lock 7 Road.  After going down the long, steep grade, you’ll come upon a hairpin curve and what appears to be an old stone gate entrance–go straight through the stone gate (don’t go around the curve).  You will see a sign for a boat ramp on the left–that ramp launches above the dam–follow the road straight.  You’ll come into an opening, with some cave entrances on the right, and the dam on the left.  Don’t go past the No Trespassing sign, just park on the side of the road.

The path down to the river is a bit treacherous, but well-used.  You will see the path on the river side of the road, about 50 feet in front of the No Trespassing sign.  Depending on the water level, there is a sandy beach below the lock and dam. Don’t try to go down there when the water is high.

When I got to the water, there were families and a couple of guys with multiple poles, rigged for catfish.  I headed a couple of hundred yards downstream to what appeared to be a sunken tree rippling the water, and began casting a roostertail. Then I tried a crankbait, then a worm and bobber, then a feather jig, then a soft craw jig….no bites, nothing. Couple of snags, lost a hook and the crawdad jig.  I asked others if they were having any luck–no bites, nothing. It was about 90°, full sun, and thick air, so I called it quits after a couple of hours.

That said, I know that others do catch fish there.  I noticed, in my friend’s pictures, that the sun was opposite where it was for me.  He was there early in the morning, I was there from 5-7 PM.  He reported 5 hybrid stripers, plus drum and catfish (with pics to prove it); I don’t know what he was using. More research needed…

I’m not done with Lock 7 yet.  I’ll try a different time/method, etc., and let you know…

If YOU know about successful methods/locations/etc. for fishing below Lock 7, or anywhere on the Kentucky River, let us know in the comment section below–we all appreciate it!

Update February 2012:

On a nice Sunday afternoon in February, I headed down to Lock Seven to try to catch some sauger. This was the first time I’ve fished for this species; I spent a considerable amount of time reading about how to go about doing it.

I threw a variety of carolina-rigged plastics, lost a couple, and eventually settled on a white curly-tailed grub on a half ounce lead head.  The weight is important–the water below the lock is moving swiftly, and you want the lure to bounce along the bottom.  The idea is to imitate a minnow, and bright colors are good.

An hour and a half passed, and around four, with the sun beginning to throw shadows  across the spillway, the hook set, not hard, on a solid fish.  A nice fight ensued, and I landed a nearly 2 pound sauger, about 17 inches in length.  After years of reading and thinking about it, I had finally hooked this new-for-me species.

Sauger, February 2012

A few minutes later, I hook another, bigger fish.  We fought for several seconds, but it threw the hook. There was a boat idling nearby–they seemed to be throwing dual rigged plastics with electric-blue tails.  They were catching every few minutes.

It was fun, and I’ll have to get out and try it again.  I enjoy trout fishing in the winter, but sauger offer size and fight that the local trout can’t match.

See the Youtube video here.

Access to Locks & Dams: Licensed anglers are allowed to fish from the bank downstream of any lock on the KY River, provided they aren’t on any concrete structures, lock, or guide wall. Fishing is not allowed upstream of a lock & dam structure. Details available here.

Lock 10 at Fprt Boonesborough, November 2014
Lock 10 at Fort Boonesborough, November 2014

15 thoughts on “Kentucky River”

  1. Been out to Lock 7 quite a few times in the last couple weeks. We have been catching a lot of hybrids and some drum along with one big gar. We have caught them at all different times of the day but evening (6-8 pm) has been the most productive. We are bank fishing from the broken down concrete columns just off the fast moving current from the lock. Normally we bottom fish with worms just off the current for a few hours catching baitfish (Chubs and Shiners mostly) then use them as cutbait for hybrid. We run 2 oz on the bottom of a three way swivel (about 8 inches of line) and then about a foot of line with a circle hook off the other eyelet. We have been using 20lb fluorocarbon in case we hook up with a good sized catfish. how has everyone else been doing at Lock 7?

  2. I’ve been down to lock 7 2 times in the last couple of weeks.Conditions should be right when the water from the rains clears abit & goes down some.It’s “WAY UP” right now….

  3. I fish this part of the river alot for the last 2 years. i have caught boat loads of catfish. the trick is to use the bait from the river and not a baitshop. I set in at nun such abd start looking for bait. I use a casting net for shad, when i catch a few i head up river to the dam and start fishing back . the best time for channels is June July and August with a temp. around 80s to 90s. I catch a few 10 lb and a bunch of 5 lb but you will fill the boat with 2 and 3 pounders when i have more time i will tell you how i catch them.

    1. Thanks for the tip–a cast net can be a great investment for bait gathering in rivers, larger lakes, and saltwater. Do you ever run into big flatheads?

  4. I don’t no the lock number, it is @ the end of Oregon Rd. Just below Nun Such,Ky. I fished there form the bank, with in a 100′ of the lock late in the afternoon. I was using a little rebel crawdad on 4 pound test. AFter about the third cast parallel to the bank, I saw a golden flash under water and the felt a strong hit on the lure. After about a couple of minutes fighting, resetting the drag, and letting the fish tire himself, I was able to land a very large smallmouth. I carried the fish down below the lock to were I had a friend fishing. We measured 22 5/8″ from lip to tail. Then I let it go back into the river. After getting back and looking at the Fish & wildlife web site, this fish qualified for the master’s angler award because of the size, and could have been a state & world record because of the 4 pound test I was using. The fish was estimated to be around 9 lbs. I have no way to back this claim up because of having no camera, just a friend that was with me. Since then, I have gotten a cell phone with one though. I have always had good luck here. No matter what the season. Just fish it like a big creek. Good luck

    1. I just read your post, I believe you 100%. I too had an encounter with a very large small mouth, We were in a boat fishing at night(1:00am-2am), rounding a large rock bar between L8 & L9(close to waterworks), was using black/yellow bomber spinner, BAMM!!! Quite the fight, my heart pounding like crazy, after several very long minutes I managed to bring it up from the deep and headed back toward and close to the boat, got a really good look at it as friend with lantern made possible for a quick but very clear look at a distance of about 4 feet away from the boat that it was close to we both agreed probably not far off the 24″ mark, and would guestimate really close to, if not in excess of 8 or 9 lbs respectively, true story. That is one the most exciting fishing trips and experience I have ever had, and believe me I’ve had a few that are off the charts!!

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