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 (June 2011) 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.
Donalson Park: Fayette County's only public access to the Kentucky River. Next to Valley View Ferry.
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.
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.
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.
Access to Locks & Dams: Licensed anglers are allowed to fish from the bank downstream of any lock on the KY River on property owned by the KY River Authority 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.
Sauger caught at Lock 7
Sauger video from a few years ago