Cumberland River Fishing

cumberland river fishing trout

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The Cumberland River boasts some excellent fishing of Bass and Trout, and you can also find walleye and sauger. The season for fly fishing runs from April to October, and there is good fishing to be found year round in some of the lakes that are a part of the larger river system. Don’t forget to obtain a proper fishing license for either Kentucky or Tennessee, depending on which part of the river you will be fishing in.

Trout Fishing

Trout are widley considered by sports fisherman to be some of the wiliest and most difficult to catch fish. You can find both Rainbow and Brown Trout in the Cumberland River, but the Brown Trout are typically bigger. If you are interested in catching some big trout then the area of the river just below Lake Cumberland in Kentucky is your best bet, it’s some of the top trout fishing to be found in the southeastern United States. The state record for a Brown Trout is 21 pounds and for a Rainbow Trout it is 14 pounds and 6 ounces. Lake Cumberland is formed by the Wolf Creek Dam, the cold water that it churns out makes an excellent breeding ground for both species of trout, however when it is running at full capacity to generate electricity it also generates a powerful current that can be dangerous.

The best baits to use are as follows.

With a spinning rod:

  • Red, chartreuse, or white in-line spinners
  • Corn
  • Salmon eggs
  • Redworms

For fly fishing:

  • (to catch Rainbow in the summer) Beadhead pheasant nymphs
  • (Rainbow) Smaller midge pattersn
  • (Browns) Larger olive, brown, or black wooly buggers
  • (Browns) Shad-colored streamers
  • (Browns) Crayfish patterns
  • (Both) Chicago fly

Please note the following restrictions on fishing in the Kentucky area of the river:

  • One brown trout over 20 inches may be harvested per day
  • All rainbow trout between 15 and 20 inches must be released
  • Five rainbow trout under 15 inches may be kept

Striper Fishing

The Cumberland River has produced some of the biggest Stripers known to man. Typically the better Striper fishing is found in the Tennessee section of the river, though you can find some downstream from the dam in Kentucky, closer to the state border. The Tennessee state record for a stiper is 65 pounds and 6 ounces, that’s a big fish! The river in this area provides an extraordinarily fertile breeding ground for the fish, which is why they get so big. Make sure to bring heavy rods and heavy line, stripers over 40 pounds will not be possible to catch with conventional tackle. At that point your are no longer dealing with a fish, but a wild animal that will take time and patience to reel in. Striper season runs from fall through to mid-March.

Cumberland River Has More Than Fishing

While Cumberland River is world famous for its fishing, there are tons of activities for everyone that does not necessarily include fishing.

Example A for this year, when the annual Cumberland River free fishing day catfish rodeo was cancelled because of a lack of catfish. In its place came Waterfest: a free event for kids and pets put on by the Cumberland River Compact. It attracted hundreds of families to the event and made for a great event for everyone.

The Cumberland River Compact put on the Waterfest to help raise support for improving water quality in the Cumberland basin. That, and a promotional coupon offered by in the wake of the cancellation led to a spike in attendance from overheated tourists and locals alike. If you were flying in from out of state you could also redeem a budget car rental promo code that was set up especially for the event.

Organizers say that they were heartened by the attendance this year, and that they hope to put on Waterfest every year, not just on catfish cancellation years.

Sources Used: “Waterfest Makes a Splash”