CUMBERLAND RIVER: Trout Vs. Stripers

Fishing Destiny

Field & Stream Online Editors

CUMBERLAND RIVER: Trout Vs. Stripers
Many fishermen who make regular pilgrimages to the Cumberland River tailwater tell the same story: They came for the trout and return for the stripers. This 75-mile-long coldwater tailrace begins below Wolf Creek Dam near Jamestown, Kentucky, and offers anglers a trout fishery with few rivals and striped bass that grow fat dining on the trout.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources stocks about 150,000 rainbow and 50,000 brown trout annually. The rainbows go in around 12 inches; browns around 8. Growth rates for both are excellent, and the state's one-fish, 20-inch minimum length on browns is producing some eye-popping fish. KDFWR officials report that an "unbelievable" number of brown trout bigger than 10 pounds turn up in water-shocking surveys.

These same officials abhor the stripers, which travel upriver from Cordell Hull Lake in Tennessee, but they are here to stay. Three 40-plus-pound stripers were reported last year. Twenty-pounders are fairly common.

Water levels dictate fishing strategy. During high-volume releases (typically February through May), concentrate on the 10-mile run from the dam to Rock House for all species. Browns spawn in October and November. May and June are typically top striper months. Count on rainbows to cooperate year-round.

Carry a handful of shad-imitating cranks in a silver or crayfish pattern. Mid-June through September are typical low-water months. Flyfishermen can expect an occasional mayfly hatch but should always pack a few streamers, attractors, and dark nymphs. For more information, contact Greg Cary at Kentucky Trophy Fishing (270-864-7108; www.kytrophyfishing.com).