In July 17-23 issueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal ReporterABOVE: Curtis DeLille, left, shares a fishing tale with “Old Man” Darlington last Monday at Hatchery Creek.
WOLF CREEK DAM - If you head down to Hatchery Creek for a day of trout fishing, chances are you won't be fishing alone, according to James Gray, project manager at Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery.
"There's always somebody fishing down here," he said.
Hatchery Creek is the trout fishing stream just off the raceways, where rainbow and brown trout are grown before being released into the Cumberland River. The stream, which is a diversion of water from the river through the hatchery, shortly re-enters the Cumberland River.
Gray, who has been with the hatchery for 14 years, said Hatchery Creek was developed to its current level in the early 90s although the fish hatchery itself was constructed in 1975.
A 76-year-old man who identified himself only as "Old Man" Darlington of Pendleton County, Ky. fished the creek for several hours on Monday afternoon, snagging two keepers.
"A good day fishing is better than any day at work," he said. Darlington said he visits the area yearly and has been doing so for nearly two decades.
"There is nothing more important than trout fishing," he said. "I just enjoy getting away … I turn my cell phone off and as far as I'm concerned the rest of the world, except for the people around this stream, doesn't exist."
Darlington, who is camping with his wife, said it cost him $130 in fuel to come to the Lake Cumberland area to camp but he said it was worth it.
"There is no price too steep for peace and tranquility," he said.
The northern Kentuckian said he witnessed a group of children catch around 30 trout using garlic cheese and salmon eggs on Monday morning.
Curtis DeLille and his wife, Jill, of Florence, Ky., said they usually come down to the campgrounds by the creek two or three times a year and camp for a week or so.
Kendall Campground, operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is the most popular federal campground on Lake Cumberland.
"We usually do a little boat riding on Lake Cumberland and we used to like to trout fish in the river, but that is not what it once was," he said. That, he said, is why he and his wife now frequent Hatchery Creek.
"You can always come down here and catch some fish," he said. "The fish aren't usually very large but you catch some and that is what it's all about."
DeLille said he liked the fact that the stream is stocked every other day by hatchery workers.
"The creek is open for anyone to fish but there are handicap parking spots down here and it has a handicap accessible ramp," Gray said. "Its easily accessible for the handicapped and the elderly."
Gray said many older people enjoy coming to Hatchery Creek because they can drive up to it and park close.
"It's also a good place for kids to learn to fish, too," he said. He said many people from the campground next to the creek also utilized the creek for its fishing.
"All that people have to do is abide by the creel limit of five for Cumberland River," he said. "The same regulations that apply on the river apply on Hatchery Creek so there is that slot (15-20 in.) limit."
He said the hatchery only releases regular stocking-size trout, between nine and 10 inches in length.
"That short section of the stream that we've developed, we put 2,000 fish a month in there," he said. "We stock over 100 different public waters in Kentucky so if you figure per stream mile, that little stream gets more fish stocked per stream mile than anywhere in Kentucky."
He said that same area probably receives the most fishing pressure, per stream mile, in the state as well.
"There's not a day goes by, not even in the dead of winter, where there's not somebody down there," Gray said.
All users of the creek must have a valid Kentucky fishing license and trout stamp, Gray said. These can be purchased at the hatchery's Visitor and Environmental Education Center.
"We try to stock it every other day," he said. "We space those 2,000 fish out over the course of a month and there is usually always fish in there to catch."
"I've seen people drive a long way just to come here because its easy to get to and they know they can usually catch some fish," Gray said.
Gray said a proposal is currently on the table, through the Corps of Engineers, to extend the stream — currently about a quarter of a mile in length — by around another mile.
"That would really be a boost if we could ever get that expansion done," he said. The expansion would also create more campgrounds that could be easily accessed by everyone.
A live view of Hatchery Creek via web cam can be seen at lakecumberlandwebcams.com