In Sept. 19 IssueRussell County News
Fisheries scientists have been watching the conditions in Lake Cumberland and the river since late spring rains began forcing colder water out of the lake.
The concern then was that water in the lake and the river would become too warm from the rains and that could kill the cold water fishery.
James Gray, director of the Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery, said they’d started drawing water out of the river early, since the lake water at the hatchery’s intake was too warm.
The facility uses massive amounts of water to hatch and grow trout for release in Kentucky streams and rivers.
Those fish require colder water than the bass, catfish and other species native to this area.
Two years ago changes had been made to the fishing regulations on the river, to keep fish kills to a minimum.
This week it was announced that anglers may now keep an additional five rainbow trout for a total of 10 rainbow trout daily on the Cumberland River from Wolf Creek Dam to the Tennessee state line.
The measure includes Hatchery Creek and all tributaries up to the first riffle.
The 15-inch to 20-inch protective slot limit on rainbow trout remains in effect. One of the 10 rainbow trout in the daily creel may be 20 inches or longer.
The 20-inch minimum size limit and one fish daily creel limit on brown trout also remains in effect.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ Commissioner Jon Gassett authorized these emergency measures on the 75-mile stretch of the Cumberland River in Kentucky, downstream of Wolf Creek Dam.
Trout stockings will also be moved up to ease pressure on trout production at Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery.
The hatchery uses cold water from deep in Lake Cumberland in normal conditions to produce rainbow and brown trout for release in waters across Kentucky. Due to ongoing repairs at Wolf Creek Dam, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is keeping the water level in Lake Cumberland at elevation 680 feet above sea level to relieve pressure on the structure.
The wet spring and summer prompted the Corps to release a great amount of cold water from Lake Cumberland to maintain that water level.
“Basically, there is little cold water left in the lake,” said James Gray, manager of Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery. “The water coming to the hatchery from the intakes in the lake is 70 degrees, with little dissolved oxygen. The continued decline in water quality coming from the lake prompted this decision,”
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s fisheries division recently stocked 20,500 rainbow trout at Wolf Creek Dam, Helms Landing, Winfrey’s Ferry and Crocus Creek.
“We are trying to reduce our numbers a little bit to help out things,” Gray said. “The less fish you have at the hatchery, the more it helps maintain production with these water quality issues.”
The new creel limit on rainbow trout will remain in effect until normal conditions return. Anglers fishing the Cumberland River must possess a trout permit in addition to a valid fishing license.