Even though the level of Lake Cumberland remains 45 feet below normal while repairs are being made to the dam, it is still a deep, deep lake. As I cruised across the lake in my Bass Tracker on April 28 and made my way to the opening through the breakwater protecting Conley Bottom Resort, the sonar showed the bottom was 113 feet down.
And the lower level hasn’t hampered fishing in the least, according to guides and local fishermen. Long-time Lake Cumberland striper guides said striper fishing had never slowed since the level was dropped about five years ago. Twenty-pounders are still common.
Local fishermen say smallmouth and largemouth bass fishing is better this spring of 2012 than ever before, with the lower lake waters concentrating the fish.
Boat launch ramps have been extended with gravel fill and concrete to help boaters reach the water.
Myself and other members of the Kentucky Outdoor Press Association had accommodations on a 75-foot houseboat moored at the Conley Bottoms marina for our three-day spring conference. The boat, available for rent, was 21 feet wide and had six bedrooms. Some stayed in cabins or lodge rooms offered by the resort.
Cumberland is famous for its big, rod-bending striped bass, which in May are being caught mostly at night, and on surface lures. But daytime anglers might at any given time see the surface broiling as stripers drive shad up from the depths and then rip into them with their ravenous appetite.
Any kind of lure cast into this frenzied mass will generally hook a striper. It’s exciting fishing, to say the least.
We were there not so much for striper fishing as to check out the smallmouth bass population. Some reports say Cumberland’s smallmouth fishing has grown to be better than that found in Dale Hollow Lake, which lies about 60 miles to the southwest. In the 1950s Dale Hollow gave up the world’s record smallmouth, one weighing 11 pounds, 15 ounces.
Creighton Stephens and I made the four-hour drive from South Shore and launched the boat, tied it to the rear of the houseboat, unloaded our gear, then set out for an afternoon of fishing. We saw little action, and by the time we arrived back at the boat other members of KOPA had arrived in camp – including Tom Clay, Soc and Wanda Clay, Joan Maddox and Bob Danner, and Chris and Linda.
We drove three miles over to the home of Ottie Snyder, magazine editor, guide, writer and promoter of all things pertaining to the outdoor sports, and his wife, Debbie, from whom he gains all of his inspiration. They had prepared a delicious dinner which we enjoyed on their deck overlooking the woods and a small stream that tumbles down to Lake Cumberland.
Next morning, Creighton and I, acting on Ottie’s advice, turned right out of the marina and began fishing after traveling just a few hundred yards. We caught smallmouth – and largemouth – by casting tube jigs to within a foot of the shore line and working them back towards us in a slow, deliberate fashion.
Only one of the smallmouth exceeded the 18-inch legal size limit. Rock and shale slides or places where long-dead trees had fallen into the river were the spots that produced.
I use the pronoun “we” loosely here, for Creighton did most of the catching while I shouted out instructions and provided moral support.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources must feel confident that smallmouth are plentiful on Cumberland. An angler can keep six of them a day if they exceed 18 inches.
The regulations call for a creel limit of six black bass, either singly or a combined total of smallmouth, largemouth and Kentucky (spotted) bass.
On Dale Hollow, on both the Kentucky and Tennessee portions of the lake, a 16- to 21-inch protective slot limit is imposed on smallmouth. An angler may keep per day one over 21 inches and one under 16 inches.
Dale Hollow consists of 27,000 acres while Lake Cumberland encompases 63,000 acres.
Cumberland has a 24-inch minimum size limit on stripers. The creel limit is two per day.
On Sunday morning we made our first casts with the running lights still on. The smallmouth weren’t feeding on these shorelines that morning, but stripers were.
They were driving schools of shad up against the edge of the rock shorelines and attacking them. Shad were leaping out of the water in an attempt to evade the predators.
I quickly switched to a jointed minnow-type lure and tossed it against the shoreline where this was happening, but my repeated efforts at this brought no strikes.
The Lighthouse Café is located on the dock, offering a great view of the lake and serving chicken, steak and seafood done in southern style. There are lots of houseboats for rent of different sizes and price plans.
For information on rates, or to make reservations, call 606-348-6351, or write Conley Bottom Resort, 736 Highway 1275 North, Monticello, KY 42633. Conley Bottom is located on Highway 90 between Somerset and Monticello.
It’s all in Wayne County, which offers numerous attractions for a summer vacation. For more information on the area, visit www.heartoflakecumberland.com.
Ohio wild turkey hunters killed 8,998 turkeys during the first week of the season, which opened April 23 and runs through May 20.
The harvest for the first week last year was 7,744. Beginning Monday, hunters can hunt from sunup to sundown.
The harvest for the first week in local counties, with last year’s figures for the first week in parenthesis, showed Adams County leading with 213 (213). Pike County hunters took 174 (100), Scioto County 124 (108), Jackson County 181 (118) and Lawrence County 87 (109).
The season, which opened April 14, will close one-half hour after sunset today.
Through Friday, hunters had taken 30,393 turkeys statewide. County counts showed Pike with 289, Carter 220, Lewis 219, Rowan 214, Lawrence 206, Johnson 160, Greenup 158 and Boyd 105.
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (606) 932-3619 or Gsamwriter@aol.com.