High water slows tailwater fishing

G. Sam Piatt

They’re swimming by the thousands, perhaps, in the tail waters of the Greenup Locks & Dam.

Sauger. And to a lesser degree, walleye.

In later October through early December they migrate upstream to the dam. There they linger, and eat, feeding up on the heavy schools of shad and river shiners.

The Ohio Valley River Water Sanitation Commission, which tests Ohio River fish randomly to determine whether they are safe to eat, reports that the sauger and its cousin, the walleye, are OK, but shouldn’t be eaten more than two times a week.

Who eats fish more than two times a week anyway?

I’ve had fishermen call me wondering if the fish are safe for their families to eat.

“My children love them,” one said. “I want to continue catching them and keeping them, but not if there’s any doubt about them being safe.”

A lot of fresh water comes into the Ohio River from heavy rains that fall from Cairo to Pittsburgh. It’s cleaner now than it was 50 years ago.

Sauger and walleye, some of the best eating fish of all, are not bottom feeders or foragers. They prefer to chase down live food.

Generally, in the tail waters they’re easy to catch by anglers trolling artificials of live minnow/jig combinations.

But the thing making them difficult to come by right now is high water. In mid-October the river was at normal levels of 17 feet at Portsmouth and 34 feet at Ashland. But the recent rains have pushed the level up by nearly 20 feet in the tail waters.

The heavy currents keep boaters away. And the water is over the rails of the fishing pier projecting out from the wall of the power plant.

Some fish can be taken by bank fishermen negotiating their way down over the riprap on the Ohio side or from the bank below the land wall on the Kentucky side.

As of this weekend, the river was slowly falling (still at 34 feet at Portsmouth). Perhaps by the end of this month or in early December, the river will cooperate and fishermen will have an opportunity to fill the live wells with these fun-to-catch and good-to-eat fish.


Kentucky’s modern gun season for deer, which opened Nov. 10 and runs through Nov. 25, showed hunters with good success in bringing home venison for the table as well as the important job of reducing the ever-growing herd.

To date, the harvest is at 88,904 whitetails taken, with 57 percent bucks and 43 percent does.

In northeastern counties, the tallies showed Lewis 803, Carter 783, Greenup 615, Lawrence 521 and Boyd 408.

The bow season runs through Jan. 21 and crossbow season through Dec. 31.

A second nine-day muzzleloader season is set for Dec. 8-16.

Ohio’s gun season will open Nov. 26.


G. Sam Piatt

Reach G. Sam Piatt at [email protected] or 606-932-3619.

Reach G. Sam Piatt at [email protected] or 606-932-3619.