Looking for an angling option for the winter? Try the tailrace waters below the dams.
These waters provide a wealth of opportunity for the angler brave and tough enough to fish them at this time of the year. Although the water is cold the current and turbulence attract a variety of species. Most can be caught either from shore or from a boat.
The first to come to mind are the sauger. The areas below the dams hold large numbers of quality fish. A quality sauger in this area is between 10 and 12 inches in length. (Some pools produce much larger fish.) Just about right for filets. Sauger feed willingly during the winter. They can be caught with live bait or artificial bait.
Most live bait enthusiasts favor minnows. This is a simple process. Just hang a hook, with a minnow on it, below a bobber and start fishing. Adjust your depth until you find the magic spot. Add weight as necessary to keep the minnow at the correct depth. For the most fun use light open face spinning tackle.
If you prefer artificials start with a jig of some sort. It really does not make any difference what kind. Color does make a difference, however. Sauger can be, upon occasion, very color selective. Begin with bright colors. If that does not work try natural colors. Only as a last resort go to darker colors.
Yes, bait size matters. Most anglers start small but if that does not work go big–up to 2 oz. under some conditions. Try some of the new sauger jigs that are all the rage these days. They go by a variety of names but they all have one thing in common. They come in loud colors, are football shaped, and very heavy.
These jigs will stay down in swift current. They will catch fish. They will also hang. So, if you fish them from shore take plenty along. You will loose a ton of them. You can avoid loses by increasing your line size but you will pay a price in fewer strikes.
Stripers and hybrids are also common in the waters below the dams. They can be caught with cut bait, live bait, or artificials.
Cut bait speaks for itself. Just catch a shad, cut him in half, and hook him up. Most anglers report more success with the head and the front half of the body.
When using live bait simply hook a minnow through the lips. Fish it on the bottom with a slip sinker or a bell sinker. Make sure you use enough weight to handle the current. You want the bait to stay near the bottom.
You will find circle hooks to be very effective in the current. They are much less prone to hang-ups. If they do hang, however, they are usually hung for good. You may as well immediately cut the line. Trying to get a circle hook loose is a waste of time.
A surprising number of anglers are using Float and Fly rigs in the current and turbulence below the dams when fishing for stripers and hybrids. This rig is very effective on smallmouth bass and has been reported to catch large numbers of game fish in the Kentucky River. Tie a small jig below a bobber and throw it out. The smaller the jig the better and the deeper you can fish it the better.
If your jig is heavy enough you might try a slip float. Otherwise use a simple round bobber or a quill style float. Either way this rig will catch fish. When the float goes under or acts “funny” set the hook.
Regardless of whether you fish from shore or from a boat, safety should be your first concern. If you go into the water in this area, at this time of year, you can measure your survival time at one or two minutes.
The cold water will suck the life from your body. Therefore, never, go near this water without your life jacket on. If you are going fishing in a boat put the jacket on before you launch the boat—at the top of the parking area. If you are fishing from shore put it on when you exit your vehicle.
Always take along a complete change of clothing and a couple of bath towels. If you get wet these items will be worth their weight in gold. If you can dry off and change clothing, even in the cold, you may be able to prevent hypothermia.
Do not let the cold weather keep you inside all winter.