Barges are one of, if not the most, common form of structure and cover on the Ohio River. Yet, most of the anglers who fish the River pass them by on their way to another spot. Barges will produce fish during most of the calendar year and are usually within easy motoring distance from a ramp. Why not learn to fish them?
Begin fishing a barge by carefully analyzing the current. Fish in the Ohio River, like all bodies of moving water, relate to the current. They also relate and adapt to what is available to them. Barges are available to them so they use them. It is just that simple.
When fishing barges your lure or bait should be presented with the current. That is, the bait should move along with the current, not against it. Usually the best place to start is at the head of the barge. It will rise from the water at an angle of something like 45 degrees. Throw your lure or bait up under the nose of the barge as far as you can and then let it drift down under the nose. Fish will hold in this area to ambush prey.
Never place your boat in front of the barge—the current can suck you under the nose and ultimately under the barge itself.
Next fish the sides of the barge. It is usually best to start at the upstream end and work your way down. Place your bait as close to the barge as possible—never more than 3 or 4 inches from the side. Your lure or bait should be retrieved just below the draft of the barge. That is, just below where it sits down in the water.
You can tell how much water a barge is drafting by looking at the chart on the side of the barge. If the waterline is at the eight foot mark then the bottom of the barge in eight feet deep in the water. Your lure should be retrieved at a depth of eight feet plus a couple of inches. The fish hide under the barge and dart out to strike it as it passes by them.
Finally, fish every nook and cranny you can find around moored barges. The fish will use these areas as ambush points.
Once you gain a little experience fishing barges you will be amazed at the numbers and size of the fish you can take from these area. Stripers, hybrids, and Kentucky bass are especially fond of barges.
Barges can be especially productive in bright sunshine, during the heat of the day, in the summer. It seems that the fish use the deep dark shade as a refuge from the sunlight and the heat. During these times the strike zone can be very tight but also very productive.
Barges are big and heavy—be very careful around them and keep your ears and eyes open. Pay attention to what is going on around you. Never put your boat in a tight place—such as between two barges. If they move, even a few inches, you can be crushed.
Do not ever fish moving barges!