Fishing Warm & Cold Water Discharges
Fishing Warm & Cold Water Discharges

Fishing warm water discharges in the Ohio River can be one of the most rewarding angling experiences of the year. There are, however, a few rules, ideas, and thoughts that you need to consider.

A discharge is generally considered to be any location that brings water into the River from a non-natural source. Most are from power plants, commercial factories, or manufacturing facilities.

There are hot water discharges and cold water discharges. Hot water discharges are areas of warm water entering the River from a commercial facility. Most originate from cooling systems of some sort.

Cold Water Discharges

Cold water discharges are areas of unheated water entering the river. It may be at, above, or below the River water temperature but it is not heated. Cold water discharges are at their best during the warmer months of the year. They provide current flow and oxygen for the fish.

They will attract nearly every species of fish but are best known as striper and hybrid hangouts. They also produce huge flatheads upon occasion.

Warm Water Discharges

Warm water discharges put warm water into the River. They can provide dynamic fishing during the cold months of the year. Most are at their best when the air temperature is cold, really cold and the water temperature is cold, really cold. Use common sense when you fish in the winter.


Discharge areas are magnets for drift, snags, and debris of all sorts. As a result, they are prone to lure hang-ups and loss.

Because of this most anglers opt for less expensive lure choices. One of the most effective all around choices one can make is the old inline spinner. Rooster Tails, Mepps, and Shysters are popular and will catch nearly anything you are likely to encounter in the area.

Another popular choice is the Silver Buddy. It can be retrieved in a variety of ways, can be pulled loose from most snags, and is relatively inexpensive.

At times the stripers, hybrids, and black bass will hit topwater offerings. Try poppers, walking sticks, and prop baits.

Live Bait

Many a striper, hybrid, and flathead has fallen prey to live or cut bait in the area of a discharge. Most are rigged on three-way swivels with flat “river sinkers” for weight. These rigs are simple, easy to tie, and inexpensive. Use heavy sinkers and equipment—four or five ounces will not be too much weight

Take along a bunch of these rigs – you will need them!

Discharges are hazardous! They are known to be death traps for the careless angler.

  • Never fish a discharge area without your life jacket on.
  • Always fish with a partner in these areas – never alone.
  • If you are inexperienced around discharges start well away from the heavy current. Practice working your boat in this current and move closer only as
    your skill level increases.
  • Do not fish these areas in small, light aluminum boats – they will not handle the heavy current.