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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
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    Kettering, OH
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    Thinking Of Spring Trip to Lake Cumberland

    My brother and I want to try Lake Cumberland this Spring for Smallmouth bass and stripers – Lake Cumberland has been on our “bucket list” for a while, but we’ve put it off every year for other destinations where we have more experience. I know it’s a great fishery, but it’s such a large lake with fluctuating water levels/temps, I guess I’ve always been afraid to failJ But we’re going to try it on for size this year!


    We’ve been talking about this trip for a while and have different theories about where to concentrate our effort. So I was hoping some of you who are familiar with the lake and how the US Corps of Engineers operates the dam/sluices in Spring could settle some of those issues for us.


    We plan on making the trip in early May, but want to hit the lake when water temps/levels in the tributaries are optimal. Since the lake is a reservoir, I‘m thinking the headwaters upstream warm up earlier than tributaries in the southern portion of the Lake near Wolf Creek Dam. I’m thinking we should camp at Fall Creek and work the north end of the lake, but my brother wants to camp at Kendall and work the south end of the Lake. My brother thinks the southern end of the Lake holds larger fish. He thinks they concentrate in deep water during the summer near the dam, and use the southern tributaries for their spawning/spring feeding. You are probably all laughing at this post, but that’s ok, I’m laughing along with you.

    If you had a choice, which end of the lake would you concentrate on in early May?
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1970
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    Louisville, Ky
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    Trying to use credible criteria is no laughing matter! Ha! Things to consider in early May. The bait will be migrating to the upper ends of the creeks and will start their spawning. The water is usually on the rise so this is usually the middle of debris season. Striper and smallmouth spawn in temps starting around 59 degrees so they may be at the tail end. Stripers usually go a little gonzo during their spawn runs and become very unpredictable. They also start keying on bait flipping banks at night at some point during the month of May. Watch how fast the water is rising and the water temps. Those are some of the biggest clues as to what to do. Large bass are all through the water system so don't worry much about that. The lower end is usually a tad less effected by the debris but it can be bad enough to end your season if you aren't careful.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duayne View Post
    ....Things to consider in early May. The bait will be migrating to the upper ends of the creeks and will start their spawning. The water is usually on the rise so this is usually the middle of debris season. Striper and smallmouth spawn in temps starting around 59 degrees so they may be at the tail end. Stripers usually go a little gonzo during their spawn runs and become very unpredictable. They also start keying on bait flipping banks at night at some point during the month of May. Watch how fast the water is rising and the water temps. Those are some of the biggest clues as to what to do. Large bass are all through the water system so don't worry much about that. Striper and smallmouth spawn in temps starting around 59 degrees so they may be at the tail end. Stripers usually go a little gonzo during their spawn runs and become very unpredictable.
    Thanks for the response, Duayne - glad to hear there are large bass everywhere I always understood that bass like to spawn/nest in tributaries with water temps in the range of 60-68 degrees, so I try to target those temps in tributaries in Spring, but its not a simple matter in a deeper reservoir. Do you know of any websites or other sources that post daily water temps for the Lake Cumberland area?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1970
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    This isn't really kept up daily but usually weekly
    http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/Locati...ishing-Update/

    You can also see the level change here.

    http://cumberland.uslakes.info/level.asp

    These are my go to sites for temp level info.
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 1970
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    Columbia
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    I would do the lower end of the lake for smallmouth. As for striper I know very little about them and I rarely target them to fish but when they are present I have caught a few. I don't know how dead set you are on the May time frame but anytime you get two decent days of warm temperatures back to back in March the Cumberland smallmouth bite can be great. The key word in that last sentence was warm. Clear, sunny, bluebird highs are good anytime in early spring to help warm the water but a good cloudy warm front with a light warm rain is a perfect storm for hot action. The problem is in March it can be 20* and snowing one day and 65* and nice the very next day. May will be a little more stable weather wise but if you pay close attention to the the forecast and find a 2-3 day window that looks good then March would be my choice for smallmouth.

    Right now I am scheduled off the last two weeks in March for vacation. If the weather is right I may add some more vacation or sick time and take the last three weeks in March off. I do this every year. I use to do it in April but I have found that March is better for big fish but the weather can throw a curve ball. I am only about 30 minutes from Cumberland so I can easily make a last minute decision to go or stay at home. I spend my time on Cumberland and Green in late winter/early spring and switch to just Green once the bass spawn is in full swing.

    Now if my memory is correct (and the striper fishermen will know) the night striper bite heats up in May (mid/late?) when the shad spawn is going on. I "think" its more towards the end of May. Anyways I do recall about 5-6 years ago taking the only trip I have ever went where striper was the target. I went with a friend and we targeted steep shale banks at night where the shad spawn was going on. It was actually more like hunting than fishing. We would run to an area and shut down the boat 100 yards or more away from where we though a bank would be a good bank for shad to spawn on and listen. If stripers were feeding on shad on the bank it would sound like someone threw a brick overboard. We would be as quite as possible and ease into the area with topwater plugs. If nothing was present we would sometimes ease down a bank just blind casting but we always were listening for a blow up. It was a blast and I tell my self every year that I am going back to try it but I have only done it once. Whenever and wherever you decide to go I wish you luck.
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  6. #6
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    The spring striper night bite could be found in early May, but it usually picks up later in the month to early June.... If it's going to pick up at all. It's been really random for me the last few years but I am a weekend warrior. Given the debris issue and not being able to see well at night, I usually opt to wait until all the whoopy making is over or just be happy with whatever I get during the day.
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  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2013
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    russell springs
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    May

    Whenever i have relatives or friends that dont live here when they should plan their vacations to visit and fish, i always tell them i am 100% certain we can catch stripers and smallmouth in the same day any month of the year.....EXCEPT MAY!!!! may can bring you to your knees if stuff lines up wrong. The alewive spawn can shut the stripers down during the day, and you may get 30 short strikes in a night of casting without hooking up. The smallmouth may be 60yds off the bank suspended in 80ft of water, good luck catching those fish lol.
    Im not saying this is a guarantee, but if it happens it will likely happen in may.
    I would pick end of march, 1st week of april or june.
    As far as cumberland being a huge lake, that is a good thing. It wont blowout overnite if there is a lot of rain. Also the bass bite isnt sensitive to flow from hydro generation like say guntersville and those lakes.
    If may is the only time you can make it then by all means do it. There will be some fantastic largemouth amd ky bass fishing.
    But yes there are 11 better months in my humble opinion
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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
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    Lawrenceburg
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    Quote Originally Posted by R19 View Post
    Now if my memory is correct (and the striper fishermen will know) the night striper bite heats up in May (mid/late?) when the shad spawn is going on. I "think" its more towards the end of May.
    First full moon in June is a pretty good guideline.
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  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
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    Kettering, OH
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    Wow! You've all given me lots to think about. After checking out the historical water levels, its clear to me that the month of May generally has some pretty steep fluctuations from Spring runoff. Your posts all seem to indicate that coming down in May is probably not the best time for Stripers or Smallmouth. We were planning on camping out in my tent and thought May might be the magic time when the tributaries are in that 60-68* water temp range and the air temp would allow us to camp in relative comfort, but now I'm thinking March-April or early June might be better fishing conditions so I guess we need to change our plans a bit. My brother and I are retired and in our 70's, so we aren't very spry or comfy in cold weather - but being retired we can pick and choose our dates Thanks to all of you for your input

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2013
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    russell springs
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    Camping

    Not sure how familiar you are with ky spring weather, its all over the place. Weve had snow on the ground during youth turkey hunt in april as well as temps in the 80s . There are a lot of reasonable lodging options prior to tourist season. In june you might not even be able to get a camping spot if the crowds are here.
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  11. #11
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    Good luck on trying to predict the Big C. One big rain and the whole lake can be a total mess, trashing all of your well laid plans. If I had to pick lottery days for that lake it would be first week of June. Can still get into nighttime stripers and walleye and can get some topwater bassin. Good luck.
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  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 1970
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    Paris
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    1-606-678-8697 ranger info on fishing conditions
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