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Burkesville Kentucky Trout Capitol of the South

There is a terrible secret that has been trying to get out for about 4 years now.
The Cumberland River below Cumberland Lake is quickly becoming a world class trout stream.

About half way between the Dam near Jamestown, Kentucky and the Tennessee Line is Burkesville Kentucky. A public ramp and a private ramp at Trace's On The Cumberland make the town a center for trout fishing on the river. Trace's On The Cumberland charges $4.00 to launch, but has more parking than the public ramp and also has RV and Boat Storage as well as Kentucky's Largest Craft and Souvenir Shop.

Burkesville is a small Kentucky Town that may see its sleepy small town ways burst onto the National Trout Fishing scene. You see it is just a matter of time til a new State Record Brown Trout is caught and the next record is expected to be close to 30 pounds. On April 30, of this year Tom Malone caught a 21 pound Brown Trout while fishing for Stripers in the Cumberland River. What was incredible about the fish was that it was almost 3 pounds bigger than the then current State Record. Why do the locals feel that the next record will be so large?

The current Creel and Size limit is making for very large Brown Trout and increasing numbers. The creel limit on the Cumberland River is 1 and the Size limit is 20 inch minimum. That means that any fish coming out of the river is going to be a 5 pound or larger fish. The rest go back, and you can only take the one so 20 inch fish often go back in case a larger fish is caught.

There is a rumor that at least one guide on the river has had a fish he felt weighed over 30 pounds to the boat only to have it pull free at the last minute. This is a strong rumor that I give credence too only because I know the guide and the source who informed me of the near catch.

I recently went fishing with a guide on the river who is well know locally. Joh Rush of Burkesville. John loves to guide and is on the river almost every day. Between strikes and stories I talked with John about the fishery and got his thoughts whenever I got a break from catching fish. 

First John's thoughts on the fishery then I will tell you about the fish we caught. I asked John how he would rate the fishery her on the Cumberland River. John's reaction of course was positive. this is a very good river for trout. It would be better without the stripers, but I have not fished anywhere that produces the numbers of fish that this river does. There are large numbers of Rainbows in the river as well as good numbers of Brown Trout. 

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources stocks the river regularly with both rainbows and with brown trout. Many more Rainbows are stocked, and the limit on rainbows is a very liberal 8 fish with no minimum size limit.150,000 rainbows are stocked in the river annually. Mostly because natural reproduction is very sporadic at best in this river. Brown trout stocking rates are currently 50,000 9 inch fish and 30,000 5 to 6 inch fish.

Now for the fishig trip. We launched from Trace's on the Cumberland's private ramp and moved south on the river towards the Tennessee Line. We only went about 200 yards before we tied up to a tree and started fishing with live bait and corn. It took about 2 minutes to catch the first of 3 trout from this hole. We told stories between fish and then moved on down the river. Our second stop produced a nice 15 inch fish the biggest of the day. All in all we stopped in 5 places and caught at least one fish of some sort at each stop. Total time 1 hour and about 22 miniutes. That on a day when the river had been way up and was falling at about 3 inches an hour. Even on a bad day on this river you will likely catch a nice trout or 2 and still have a chance at a World Class Brown Trout or Striper. In one week in late April the river produced the 21 pound Brown Trout Record a 54 pound 8 ounce striper and 4 stripers in the 40 pound range. 2 of those fish were caught by the same boat on the same day.

I highly recommend that if you like to fish for trout that you make Burkesville, Kentucky a stop on your next trout fishing expedition.

Burkesville can be found by getting off of I-65 in Kentucky at Exit 53 and going east on Highway 90.

Follow 90 East for about 40 miles into Burkesville. Once there look for Strange Bait and Tackle which is at the intersection of US 61 and US 90 just before you cross the Cumberland River Bridge. Going East it will be on your left. Strange can tell you what baits are working at the time and can point you to either of the ramps in town. If you want a report on the river and conditions you can call Chuck Strange at the bait shop at 1-270-864-2248

If you like to Canoe and fish, and even to camp, you can check out Cumberland River Canoe right next to Strange Bait on US 90. The Canoe livery rents canoes, kayaks, and whitewater rafts, and will drop you off and pick you up. Harold the owner of the shop has about 6 trips that he has outlined on the river lasting from about 2 hours to 3 days.. The main rental canoe is the Old Town Discovery 158 model that is 16 feet long. You get paddles and life jackets to wear with the rental. The trips available are 4 miles about 1.5 to 2 hours/ 11 mile trip 4.5 to 5 hours / 14.5 mile trip 5 to 5.5 hours / 34 mile overnite trip and a 60 mile trip with 3 nites camping at primitive camp sites. Shuttle service is included in most of the trips, but you should check with the service on the 60 mile trip if it is only a one canoe trip.

You can reach Cumberland River Canoe by going to http://www.cumberlandcanoe.com  or by calling 1-270-864-1669. 

If you would like to take a group to the river and spend some time together, Trout Dreams has a Cabin that is 3/10th of a mile from the river and there is a ramp at the river. The cabin sleeps 8 with a full kitchen. You can call 270-433-5845 for more information. Other hotels and motels are available as well as the Alpine Motel which overlooks the town of Burkesville from a hill and has a beautiful view of the river as it moves through the valley. 

This sleepy little valley of the Cumberland River is the home of the best trout fishery in the south in my opinion. Numbers of Trout caught and the sizes of fish caught are not duplicated anywhere that I am familiar with. When you come here you have the opportunity on every cast to hook into a trophy fish of a lifetime and it may not be the species you are fishing for. Tom Malone was fishing for Stripers when he hooked the Record Brown Trout. Randall Gibson the former record holder was fishing for Brown Trout when his client hooked a 54 pound Striper. Several years ago a Louisville resident even hooked a Lake Trout in the River. It is the state record for Lake Trout. No they are not in the river, it is surmised that the fish came through the turbines at Dale Hollow which is down stream and came up the river.

The third largest Walleye ever caught was taken from the Cumberland River above the Dam, but that was in the early 60's right after the lake was impounded. Walleye are in the river and some nice ones often come out of the river. Last but not least is the State Record Skip Jack which was caught by Jim Strader of Louisville. It weighed a little over 3 pounds, and Jim was fishing for Trout.

Try the Cumberland, it is FULL OF SURPRISES.

Jim Dicken
Fishing Guides Home Page


Copyright 2000 
Reprinted with permission

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