Fishing the tail water of the dams in the spring time can be spectacular for anglers however there are certain dangers that I think all should be aware of if you’re attempting to fish the dams for the first time and even the seasoned anglers should revisit and stay aware of the dangers associated with dam fishing, never get to comfortable and neglect the dangers.
Obey all warning signs: most dams are made up of a structure that controls the flow of water along with a structure for river traffic to navigate from pool to pool called the locks. There are some dangers associated with fishing both the turbulent water coming from the gates of the dams or close to the discharge water coming from the lock wall.
Signs are posted clearly as to where these lock discharge are at and the dams also have a red zone so you don’t get to close to the danger zone, a red line is painted on the lock wall and a red flashing light will go off if you get to close to the turbulent waters in front of the dam gates so as long as you obey the signs you will be safe to fish the dam area.
Only fish in areas of moderate current flow and never take a risk, the fish are not worth an angler’s life.
However I do not want to discourage anyone from trying their luck at the dams because of the dangers, as long as you identify the dangers, use good judgment and obey the signs, all is good, it’s just like fishing anywhere else on the rivers.
There’s no dought about it, the oxygen rich water coming from the tail waters of the dam is a fish magnet for most all species of fish in the spring of the year. Some species come to feed and others come to spawn, and others do both this includes the bait fish. The catfish will come to feed on the abundant bait fish; some will stay and spawn in the rocky crevices throughout the dam’s structure.
For catfisherman, the spring runs means great trophy cattin and the abundance of bait!
The hardest part of trophy cattin is bait collection, big trophy catfish require big baits, using an easy to get, tub of night crawlers just won’t cut it if you’re looking for the big boys.
How to catch skip jack The best bait for the trophy cats is skip jack herring and at times, you’ll spend more time catchin your bait as you do actually catfishing because you have to catch skip jack with a rod and reel. This is why this spring time run is an important time for catfisherman.
In the spring from april to june the skip jack will start migration to the tail waters to initially feed and stay to spawn and in this time frame there are thick by the thousands and the easiest time for a catfisherman to collect some bait. When they’re running good it’s not uncommon to catch 1 or 2 every cast.
Myself: ill take a couple days of nothing but bait collection, catching a few hundred a day and stocking my freezer with bait for the coming months when the skip jack get scarce in the hot months, 4 or 5 hundred skip jack packed in2 gal. zip lock bags will generally last me until the fall when the skip jack return to the tail waters in the fall to feed.
To catch skip jack you’ll need a med action rod with a spin casting reel spooled with some 14 lb mono.
Skip Jack Rig
Tie a barrel swivel to the 14 lb main line and tie a 3 foot piece of 20 lb mono leader to the other end of the barrel swivel. Now you will need to tie a marabou jig on the leader about a foot below your swivel leaving a 2 foot piece of leader exposed, now come down anther foot and tie another marabou jig below the last jig leaving 1 foot of leader exposed and once again tie one more jig at the end of your leader completing the skip jack rig.
When skipjack hit they leave little to the imagination, they are mean and the action is fast! Your line will go tight in a sudden rush and the fish will just keep on moving despite your best efforts to control them, often catching 2-3 at a time. They love to jump; most will go crazy and get big air.
The fight of a skipjack is characterized by strong, fast runs and sudden rushes to the surface displaying their flashy acrobatics. A lot of guys will use light tackle to catch these fish and have a ball doing it, the fight of the skip jack is way better than any bass out there. For me the first 30 or so is fun but after that it becomes work.
These fast action, hard fighting, acrobatic bait fish are an average weight of a pound and a half but it’s not uncommon to catch loads of 2-4 lbers in the spring.
The dams are a prime habitat for catfish especially the big blue cats. The tail waters have oxygen rich current that catfish thrive in and large amounts of bait fish for cats to feast on. The deep water and under water structure, current breaks below dams will attract the catfish in large numbers which always makes for a great day on the water.
To fish the tail waters for trophy blues, simply motor yourself as close to the dam as safety and regulations will allow and throw your anchor out of the front of your boat and let it hang. Its best if you can anchor on a current seam, this is where the cats seem to like to hold and wait for food. A current seam is where the faster water meets the slower water. A current seam can also be created by a current break, such as the big concrete pillars that separate the gates on a dam.
Anchoring is a necessity when fishing the dams, always throw your anchor above the bow of your boat and never anchor sideways in current!
Once you’re anchored there are two different methods you can employ.
One method is to dead head it. Which means just cast your bait out behind the boat and let the current take it down stream until it settles and hits the bottom, engage your reel and set in your monster rod holder and wait for the take down. This method is the most common way to pursue a trophy blue cat. For this method use a simple Carolina rig consisting of 80lb. FINS braided main line with a 4-8 oz no roll sinker, a barrel swivel and 50 lb mono leader with a 8/0 circle hook.
The second method is a search rig, it’s a little more aggressive and discouraging because you will lose some tackle and have to retie more often, but this method pays off big though for fast action.
My search rig will consist of a 80 lb. FINS braided main line tied to a barrel swivel which then is attached to a 3 ft. piece of 50 lb mono leader. A double overhand knot is tied 10 inches or so below the swivel and a 3-6 oz, bank sinker is tied to the tag end of the leader completing this search rig.
Cast way up above and off to either side of the boat using a 7.5 ft medium heavy bait casting combo. Once the rig hits bottom, reel up the slack and lift the rod slightly, the current will catch the rig and slip it downstream a bit, repeat the process by lifting the rod tip and feeling the rig bumping along the bottom in the current, continue this until the rig has went past your boat. A hungry blue cat just won’t stand for a piece of cut bait to flow past him; he will strike and hit it hard. You have to be ready or they will jerk the rod right out of your hands. I can recall two times I’ve stood on my boat with a dumb look on my face because a bluecat just took a 150.00 rig out of my hands because I wasn’t on my toes. The blues will often hit the bait and go upstream towards the dam. If this happens be sure to reel up the slack and catch up quickly to ensure a good hook set.
There are many dams the throughout the length of the Kentucky borders on the Ohio river so find one near your neck of the woods and give dam fishing a go this spring and early summer.