Kentucky is the nation’s uncrowned capital of freshwater fishing.
The Bluegrass State has hundreds of lakes, ponds, creeks, and rivers where you can target bass, trout, and countless other fish species.
Choosing a fishing spot is the biggest challenge you’ll face if you’re planning to visit Kentucky, since locations like Cave Run Lake, Kentucky Lake, or Tennessee River offer some fantastic fishing opportunities.
We’ve shortlisted some of the best fishing spots in Kentucky to help you discover the state’s must-visit destinations for recreational anglers, so let’s look at them.
Top Fishing Spots in Kentucky at a Glance
Here’s a quick overview of the top fishing spots in Kentucky:
- Best for Muskie – Cave Run Lake
- Best for Rainbow Trout – Kentucky Lake
- Best for Catfish – Tennessee River
- Best for Fishing in Neighborhoods – Cherokee Park
10 Best Fishing Spots in Kentucky in Detail
Cave Run Lake
Anglers interested in exploring fishing spots in Northeastern Kentucky shouldn’t miss out on Cave Run Lake. The lake is located approximately 60 miles east of Lexington within the Daniel Boon National Forest.
It’s a popular destination for anglers targeting Muskies, but spots like Ramey Creek or Windy Bay can be great choices for catching Largemouth Bass and Bluegill.
There are a dozen boat ramps around the 8,270-acre lake, which makes it a perfect place for boat fishing. In addition, you can stay at Cave Lake Run’s Claylick Boat-in Campground or Clear Creek Campground if you want to explore different fishing spots with your family.
Types of fishing: Boat fishing, pier fishing, freshwater fishing
Expect to find: Muskie, White Crappie, Largemouth Bass
Rules and safety guidelines: Bank access isn’t available in all lake sections.
Over 160 fish species live in the Ohio River, so it’s hardly surprising that it offers some of the best fishing spots in the Bluegrass State.
Besides fishing from the shore or one of the numerous fishing piers along the riverbank, you can also discover great fishing spots on the river from a boat.
Types of fishing: Boat fishing, kayak fishing, pier fishing
Expect to find: Sauger, Blue Catfish, Striped Bass
Rules and safety guidelines: Fish size and bag limits vary from one section of the river to the next.
As the state’s largest lake, Kentucky Lake isn’t only an attractive holiday destination but also an amazing fishing spot where you can catch Sauger, Crappie, Blue Catfish, Yellow Bream, and countless other fish species.
The lake covers a 160,309-acre area along the Tennessee River, stretching from Grand Rivers in the North to below Camden in the South. Although the fishing season is open throughout the year, the best time to visit is in the spring or fall.
Types of fishing: Boat fishing, kayak fishing, pier fishing
Expect to find: Bass, Crappie, Blue and Channel Catfish, Sauger
Rules and safety guidelines: Statewide fishing regulations don’t apply to all fish species.
Lake Barkley is 134 miles long and has over a thousand miles of shoreline, so finding a perfect spot to cast a line shouldn’t be too difficult. You’ll find plenty of boat ramps scattered along the lake if you prefer offshore fishing or want to check out a remote fishing spot.
Although statewide regulations apply to most fish species you can catch in the lake, it’s still important to check the special fishing regulations.
Types of fishing: Pier fishing, boat fishing, kayak fishing
Expect to find: Redear Sunfish, Black Crappie, Largemouth Bass
Rules and safety guidelines: Portions of the lake are shallow and difficult to navigate with a boat.
Visiting the Tennessee River and its numerous fishing spots is a must for all anglers planning to visit southwestern Kentucky.
You can reach the Tennessee River from Paducah if you want to explore the area around its confluence with the Ohio River or travel south and angle in the region close to Kentucky and Barkley Lakes.
Finding a boat launch along the river banks isn’t difficult, but remember that you cannot enter the lakes by boat from the river due to the Kentucky Dam.
Types of fishing: Pier fishing, shore fishing, boat fishing
Expect to find: Largemouth Bass, Catfish
Rules and safety guidelines: Don’t sail alone if you’re unfamiliar with the Tennessee River.
Liberty Reservoir is one of the most popular fishing destinations in central Kentucky. The 88-acre lake is less than five miles away from the nearby city of Liberty, and you can choose whether you want to stay in town or at a campsite.
The lake is open to the public from 6 a.m. until midnight seven days a week, so night fishing isn’t an option. There are plenty of boat, canoe, and kayak rentals at the location that can make your day trip to this scenic lake more exciting.
Types of fishing: Trolling, shore fishing, kayak fishing
Expect to find: Bass, Catfish
Rules and safety guidelines: Wade fishing at Liberty Lake is prohibited.
Cedar Creek Lake
One of the best things about fishing at Cedar Creek Lake is that anglers have water access on the entire shoreline. This artificial lake was impounded in 2002, which makes it the youngest lake in Kentucky.
The easiest way to reach the lake is from Danville, but you can also get to Cedar Creek Lake from Lexington in over an hour. Camping at the lake isn’t an option, so you must plan your accommodation before arriving at the location.
Types of fishing: Boat fishing, shore fishing, kayak fishing
Expect to find: Redear Sunfish, Black Crappie, Flathead Catfish
Rules and safety guidelines: The daily limit for Largemouth Bass is one per angler.
Lake Cumberland is one of the most popular fisheries in Kentucky and attracts thousands of anglers yearly. Besides fishing at the lake, you can explore fishing spots on the Cumberland River that flows through the Daniel Boon National Forest.
The nearest airport is less than fifty miles from the lake, and reaching this fishing location won’t take too much time if you plan to visit it from out of state.
What’s more, there are over seventy campsites at Lake Cumberland, so finding a place to stay shouldn’t be difficult.
Types of fishing: Boat fishing, pier fishing, shore fishing
Expect to find: Walleye, Rainbow Trout, Striped Bass, Sauger
Rules and safety guidelines: Special fishing regulations apply to some species.
Taylorsville Lake State Park
A visit to Taylorsville Lake State Park offers much more than an abundance of stunning fishing spots, as you can explore its 24-mile-long hiking system, go horseback riding, or rent a boat if you like fishing offshore.
The state park is approximately sixty miles from Lexington, and it can be an excellent place for a one-day fishing trip or a holiday destination for anglers who’d like to discover its charms in an RV.
Still, you must obtain a fishing license before casting a line at Taylorsville Lake State Park.
Types of fishing: Boat fishing, shore fishing
Expect to find: Freshwater Drum Perch, Largemouth Bass, Channel Catfish
Rules and safety guidelines: This fishing spot is often crowded.
Like all locations in the state’s Fishing in Neighborhoods (FINs) program, the Cherokee Park is regularly stocked with rainbow trout and catfish. The park is located in Louisville, and it can be a perfect fishing spot if you’re visiting the city for a few days.
Fishing at FIN lakes without a license is prohibited, and the daily bag limit ranges from 1 to 15 fish, depending on the species. It’s also worth noting that you cannot use live shad for bait or keep Grass Carp.
Type of fishing: Shore fishing, pond fishing
Expect to find: Rainbow Trout, Catfish, Largemouth Bass
Rules and safety guidelines: This fishing spot is only available during the day.
Key Things to Consider When Choosing a Fishing Spot in Kentucky
You can spend years discovering fishing spots in Kentucky because there are hundreds of lakes, rivers, and creeks where you can catch trophy-sized fish.
Consequently, the amount of time you’re planning to spend in Kentucky will play an important part when deciding where you want to go fishing.
The Fishing in Neighborhoods website is an excellent source of information if you’re looking for an easily accessible spot close to a city you’re visiting.
On the other hand, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife can help you pick a more remote destination.
Kentucky’s most popular fishing spots are crowded, and whether you can find a place to camp or a good spot to cast a line will depend on when you visit.
The best time to go on a fishing trip in Kentucky depends on the fish species you’re targeting, but for most anglers, the perfect time to visit is spring or fall.
Rules for Fishing in Kentucky
Besides statewide regulations, you must be familiar with special fishing regulations for a particular fishing location.
For instance, the minimum size of a Largemouth Bass you can keep may not be the same at Kentucky Lake and Taylorsville Lake State Park.
The daily bag limits also vary from one fishing location to another, and you may be able to keep anywhere from one to over thirty fish, depending on where you fish.
You won’t be able to keep more than 15 fish per day if you decide to angle at one of the lakes that are in the FINs program.
Fishing without a license is prohibited throughout Kentucky, and you must get a permit even if you decide to fish at a state park. Obtaining a fishing license is easy because you can purchase it at a local fishing store or county clerk’s office.
Fishing Licenses in Kentucky
The fastest way to obtain a fishing license in Kentucky is to purchase it at the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Online License Sales website, but you can also get the license in person at 900 different locations.
Teenagers aged 15 or younger don’t need a license to fish in Kentucky, while senior citizens older than 65 must have a fishing license.
Fishing Licenses for Residents
- 1-day fishing license – $7.00
- Annual fishing license – $23.00
- Joint/Spouse fishing license – $42.00
- 3-year fishing license (online only) – $55.00
- Trout permit – $10.00
Combo (Fishing/Hunting Licenses)
- Annual Combination Hunting/Fishing License – $42.00
- Sportsman’s License – $95.00
- Senior Sportsman’s License (65 or older) – $12
- Senior Lifetime Sportsman’s License (65 or older) – $180
Fishing Licenses for Nonresidents
- 1-day fishing license – $15.00
- 7-day fishing license – $35.00
- Annual fishing license – $55.00
- Trout permit – $10.00
How Salted Angler Selected the Best Fishing Spots in Kentucky
We understand how frustrating choosing a fishing spot can be, especially if you’ve never visited a state.
Our team went through a lengthy selection process while shortlisting fishing locations mentioned in this article to ensure you’ll have a memorable experience regardless of the destination you choose.
Here are some of the essential criteria we relied on to pick the best fishing spots in Kentucky:
- Fish variety – Muskie, Walleye, Trout, or Bass are only a handful of fish species you’ll find at fishing spots we featured in this article.
- Boat fishing opportunities – You can charter a boat at nearly all fishing destinations we included in the final selection.
- Proximity to urban areas – We used this criterion to find spots suitable for anglers who want to fish close to their neighborhood and those planning to spend time away from the city.
Please go through our editorial policy if you want to learn more about our team.
When Does the Annual Kentucky Fishing License Expire?
Annual fishing licenses expire on the last day of February, and new ones become valid on March 1 every year.
How Many Fishing Destinations Are There in Kentucky?
More than 900 locations where anglers can fish from a shore, canoe, or boat are listed in the Fishing and Boating Guide issued by the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Service.
What Are the Most Common Fish Species in Kentucky?
Bluegill, Largemouth Bass, and Channel Catfish are some of the most common fish species you can catch in Kentucky.