Striped bass anglers on Lake Cumberland may now keep smaller fish than in the past. The minimum size limit for striped bass in the lake has dropped to 22 inches, a two-inch reduction from the previous 24-inch minimum size limit.

The daily creel limit of two striped bass remains the same.

“We have a very large group of striped bass in Lake Cumberland from 20 to 24 inches long,” said Jeff Ross, assistant director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Because of the poor water conditions in the lake, they aren’t growing very fast.”

Striped bass prefer cooler water temperatures. Even striped bass that are released back into the water by anglers can die from stress during the higher water temperatures of summer.

Because the lake remains 40 foot lower than normal summer pool while Wolf Creek Dam is being repaired, Lake Cumberland is not storing its usual amount of cooler, oxygenated water needed by striped bass. “Under the 24-inch size limit, we have a high rate of catch and release on striped bass,” Ross said. “The fight stresses the fish in the cooler months, but higher water temperatures in summer are really rough on striped bass.”

Department officials decided to reduce the size limit on striped bass so that anglers could have the opportunity to keep some fish that might die anyway. “If you are going to lose the fish, then we prefer that people get some use out of them,” Ross said. “We are trying to make the best of a bad situation.”

Ross is confident Lake Cumberland will resume its place as the best striped bass fishery in Kentucky after work on the dam is finished and water levels return to normal. “After the water comes back, we expect the striped bass to rebound quickly,” he said. “We are still stocking. When we get the optimal water conditions back, the striped bass will thrive.”

Work on Wolf Creek Dam is nearly complete. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates the work will be completed by December 2013. If the schedule is met, the lake could return to normal summer water levels for the 2014 recreation season.

Biologists will continue to monitor the striped bass population after the lake returns to normal levels. The minimum size limit can be readjusted if needed.

Photo: Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources

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