Like its sister lake, Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkley is well known for panfish action in the form of bluegills and crappie. However, while fishing there we discover its other panfish, the whiskered wonder. 

Catfish are probably the ultimate “pan fish”. They are the most popular eating fish across the country, enjoyed by millions of Americans. 

Damming of the Cumberland River formed Lake Barkley. The 40-mile long lake runs parallel to Kentucky Lake a few miles to the west. The lake itself is about 80,000 acres with little development along the shoreline. Much of the shoreline is the property of the TVA or the State of Kentucky. The water level generally reaches a maximum in late spring and early summer. It declines until late fall and then levels off for the winter months. 

Fishing with a local favorite, a jigging pole some nice catfish are caught everyday. Jigging poles are a 12 foot, very light rod, with an ultra light open-face spinning reel.  Some people actually use a converted fly rod. Without actually fishing for catfish, you can catch them with the light jigs and plastic grubs in dark colors. Baits that are more traditional are best.  Baits such as minnows, cut shad and nightcrawlers work well for catfish. 

The ultra light gear works well and provides excellent action that is both challenging and productive. Unlike the usual summer pattern of fishing early a.m. and late p.m., fall fishing requires action during the midday. The fish seem to be more active during the late morning and early afternoon warm up. Live green weeds near deep water are a good location to find fish. The green weeds provide oxygen in turn attracting baitfish. The catfish are attracted to the baitfish. 

Catfish action is usually good throughout the lake. In fall, more fish seem to be closer to shore. In most of the lake, catching catfish is more of an underwater structure game. Locals look to the downstream points of islands, creek intersections and the main channel ledge. Along the main channel, one can try vertical jigging with a slip bobber in about 15 feet of water.  Use such tasty items as chicken livers, cut bait and stink baits. With the current of the lake, scent given off by stink baits covers a large area attracting catfish from a long distance. 

The catfish taken from this lake are very clean and make excellent meals for the table.


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