2016 Forecasts for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife

The “Fishing Forecast” for Kentucky’s major fisheries already is available online at fw.ky.gov. The annual compilation is designed to help anglers plan trips and hopefully improve their catch rates.

Two anticipated opportunities lead off the 2016 forecast’s new and expanding fisheries section.

Hatchery Creek at Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery in Russell County has undergone a major renovation and redesign to look, feel and flow more like a natural trout stream. The revamped upper section opened to public use in December.

A fish barrier separates the upper from the lower section. The lower section includes a new creek channel and will be designated catch and release, artificial bait only. It’s scheduled to open by May.

“The lower section will be an excellent and challenging fishing opportunity,” said Mike Hardin, assistant director of the Fisheries Division at Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “There are places for fish to hide and find refuge, including refuge from anglers. It’s not going to be like fishing in a swimming pool. The pocket water, eddies and undercut banks are all features that fishermen look for because fish gravitate to them. I’m looking forward to it.”

Elsewhere, saugeyes stocked by the department are starting to reach the 15-inch minimum size limit at Guist Creek Lake in Shelby County, Bullock Pen Lake in Grant County and A.J. Jolly Lake in Campbell County. Those stocked in Boltz Lake in Grant County may reach harvestable size by the fall.

Anglers can target these hybrids of saugers and walleyes with minnow- or worm-tipped jigs fished along available structure or by slowly working a small shad-imitating crankbait over mud flats in 6 to 8 feet of water.

For those wanting to learn more, the angler’s legacy program, administered by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, will offer an opportunity in 2016 to learn basic fishing skills for the cost of a fishing license.

“We’re going to offer classes to adults to try to foster and introduce people to fishing,” said Ron Brooks, director of the Fisheries Division at KFW. “The class schedule will be advertised on the website.”

It was a banner year in 2015 for hunting in Kentucky, with a new state record, non-typical bull elk, a new state record bear and a new world-record turkey in the books. The deer harvest was also at an all-time high after breaking records at every turn this season.

“It’s been a good year,” said Chris Garland, assistant director of the Wildlife Division at Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.

Maximizing opportunities for hunters will continue to be a priority in 2016, while the plans to improve habitat for grouse and other woodland species in eastern Kentucky will come into focus.

Public meetings held last year sparked discussion and ideas about grouse restoration. Also, a wildlife biologist will be tasked with developing a formal grouse habitat plan and getting it off the ground.

“It’s going to take time once we start putting the plan in action before we see the results,” Garland said. “One of the first steps could be identifying those places where we have moderate to good grouse habitat now and to make them better and then grow from there.”

Quail restoration efforts will remain a priority for the department following the release last year of the five-year benchmark report that updated the state’s northern bobwhite restoration plan.

“We’re looking at ways of ramping up the management efforts in those areas where we have focused on quail habitat,” Garland said. “The focus areas show it can work. How do you continue that and continue to expand the effort is the next step.”

The department will welcome a new black bear program coordinator this year and that person plans to work with partners to further develop a bear management plan. Plans to improve upon a private lands program, already regarded as one of the nation’s finest, are scheduled.

Viewers of Kentucky Afield will see a new face hosting the show, as a new era in its history starts in 2016. The outdoors show produced by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife airs weekly on Kentucky Educational Television (KET).

Kevin Kelly is a staff writer for “Kentucky Afield” magazine and covers the state for MidWest Outdoors as well. Follow him on Twitter: @kyafield.