The state of Kentucky offers plenty of opportunities for excellent fishing. Kentucky has 45 major lakes, countless ponds, and over 62,000 miles of creeks, and rivers.
Laws & Regulations
Educate yourself on Kentucky’s fishing laws and regulations to ensure you stay legal and avoid costly fines.
Where to Fish in Kentucky
- Kentucky Lake/Lake Barkley: spotted gar, white bass, logperch
- Lake Cumberland – record sturgeon, walleye
- Dale Hallow- smallmouth bass, freshwater drum
- Ohio River: The Ohio River has produced multiple species state records including: longnose gar, paddlesfish (spoonfish), blue sucker, blue catfish, channel catfish, skipjack herring, and gizzard shad.
- Lake Cumberland
Fish Species in Kentucky
Kentucky has over 240 species of fish, most of which are not seen by anglers. Below you will find the common game fish that anglers typically see when fishing in Kentucky.
Kentucky has 6 types of bass including: largemouth, smallmouth, spotted (Kentucky Bass), striped, white, and yellow bass.
Largemouth bass are the most targeted species for freshwater anglers. They can be found in every state other than Alaska. They are the largest species of bass.
The world record largemouth bass is 22lb 5oz.
Learn more about largemouth bass
Smallmouth bass are the most aggressive bass which makes fishing for them a ton fun. They have a ton of fight which makes up for their smaller sizes. Even though they are smaller than largemouth they still can get pretty big.
The world record is 11lbs 15oz.
Learn more about smallmouth bass
Spots are similar to largemouths except they have horizontal rows of small black spots on the lower side. The notch between their spiny and soft dorsal fins is shallower than largemouths.
Spotted bass also have smaller mouths and a circular patch of teeth on the tongue.
The world record spotted bass is 10.8 lbs.
Learn more about spotted bass
Striped bass started out as saltwater fish but were added to freshwater where they survived and adapted. They are a schooling fish, so if you catch one it is very likely there are more around.
The world record striped bass is 81lb 14oz.
Blue catfish have a flat dorsal fin and forked tail. They have smooth scaleless skin with a light blue body and white belly. They have four pairs of whisker-like barbels.
Blue catfish can grow up to 5ft long and more than 100 lbs. The average size you see is 1-2ft long.
Learn more about blue catfish
Channel catfish have a slender scaleless body with a forked tail. They have an olive green to light grey color body with small black spots along their body.
Channel catfish can grow up to 52 inches long and 60lbs. The average size you will see is 1-3ft long and 1-15lbs.
Learn more about channel catfish
Flathead catfish have a flathead and a smooth scaleless body. They have a pale yellow to light brown colored body with a cream belly.
Flathead catfish can grow up to 3-ft long and weight 123lb. The average size you will see is 10-15lbs.
Learn more about flathead catfish
Black crappie have white bodies with a dark green and black back. Throughout their bodies they have black and brown spots.
World Record: 5 lb 7 oz – 19.25 inches long
White crappie have a white to silver body with a dark green back. They have blotches that make vertical bars across their sides.
World Record: 5 lb 3 oz – 21 inches long
Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)
- Large, deep bodied sunfish with a small mouth
- Sides are dark bluish-green in color with vertical bars throughout their body
- They have a large dark spot at the rear of the soft dorsal fin
- Their belly is deep orange to rust color
- Adults can grow to 16 in. but usually reach 6-11 in.
World Record Bluegill: 4 pounds, 12 ounces (caught on Lake Ketona, Alabama, in 1950)
Learn more about bluegill
- Dark green or brown color with brassy yellow flecks
- 4-5 wide dark saddles over the back and down the sides
- Often called “redeye” or “goggleye” due to its large, deep red eyes
- Has 5 or 6 spines in their anal fin
- Adults can grow to 17 inches but fish exceeding 12 inches are rare
World Record Rock Bass: 3 lbs 10 oz.
Learn more about rock bass
Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)
- Large, robust sunfish with a large mouth
- Blue irregular stripes of color on the sides of their head
- Large black spot at the rear of their soft dorsal fin
- Adults can grow to 12 in. but usually reach 8-10 in.
World Record Green Sunfish: 2 pounds, 2 ounces (caught on Stockton Lake, Missouri in 1971)
Learn more about green sunfish
Redear Sunfish (Lepomis microlophus)
- Large, deep bodied sunfish with a small mouth with long, pointed snout and small mouth
- Adult males have a red margin on the gill cover flap while females have a light orange flap
- Adults can grow to 15 in. but usually reach 8-11 in.
World Record Redear Sunfish: 6.3 Pounds on Lake Havasu, Arizona in 2021)
Learn more about redear sunfish
Longear Sunfish (Lepomis megalotis)
- Small sunfish with a deep body and small mouth
- Bright red-orange color with iridescent blue spots on their back and sides
- Their belly is mostly red-orange in color
- Has a long gill or “ear” flap, and wavy blue lines on cheek and gill cover
- Adults can grow to 9 in. but are usually less than 6 in.
World Record Orange Spotted Sunfish: 1 pound, 12 oz (caught on Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico in 1985)
Learn more about longear sunfish
Warmouth (Lepomis gulosus)
- Medium-sized, robust sunfish with a large head and mouth
- Dark olive to grey colors with brownish sides and yellow markings
- Dark red-brown lines flowing from the back of their eye
- Adults can grow to 12 in. but most are less than 10 in.
World Record Warmouth: 2 pounds, 7 ounces (caught in Holt, Florida in 1985)
Learn more about warmouth
- White Bass
- Yellow Bass
- Brindled Madtom
- Yellow Bullhead
- Common Carp
- Grass Carp
- Silver Carp
- Bighead Carp
- Grass Pickerel
- Brook Trout
- Brown Trout
- Rainbow Trout
- Cutthroat Trout
- Freshwater Drum
Kentucky Fishing Records
Find Kentucky’s fishing records for over 60 species and how to qualify & submit your catch for the record fish program.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most common fish in Kentucky?
The most common fish in Kentucky are bass, catfish, crappie, and various panfish.
Are there wild trout in Kentucky?
Trout have been introduced to various creeks and streams throughout Kentucky. You can find a list of streams and when they are stocked on Kentucky’s Department of Fish & Wildlife’s site.
Is there snakehead in Kentucky?
Snakehead are not known to be found in Kentucky. They are illegal to possess, sell, or release within the state.
What is the biggest fish caught in Kentucky?
The largest fish ever caught in Kentucky was a blue catfish weighing 106.9 lbs on the Ohio River in 2018.