Art Lander’s Outdoors: Some of Kentucky’s best fishing of the year begins in February – NKyTribune

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Some of Kentucky’s best fishing of the year begins in February – NKyTribune

The thermometer may say no, but the calendar says yes.

February is the start of some of the best fishing of the year for hawks on Kentucky’s rivers and backwaters.

Water temperatures will be cool, but fishing can be good to excellent, when water conditions are right. Sauger bite easily in water temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Kentucky has six rivers that support quality fisheries (Photo courtesy of KDFWR)

Obviously, don’t go fishing during unusually cold spells accompanied by dangerous wind chills or ice, or high water conditions due to snowmelt or precipitation. Weather is a limiting factor in an angler’s success most years. You have to adopt the mindset that winter fishing can be boom or bust.

February and March are prime times to catch hawks because that’s when they wake up and school before laying eggs. The combination of photoperiod (long days) and warm water temperatures results in intense “runoff” in rivers. Dams stop these migrations and concentrate fish.

By April, the buzzards had dispersed and migrated back downriver. They are dispersed after they emerge, making them difficult to catch in large numbers.

To check water levels in streams, click on the Statewide Streamflow Table link on the USGS Kentucky Current Water Data website.

Life history and distribution in Kentucky

The peregrine falcon (sander canadensis) is a member of the percidae family, which includes the walleye and other perches.

Sauger is a dark, slender fish with distinctive brown, saddle-like markings on its back and sides, a long, spotted dorsal fin, a serrated mouth, and large eyes.

They feed on a variety of invertebrates and small fish depending on the time of year and the size of the drill.

The primary food source for adult hawksbills during the spring is small catfish and freshwater drum, as well as shad.

The young peregrine falcon consumes mostly benthic invertebrates, such as mayfly larvae, and as it grows its diet expands to include small shad and shiny minnows.

(Illustration from KDFWR)

The typical size of a hawk caught from Kentucky waters is about 10 to 16 inches, but adults can reach 30 inches in length, and weigh up to 8 to 9 pounds. However, they are usually less than 20 inches in size, and weigh 2 to 3 pounds.

This Kentucky state record fish weighed 7.44 pounds and was caught from the backwaters of Lake Cumberland on April 28, 1983.

Kentucky has six rivers that support quality fisheries – the Mississippi, Ohio, Kentucky, lower reaches of the Green River, Tennessee and Cumberland.

In my 2023 Fishing Outlook, I stated that the Ohio River fishery, in multiple counties, is an up-and-coming fishery.

Northern Kentucky’s top fishing area is on the Ohio River below Mildale Lock and Dam near Foster, Kentucky in Bracken County. Anglers can fish from the rocky shore or from a metal walkway with a railing.

Statewide, there is a daily creel limit of six perch, with a minimum size of 14 inches, but special regulations apply in some waters.

See the 2023-24 Kentucky Fishing and Boating Guide for details.

The 2024-25 Kentucky Fishing and Boating Guide will be released in March, at the beginning of the new licensing year.

Processing and techniques

Hunters have many baits and production presentations to catch hawks.

Art Lander Jr. is outside editor of the Northern Kentucky Tribune. A native Kentuckian, he graduated from Western Kentucky University and has been a lifelong hunter, fisherman, gardener, and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for the Kentucky Field Outdoors Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide and the Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and a contributing columnist for the Kentucky Field Outdoors Journal.

Vertical jigging is probably the most effective because it is easier to efficiently screen substructure such as humps, rock piles, and deep holes. The Sauger conserves energy by staying out of the current, then lunges out to catch its prey as it swims alongside.

This technique is most effective when fishing from a boat using a foot-controlled electric trolling motor mounted on the bow. Use the trolling motor against the current to keep the boat in a controlled drift so that the line can be kept vertical.

Locate the fish using electronic devices and then place the bait directly in front of their noses. The Sauger usually lies on or near the bottom and looks for prey to ambush. They have good vision and can see green and orange colors better.

Move the lure to the bottom, keeping it in contact with the bottom, while moving the rod tip up and down.

The jigging rhythm, or the rhythm with which the angler moves the jig, is a personal choice. But some days the fish seem to want it a certain way, so anglers have to be consistent and make changes to the rhythm when necessary.

One rhythm that seems to work well is to lift the jig off the bottom about six inches, hold it there for a few seconds, then leave it until it reaches the bottom again. The bite usually comes in a pause, when the bait is suspended above the eye level of the fish.

Lead-head jigs should be stocked with live minnow or curly-tailed plastic grubs, which offer the advantage of being able to catch multiple fish without having to re-bait.

In typical current, a 3/8 or 1/2 ounce jig is usually heavy enough to stay in contact with the bottom, but in deeper water or in heavier current, more weight is needed.

Two of the best jigs on the market for sauger (and walleye) are the Odd’Ball Jig, from Bait Rigs Tackle Company, and the Fire-Ball Jig, from Northland Tackle.

Another option is vertical jigs for blade bait. Blade baits are flat, oval pieces of metal with a slightly thicker head and a weighted bottom.

The fishing line is attached to a clip that is inserted into a hole in the back of the bait. Blade baits have two treble hooks, one located below the head and one below the tail of the bait.

Fireball Jig with Stinger Hook. (Photo courtesy of Northland Tackle)

Some lures have multiple line attachment positions allowing the angler to change the point of drag based on the depth of the water being fished and the level of wiggle desired – the closer to the head, the tighter the wiggle, and the farther back, the wider the wiggle. wobble.

These shad-shaped baits should be fished by first lowering the bait down until it reaches the bottom, then reeling it up about six inches or so. Pull the lure up, with a sharp jerk of the rod, keeping the line tight enough to feel the lure sway back down. Most bites will occur in the fall.

On cloudy days, you can catch fish with gold-colored lures, and on clear days, silver and blue are good color choices.

Three of the most popular blade baits on the market are:

• The Silver Buddy, a local favorite, has been a staple in Kentucky anglers’ fishing boxes for decades.

This is because the “Silver Buddy” was invented by Jack “Buddy” Banks in Flatwoods, Kentucky, in Greenup County, in 1983.

The Silver Buddy was invented by Jack “Buddy” Banks in Flatwoods in 1983 (photo provided)

Often imitated, but never duplicated, the Silver Buddy is available in three finishes, and has improved vibration and movement due to its construction and weight distribution.

Fishing expert Billy Westmoreland, who died in 2002 at age 65, helped popularize the Silver Buddy, using it to catch largemouth bass from Dale Hollow Lake.

• The Vault, designed by Damiki Tackle, features three eyelets for attaching lines, is equipped with Damiki Viper Treble Hooks, and is available in nine colors.

• The Bass Pro Mean Eye offers the most versatility.

Anglers can choose a lure that closely mimics the size of the fish they are pursuing and its prey. The Mean Eye is available in five lengths, weights and 13 color combinations.

Another option for vertical jigging is to rig a floating crankbait on a three-way swivel. Tie the line from the rod and reel to one hole. On a short leader, tie a weight (sinker) at the bottom. Then tie a small floating bait to an 18- to 24-inch leader attached to the third hole for the swivel. The weight helps the angler “feel” the bottom, and the crankbait follows the current, directly in the hawk’s line of sight.

Below navigable river levees, fishing from the bank is a viable option since the peregrine falcon likes to pile into eddies and along current beds below the levees. Diving baits/floating baits, jigs or blade baits are cast from the bank below the lock walls and weirs.

On relatively shallow flatland reservoirs such as Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, hawks can also be taken during the summer months by trolling crankbaits that dive deep across the main lake flats.

A seasonal catch, the hawk is one of the first native game fish species Kentucky hunters go after at the start of the new year. Falcon hunting is a good cure for cabin fever.

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