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Fish Measuring

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New to Fishing? Know Your Sizes

Every fisherman likes to brag about how big their catches are…it’s near legend to do so. But stretch those measurements even just a few centimeters and you could find yourself running afoul of the law on Kentucky Lake.

Nothing ruins a fun afternoon of fishing quite like a citation from the Department of Fish and Wildlife, so here are a few tips to keep your keepers legal and you fishing until bedtime.

Get the Right Gear

According to Rodney Hairgrove, a fishing guide out of Big Bear Resort, a critical piece in your beginner’s tackle box could make a big difference for you in keeping track of your fish measurements.

"It's pretty simple to measure fish, but it’s hard if you don’t have a Golden Rule," he says, referring to a popular measurement tool that he says can be found on most all boats on the lake.

You can pick up a Golden Rule, according to Hairgrove, at any of the tackle stores at the lake area.

"There are others out there, but the Golden Rule is the most accurate and everyone knows them," he says.

Using the Golden Rule

Golden Rule Measuring BoardThere are a couple of tricks that Hairgrove shares for getting the most accurate measurement from your Golden Rule or other measurement device.

  1. Make sure the fish’s mouth is closed and touching the front part of the ruler.
  2. Lay him flat and get that tail across the line however you can, either by squeezing it or fanning it out.

If he crosses that line, toss him in the live well and get ready to catch another one because you’ve got yourself a legal keeper.

Does the fish fall short of the line? If so, Kentucky regulation says that it must be "returned immediately to the waters from which they were taken in the best possible physical condition."

Know your Fish, Know your Sizes

Fish MeasuringTo keep our lake system prosperous and full of great fish, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife mandates both size limits and daily catch limits, which differ for the types of fish you are seeking. In addition, several waterways have size limits and daily catch limits that differ from the statewide regulations for some fish, including Kentucky Lake.

If you are fishing for crappie, a popular catch for Kentucky Lake, know that your keepers must reach 10 inches or longer and you may keep no more than 20 fish in one day. For bass (both largemouth and smallmouth), you’re looking for a fish that’s larger than 15 inches.  For Lake Barkley in Stewart County, Tennessee, the minimum length for smallmouth is 18 inches and you can take 30 crappie.

Before your first cast, make sure that you know both the size limit and daily catch limit for both the fish and the waterway. You can check on our Limits & Regulations page or with the marina or tackle shop where you launch to be sure of local regulations.

Kentucky Lake & Lake Barkley: A Great Place to Find Keepers

If you are new to fishing, don’t be discouraged by size and daily limits.

There’s a good chance you’re going to catch plenty of keepers when you start," Hairgrove says.

"It’s just an awesome lake," he says of Kentucky Lake.


Cedar Waxwing
Photo by Teresa Gemeinhardt

The Cedar Waxwing is a beautiful bird that is common to The Land Between The Lakes region. You're likely to find them near fruiting trees and shrubs.