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Lake Information for Lake Barkley


Lake Barkley, a 58,000-acre artificial lake in Caldwell, Livingston, Lyon, and Trigg counties in Kentucky and extending into Tennessee, was impounded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1966 upon the completion of Barkley Dam. Both the lake and the dam are named for Vice President Alben Barkley, a Kentucky native. The dam impounds the Cumberland River near Grand Rivers, Kentucky, approximately 38 miles (61 km) upstream from where the Cumberland empties into the Ohio River. One mile (1.6 km) above the dam is a canal connecting Lake Barkley with Kentucky Lake, forming one of the greatest freshwater recreational complexes in the country. The lakes run parallel courses for more than 50 miles (80 km), with the Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area located between them.

Lake Barkley is 134 miles (216 km) long with a shoreline measuring 1,004 miles (1,616 km). The lake's level is maintained at different levels throughout the year for flood control purposes. Summer pool, 359 ft (109 m) above sea level, is normally reached by May 1. The water level begins dropping gradually on July 1, and winter pool (354 ft/107 m) is reached by December 1. The spring rise starts April 1. The lake's water surface area varies accordingly from 57,920 acres (234 km²) at summer pool to 45,210 acres (183 km²) at winter pool.

Facilities and Parks: 

There are many boat ramps located in Kentucky.
Click here to go to the Kentucky DNR's list of locations.

Fishing Description: 

High numbers of keeper size (>10 inch) crappie. White crappie are typically associated with structure (either brush piles as they move shallow in the spring or ledges when they move to deeper water for the summer). Black crappie are not as closely associated with structure and can be caught casting jigs along rocky banks in the spring and fall.

High numbers of largemouth bass from 12-20 inches. Fishing should be better than in the past few years. Fish shallow during spring with jigs and plastics. Post spawn fish move to drop offs in the main lake and mouths of the bays. Try fishing Carolina rigs and jigs in deeper water. In fall, bass move into the bays to feed on shad.

Smallmouth bass make up a small portion of the total bass population, but are common in certain habitats. Best opportunity is around rocky shorelines, main lake points and the canal. The late winter and early spring bite has been good in recent years.

The sauger population consists of some harvestable-size (>14 inch) fish. The best fishing is in the fall and winter, especially in the tailwater area and the canal joining Kentucky and Barkley lakes. Sauger can also be caught while fishing for catfish along the main river channel.

Blue catfish have good numbers of 10-20 pounders with the occasional 50-plus pounder. Best fishing is during late spring and summer along deep river channels. Fishing is best when there is more current in the lake.

Channel catfish should be excellent with the best fishing is during May along rocky banks and during summer along the main river channel and adjacent flats. Use similar tactics as you would for blue catfish.

The best fishing for striped bass can be found in the Barkley Dam tailwater. Striped bass will school up during periods of discharge downstream from the generator section of the dam. Look for schools of shad breaking the surface during summer and fall in the reservoir. Use topwater and blade-baits. Fair population in the lake. Mostly caught while fishing ledges for white bass.

Blue Catfish
Channel Catfish
Largemouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass
Striped Bass
White Bass
Optional Information
Surface area: 
Lake Barkley
Lake type: 

Businesses Located Nearby

Bait & Tackle

    Fish Island
  • 3535 Blue Springs Rd - Cadiz, KY
  • (270) 924-5351

Boat Rental

    Skippers Boatique
  • 141 Canton Ln - Cadiz, KY
  • (270) 924-9881
    Gateway Marine & Vacation Rntl
  • 97 Canton Ln - Cadiz, KY
  • (270) 924-9216

Vacation Rental

    Vacation Club Intl
  • 149 Arrowhead Trl - Canton, KY
  • (270) 924-5814

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