Art Lander’s Outdoors: Pike County’s Fishtrap Lake offers surprising potential and quality fishing
Fishtrap Lake is 147 miles southeast of Lexington in Pike County. The dam is about 15 miles southeast of Pikeville, off Ky. 1789.
The lake was impounded from the Levisa Fork, a tributary to the Big Sandy River. Construction on the 195-foot-high dam, the highest in eastern Kentucky, began in 1962. The 16.5-mile-long lake opened in 1968.
Summer pool is elevation is 757 feet, and there is a 32-foot drawdown to winter pool, elevation 725. At summer pool the lake is 1,131 surface acres, has 40 miles of shoreline and is 84 feet deep just above the dam.
Lake Manager’s Office
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fishtrap Lake, 2204 Fishtrap Road, Shelbiana, KY 41562, telephone (606) 437-7496.
Managing Fishery Biologist
Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Eastern Fishery District, Kevin Frey, District Biologist, 2744 Lake Road, Prestonsburg, KY 41653, telephone (606) 889-1705.
There is one marina.
The Appalachian Marina, now under construction, is about 15 miles southeast of Pikeville, off Ky. 1789. The address is 3123 Fishtrap Road, Pikeville, KY 41501.
Boat Launching Ramps
There are three boat launching ramps on the lake.
Anglers are reminded that it may not be possible to launch at all the boat ramps when the lake is being drawn down to winter pool, or is at winter pool. Call the lake manager’s office for details.
There is a $5 fee to launch a boat at the ramp just above the dam in the Upper Pompey Branch, and at the Grapevine Creek boat ramp, mid-lake, off Ky. 194. A $40 annual pass is available.
There is no fee to launch at the Lick Creek boat ramp in the upper lake, off U.S. 460.
Local Tourism Information
Pikeville/Pike County Tourism Commission, 831 Hambley Blvd., Pikeville, KY 41501, telephone (606) 432-5063.
Fishtrap Lake is a mesotrophic lake of moderate productivity.
This steep-sided, highland reservoir has surprising potential, producing quality fish. Cover includes deadfalls, stump beds, rocky ledges and gravel banks.
The severe drawdown to winter pool of 32 feet makes boat launching difficult for anglers at times but it does have some benefits to the lake’s diverse fisheries. It puts predators and prey in close proximity at winter pool, which results in thinning the numbers of smaller fish, resulting in improved growth rates.
Gizzard shad are the main forage fish in the lake.
The lake supports a whopping eleven game fish species, including: three species of catfish, two species of sunfish, two species of black bass, two species of temperate bass, crappie and walleye.
Hybrid Striped Bass
The hybrid striped bass fishery is rated excellent, with a good distribution of fish up to 27 inches long (weighing about 10 pounds).
Hybrids were first introduced into the lake in 1990.
There is a spawning run in the lake headwaters in April. Most anglers fish in the lower lake during the winter and summer.
The white bass fishery is rated excellent, with numerous fish in the 12 to 16-inch size range.
In the spring, fish in the upper lake near the Lick Creek boat ramp, and mid-lake near the Grapevine Creek boat ramp in the summer.
The crappie fishery is rated good, with good numbers of 9 to 12-inch fish, with larger fish up to 14 inches possible.
The largemouth bass fishery is rated good, with good growth rates and a wide size range available.
The smallmouth bass fishery is rated fair, with good year classes in 2017 and 2018.
The Levisa Fork, upstream and downstream of the lake, produces quality fish up to 22 inches.
The bluegill fishery is rated excellent, with excellent numbers of fish in the 8-to-10 inch range, and some larger fish up to 12 inches possible. May and June are the most popular months with anglers, when the fish are in the shallows spawning.
This redear sunfish fishery is rated fair. Initial stockings were from 2010 through 2013. The larger fish are about 10 to 12 inches now.
The blue catfish fishery is rated good, with 32 to 34-inch fish present in the lake. This species was first stocked in 2011. Fish the lower lake in winter and summer with live shad or large shiners. Jug fishing is popular in the summer.
The channel catfish fishery is rated excellent, with a good size distribution and numerous 2 to 5-pound fish.
The flathead catfish fishery is rated excellent, with numerous large fish in the lake and Levisa Fork headwaters.
Rocky ledges and banks offer excellent tickling/noodling opportunities during the spawn.
The walleye fishery is rated poor to fair. Efforts are on going since 2010 to establish a population of native, river-strain walleye above the lake in the Levisa Fork. The best fishing is in the spring, in the lake headwaters and river above the lake.
Minimum Size Limits and Daily Creel Limits
Largemouth and smallmouth bass, a 15-inch minimum size limit. Crappie, a 9-inch minimum size limit. Catfish, 15-fish daily creel limit, only 1 fish in the daily creel limit may be longer than 25 inches. Walleye, 2-fish daily creel limit with a 18 to 26-inch protective slot limit. All walleye measuring from 18 to 26 inches long must be immediately released
Tailwater Fishing Opportunities
Rainbow trout are stocked in the tailwaters in April, May and June, and in the fall in October and November. The total stocked annually is about 10,000.
Invasive Plants and Animals
Zebra mussels are present in Fishtrap Lake. Anglers are asked to take measures to prevent the spread of this non-native, invasive species by properly inspecting and disinfecting boats, motors, trailers and fishing equipment.
Brush reefs and piles of Christmas trees have been placed in three locations in the lake, in and around Jonican Branch and Miller’s Creek.
There are 11 species of fish in Fishtrap Lake. Don’t overlook this mountain reservoir.