Art Lander’s Outdoors: Lincoln County’s Cedar Creek Lake is Kentucky’s destination for trophy bass
This is the twelfth article in an ongoing series about Kentucky’s major reservoirs.
Cedar Creek Lake, five miles southeast of Stanford in Lincoln County, has the unique distinction of being Kentucky’s only lake managed for trophy largemouth bass since its impoundment.
Through the years, a restrictive minimum size limit and daily creel limit, have created a largemouth bass fishery that is arguably one of the best in southeastern Kentucky, rivaling many large reservoirs in the region.
The main access highway is US 150.
The 792-acre lake, which is 60 feet deep at the dam with an average depth of 22 feet, was impounded from Cedar Creek, a tributary to the Dix River. On September 4, 2002 the valve was closed and water began backing up behind the dam.
The $11.6 million capital construction project, the largest in the history of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR), created a showplace lake, built especially for fishing.
There was extensive fish habitat work in the lake bed prior to impoundment.
This included stakes beds, fish attractors made from brush piles, hardwood pallets, rock reefs, and spawning beds for sunfish, made from sheets of plastic-coated fabric covered in gravel.
Additionally, clay tiles were used to build artificial spawning structures for catfish that mimic the crevices, undercut banks and cavities where catfish nest. Very little timber in the upper half of the lake bed was cut, only boat lanes to provide access for anglers.
Managing Fishery Biologist
Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Southeastern Fishery District, Marcy Anderson, District Biologist, 135 Realty Lane, Somerset, KY 42501, telephone 606-677-4096.
There is no marina.
Boat Launching Ramps
There are three boat launching ramps.
The Lower Lake boat ramp is on the east side of the lake, near the dam, on Charlie Boone Road, off new US 150.
The Middle Lake boat ramp is on the west side of the lake. Driving from Stanford on new US 150 turn right on Cedar Ridge Road, then left on Ky 3177, to where old US 150 ends at the lake.
The Upper Lake boat ramp is on the west side of the lake, on Cowan Road, off of Ky 1770.
There is no fee to launch at any of the ramps.
Additionally, there are two carry down sites where anglers can hand-carry fishing kayaks, canoes or other small watercraft from their vehicle to the water. There is no fee to launch and trailered boats may not be launched at these two sites.
One carry down site is on the east side of the lake, off new US 150, reached via Ky 1369 and Ky 3178.
The other carry down site on the east side of the upper lake off Ky 1770.
Local Tourism information
Stanford-Lincoln County Tourism, 201 East Main Street, Suite 8, Stanford, KY 404841, telephone 606-365-4547.
Cedar Creek Lake is a mesotrophic lake of moderate productivity.
The lake supports largemouth bass, two species of sunfish, two species of crappie, and two species of catfish.
Gizzard shad, which were present in Cedar Creek prior to impoundment, are the main forage fish.
The largemouth bass fishery is rated good, with a good density of fish over 15 inches.
Through the years the populations has fluctuated somewhat, but in recent years there have been several strong year classes that have bolstered the catch rates of bigger fish.
There are good numbers of quality bass in the upper lake near the Ky 1770 bridge.
The crappie fishery is rated good. The population is stable with good numbers of fish in the 9-to-11 inch range, but bigger fish are possible. Both white and black crappie are present in the lake. Successful anglers fish jigs and minnows around structure up in the creeks in the fall.
The bluegill fishery is rated good, with a high density of fish less than 6 inches, but some fish up to 8 inches are present.
The redear sunfish fishery is rated good, with an expanding population of moderate density, with good numbers of 6-to-8-inch fish, with some fish over 10 inches present. Successful anglers fish meal worms around vegetation.
The channel catfish fishery is rated fair. There are decent numbers of 12-to-15-inch fish with some fish up to 20 inches present. The population is bolstered by a stocking program on even-numbered years.
There is a small population of flathead catfish.
Minimum Size Limits and Daily Creel Limits
Largemouth Bass, a 20-inch minimum size limit, with a 1-fish daily creel limit.
Catfish, a 12 inch minimum size limit for all species.
Tailwater Fishing Opportunities
The tailwaters is small and the land along Cedar Creek below the dam is not in public ownership.
Invasive Plants and Animals
There are no non-native, invasive plants or animals in the Cedar Creek Lake, but there is a considerable amount of rooted aquatic vegetation in shallow coves.
This includes coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum) and chara, a filamentous algae of several species, commonly called muskgrass.
Additionally, cattails, a tall, reedy marsh plant, grow along many banks of the lake.
Stake beds, brush piles, rock reefs and gravel beds were placed in the lake prior to impoundment.
In recent years, some piles of Christmas trees have been periodically sunk in the lake. There are about 11 locations throughout the lake where fish attractors have been concentrated.
Bank Access and Fishing Piers
There is good bank access along Charlie Boone Road, just up the lake from the Lower Lake boat ramp, off new US 150.
A fishing pier is located at the head of the lake, at the Ky 1770 bridge.
Any angler who enjoys catch and release fishing for quality largemouth bass, and a good chance for a trophy bass, should make a trip to Cedar Creek Lake this spring. It’s well worth the drive.