Fish census schools local anglers on where they’re hiding

Local anglers perform fish census

TAYLORSVILLE, KY (WAVE) - One out of every three Kentucky residents actively engages in fishing.

What are the prospects for a good day on the water?

Many people think they have to drive far away from Louisville to a place deep in the woods to catch fish. After all, Kentucky has more miles of running water than any other state except Alaska. But you might be surprised at what’s happening closer to home.

Taylorsville Lake in the summertime is the Spaghetti Junction of boat traffic -- the last place you envision schools of game fish.

Taylorsville Lake in the fall is a little different. But the boat landing was packed on a cold weekday recently when we hopped on board with Kentucky Fish & Wildlife.

"We do have a lot of pressure here,” Kentucky Fish & Wildlife program coordinator Jeff Crosby said. “We’re right smack dab in the middle of Lexington and Louisville.”

Along came some census workers from Kentucky Fish & Wildlife trying to count how many crappie are in this lake.

"Some of our problem is we’ve had a couple years of poor reproduction,” Crosby said.

How do they do a fish census? With a long, elaborate net contraption. Twelve of them. Left overnight.

"It’s on points where fish will make their migration across,” Crosby said.

They hauled one up right next to fishermen who don’t appear to be doing really well, because no one was reeling. What they came up with was like something out of the Sea of Galilee.

"Right now we have a lot of nine- to 13-inch fish pretty common,” Kentucky Fish & Wildlife fisheries biologist Dave Baker said. I reached in the net of flopping crappie and grabbed a slab.

"Look at that baby,” I said. “That's a serious crappie right there."

While I was focused on the big ones, they were focused on the little ones.

“This is the other thing really important we’re looking for,” Baker said, holding up a fingerling. “This is this year’s spawned crappie. We want to see these because they tell us the future is positive and there’s fish that’ll be coming on.”

They moved on to another net and hauled up a bounty of big crappie.

“We get good fish growth,” Crosby said. “They live fast, die young.”

“I fished this lake for years and never knew there were crappie like this in here,” I said to Baker.

“Believe it or not, this is actually a pretty common fish here,” he said.

The biggest challenge Taylorsville Lake faces: it’s actually too fertile. That’s a problem a lot of lakes would love to have.

“The water quality has improved a lot as the lake has aged,” Crosby said. “It’s a lot better than it used to be.”

The best news is: they were all released. And they have to bite some time.

Though I know I’d catch more fish if I had a netting gizmo like theirs.

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