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Art Lander’s Outdoors: Kentucky’s newest major reservoir, Yatesville Lake offers excellent fishing

Editor’s note: This is the third article in a series about Kentucky’s major reservoirs.

Yatesville Lake (Photo from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

Yatesville Lake is Kentucky’s newest major reservoir.

Located 5 miles west of Louisa in Lawrence County, the backdrop is piney, forested hills.

Impounded from Blaine Creek, which flows into the Big Sandy River about 25 miles upriver from Ashland, Yatesville Lake is within an easy drive of southern Ohio and the large urban area in nearby West Virginia. The main access highways are U.S. 23, Ky. 32, and Ky. 3.


The 2,242-acre lake first reached summer pool (elevation 630) in the spring of 1992. The drawdown to winter pool (elevation 624.8) reduces the surface acreage to 1,745.

Yatesville Lake has 93.9 miles of shoreline and a maximum depth of 60 feet. The 20.6-mile lake’s average depth is 17.7 feet. There are three islands. One island is just above the dam, the second is at the mouth of Twin Branch, and the third is at the former site of Carter Bridge.

Lots of timber was left standing in the lake bed, below elevation 633. Other lake structure includes two bridges in the lake bed that were demolished by soldiers from the Kentucky National Guard — the 140-foot single-lane DeLong Bridge on Ky. 1185 and Wellman Bridge on Ky. 32.

Yatesville Lake State Park (Click for larger image)(Map from Kentucky State Parks)

State Park

Yatesville Lake State Park, 580 acres, is located on a peninsula on the east side of the lake.

Facilities include a campground, golf course, hiking trails and picnic area.

The campground, built in 1999, has 47 campsites and one bathhouse. There are 16 boat-in campsites for primitive camping along the lakeshore.

For information call 606-673-1492.

Lake Manager’s Office

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Resource Manager’s Office, Yatesville Lake, Ky.1165, Louisa, KY 41230, telephone 606-686-2412. The daily lake information line is 606-686-3161.

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.


Yatesville Marina is open year-round, with seasonal hours. The marina is 5 miles west of Louisa, off Ky. 1185. For information telephone 606-686-2361.

Boat Launching Ramps

There are four boat launching ramps, and no fee is charged to launch at any of these ramps.

Barker’s Run boat ramp, adjacent to marina and in Yatesville Lake State Park, is near the dam, 5 miles west of Louisa, off Ky. 1185. Rich Creek boat ramp is in the upper lake, 10 miles west of Louisa, off Ky. 32. Pleasant Ridge boat ramp is 8 miles west of Louisa, off Ky. 32. Twin Branch is 10 miles southwest of Fallsburg, off Ky. 828.

Yatesville Lake Campground (Photo from Kentucky State Parks)

Local Tourism Information

Lawrence County Tourism Commission, PO Box 267, 315 East Madison Street, Louisa, Kentucky 41230, telephone 606-638-0078 or 606-638-4102.


Yatesville Lake is a eutrophic lake, of high productivity.

The lake supports fair to excellent populations of sunfish (redear sunfish and bluegill) good to excellent populations of catfish (flathead catfish and channel catfish), and good populations of largemouth bass and crappie.

Yatesville Lake has classic structure, miles of submerged roadbeds, embayments filled with flooded willows and hardwoods, broad flats, and long, sloping points.

The main lake tends to muddy up in the spring after heavy rains, but there are scattered patches of aquatic vegetation in some of the wooded coves fed by clear streams.

Unlike most major reservoirs in Kentucky, Yatesville Lake was built with fishing as the major consideration. After grading of the lake bed was finished, numerous fish attractors were built, including large piles of trees, cabled down to tree stumps, and marked with buoys. In many coves, timber was left standing.

Near the Barker’s Run boat ramp there is a paved fishing jetty with dusk-to-dawn lighting. It has metal handrails and is handicapped accessible. It’s about 25 feet deep off both sides the jetty, with riprap humps that come up to about 10 feet below the surface.


Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for KyForward. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.

Yatesville Lake supports bluegill and redear sunfish.

The lake arguably offers eastern Kentucky’s best bluegill fishing. Rich farmland was covered by water when the reservoir was built, and the combination of high nutrient levels in the soil, good cover (standing timber and flooded bushes in coves), a big catfish population, and the lack of gizzard shad in the early years after impoundment helped produce an outstanding bluegill fishery throughout the lake.

The bluegill fishery is rated excellent, with big numbers and a good size distribution throughout the lake. Quality fish from 7 to 8 1/2 inches are taken by anglers.

After the lake filled there was a supplemental stocking of bluegill in 1991-92 of about 340,000 1- to 1 1/2-inch fingerlings.

The best fishing is in the upper lake. Little Blaine and Rich Creeks are top areas for bluegill. Both embayments have lots of shoreline wood cover and fish attractors.

The best fishing is in May and June. Fish live crickets, red worms, and wax worms on poles or ultralight spinning tackle in the brushy shallows, or try foam spiders on a fly rod.

The redear sunfish (shellcracker) fishery is rated fair, with some larger fish up to 11 inches being taken.

After the lake filled there was a supplemental stockings of shellcrackers in 1992 of about 241,000 1- to 1 1/2-inch fingerlings.

The population is expanding due to increased growth of rooted aquatic vegetation in the lake.

Fish on the bottom with red worms, wax worms, or crickets in shallow embayments of the upper lake near weed beds, and submerged rocky roadbeds.


Both channel catfish and flathead catfish are present in Yatesville Lake.

The channel catfish fishery is rated excellent good, with a quality size distribution throughout the lake.

The population is supplemented by periodic stockings.

Fish the main channel flats with live nightcrawlers or prepared baits in the evenings and at night during the summer. During the fall and early winter many fish are shallow in the upper lake.

The flathead catfish fishery is rated good, with increasing size distribution and numbers.

Fish rocky shorelines and brush with small, live bluegills.

Largemouth Bass

Yatesville Lake Largemouth Bass (Photo courtesy of Tyler Waller)

The largemouth bass fishery is rated good, with good numbers and size distribution of 15- to 22-inch fish.

Since there are lots of submerged habitat structures (fish attractors) in the lake, soft plastic baits (worms, lizards and flukes) are a proven bass producer.

View a map of fish attractors in Yatesville Lake

Largemouth bass stocked early on gave the fishery a jump start.

In March 1991, while the lake was about 10 feet below summer pool, 14,285 7- to 11-inch largemouth bass were placed in the lake. Later, in August, 171,000 2-inch bass and 8,200 4-inch bass were also stocked.

So soon after the lake filled there were at least three-year classes of sub-adult bass, and adult fish from Blaine Creek that were up to 17 inches long. This gave the lake a tremendous boost in reproductive potential.

There’s a 15-inch minimum size limit on largemouth bass.


The white crappie fishery is rated good, with larger fish in the 10-to-13-inch size range.

Fish brushy areas and deadfalls in the spring and shallow mudflats during the fall drawdown to winter pool. Small jigs and live minnows are top lure choices.

Tailwater Fishing Opportunities

The tailwaters facilities include a carry down ramp for launching canoes and kayaks, and a concrete walkway with railings and steps, to access the banks.

Blaine Creek is rich in warm-water fish. There were 51 species sampled in pre-impoundment surveys, including populations of crappie, spotted bass, smallmouth bass, and rock bass.

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