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Art Lander’s Outdoors: One of Ky’s oldest reservoirs, Dale Hollow offers good fishing, exceptional scenery

Construction on Dale Hollow Lake began in 1942, and was completed after WWII. (Photo from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

Dale Hollow Lake is one of Kentucky’s oldest major reservoirs.

Construction began in 1942 but the project was not fully functional until after World War II, built at a cost of $52.3 million.

Straddling the Kentucky-Tennessee border, in Cumberland and Clinton counties in Kentucky and Clay, Overton, Pickett and Fentress counties in Tennessee, most of the 61-mile-long lake is in Tennessee. There are 620 miles of shoreline.

A reservoir of outstanding beauty, rolling hills, clothed in mature timber, surround the lake. Beech, oak, maple, and evergreen trees grow right to the water’s edge in secluded coves. Rugged cliffs tower over windswept points.

Wildlife is abundant. When you fish at Dale Hollow Lake during the cold weather months you share the water with migrating bald eagles.

To access the Kentucky portion of the lake drive south on Ky. 61 from Burkesville, or Ky. 553 or Ky. 738 from Albany. Sulphur Creek, Illwill Creek, Fanny’s Creek, and Wolf River are the major embayments of the lake in Kentucky.


Impounded from the Obey River, 7.3 miles above its juncture with the Cumberland River, Dale Hollow Lake is 130 feet deep just above the dam and 27,700 acres at summer pool (elevation 651). The winter drawdown reduces the lake to 21,880 acres at elevation 631.

Dale Hollow Lake Resort Park encompasses 3,400 acres (Photo from Kentucky State Parks)

At the summer pool, about 4,819 surface acres (17.4 percent) of Dale Hollow Lake is in Kentucky — 2,049 acres in Cumberland County and 2,770 acres in Clinton County.

State Park

Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park is on the Frogue Peninsula, on the north shore of the lake, reached via Ky. 61, Ky. 449 and Ky. 1206, from Burkesville. Established in 1978, the park encompasses 3,400 acres.

Facilities include a 60-room lodge, restaurant and bar, cabins, a campground with 145 campsites for tent and RV, 15 miles of trails, and an 18-hole golf course.

Facilities have seasonal operational days and hours. For information telephone 270-433-7431.

Lake Manager’s Office

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Dale Hollow Lake, Resource Manager’s Office, 540 Dale Hollow Dam Road, Celina, TN 38551, telephone 931-243-3136.

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.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Mike Jolley, 464 Industrial Blvd., Crossville, TN 38555, telephone 931-484-9571.

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.


There are five marinas on the Kentucky portion of the lake.

Hendrick’s Creek Resort, open with seasonal days and hours of operation, is 15 miles south of Burkesville, off Ky. 61. The address and telephone number are 945 Hendrick’s Creek Road, Burkesville, KY 42717, 270-433-7172.

Sulphur Creek Resort, open with seasonal days and hours of operation, is 5 miles south of Kettle, off Ky. 485. The address and telephone number are 3622 Sulphur Creek Road, Burkesville, KY 42717, 270-433-7272.

Wisdom Dock, open with seasonal days and hours of operation, is 8 miles southeast of Albany, off Ky. 553. The address and telephone number are 7613 Wisdom Dock Road, Albany, KY 42602, 606-387-5821.

Wolf River Resort, open with seasonal days and hours of operation, is 12 miles southeast of Albany, off Ky. 738. The address and telephone number are 6703 Wolf River Dock Road, Albany, KY 42602, (606) 387-5841.

Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park Marina, open with seasonal days and hours of operation, is 12 miles south of Burkesville, off Ky. 1206. The address and telephone number are 1226 Marine Road, Burkesville, KY 42717, 270-433-6600.

Boat Launching Ramps

All the marinas on the Kentucky portion of the lake have boat launching ramps.

A fee may be charged to launch, and the price is subject to change without notice. The best advice is to telephone the marina for current launch fee information.

Local Tourism Information

Clinton County Tourist Commission, 28 Welcome Center Drive, Albany, KY 42602, telephone 606-387-2051.


Dale Hollow Lake is a mesotrophic lake of moderate productivity.

Dale Hollow is known for smallmouth bass fishing. (Photo by Art Lander Jr.)

The cool, clear, highly oxygenated waters support quality fish populations, including three species of black bass, walleye, trout, crappie, muskellunge, and sunfish.

Forage includes alewives, threadfin, and gizzard shad.

Fishery biologists from both Kentucky and Tennessee state agencies jointly manage the fisheries. A reciprocal license agreement exists between the two states, which means either state’s fishing license will be honored in both Kentucky and Tennessee waters.

The four fish species surveyed by KDFWR biologists on the Kentucky portion of the lake are:

Smallmouth Bass

Dale Hollow Lake is famous for its remarkable smallmouth bass fishery, which yielded the current all-tackle world record and Kentucky state record, a giant “brown fish.” The 11-pound, 15-ounce smallmouth was caught 65 years ago by the late David L. Hayes, while trolling a Bomber crankbait on July 9, 1955.

David L. Hayes with his record smallmouth bass caught at Dale Hollow Lake in 1955 (Photo from KDFWR)

Through the years the smallmouth fishery has had its ups and downs and today is rated good, with good numbers of fish over 3 pounds.

Jigs and soft plastics are top lure choices. Lots of smallmouth bass are also taken in the spring by drifting live bait when the fish are on shallow flats, and the float-n-fly technique during the winter month when smallmouth suspend off deep channel banks.

Largemouth Bass

The largemouth bass fishery is rated excellent, with high numbers of fish over 15 inches. The best fishing is in the spring in shallow coves.

Spotted (Kentucky) Bass

The spotted bass fishery is rated fair, with a low-density population of fish up to 13 inches.


The walleye fishery is rated good, with good numbers and many fish over 20 inches.

During the summer and into the fall spinner rigs baited with live nightcrawlers are a top lure choice. Fish 2 to 3-ounce bottom bouncers, rigged with bead and blade color combinations including red, green and yellow, red and yellow, and yellow, and chartreuse.

Number 3 blades seem to catch more fish than any other size, but larger blades (No. 4 or No. 5) work better on days when walleye are more aggressive. Trolling speed is critical.

The cool weather months are a good time to fish Dale Hollow Lake. Ideal fishing conditions are stable water levels, overcast skies and light winds.

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