Fishing Dale Hollow Lake

In 1955, David Hayes caught the world record smallmouth at Dale Hollow Lake. At just over 11 pounds, this record stands today. While other world record waters get over-fished into ruination, Dale Hollow Lake continues to produce large, healthy, fish thanks to modest participation and a healthy ecosystem.
You will rarely see a fly angler on Dale Hollow, nor will you see many conventional anglers either. Armed with a sturdy 8-weight and a box of poppers and streamers, a fly rodder can tap into some of the south’s finest fishing without racing other anglers.
Straddling the Tennessee and Kentucky border, Dale Hollow is the lake that everybody knows about, but few make the trip. Its remote setting in the upper Cumberland Mountains make it a wonderful retreat for those looking for peace and solitude.
When we say remote, we mean “sort of remote”. The nearest town on the Kentucky side, Burkesville, has a population of 1,500. At 3 hours away from Louisville, the lake is a great place to enjoy a multi-day fishing adventure. Smallmouth are definitely the main draw. You can target them by casting poppers and sliders (like a Sneaky Pete) to shallow undercut banks, fallen logs, and other structures. If fishing in the middle of the day or in cooler weather, throw weighted streamers like a cone head wooly bugger or a clouser minnow in white or chartreuse.
Besides smallmouth, Dale Hollow is also known for other species, including crappie, largemouth bass, spotted bass, bluegill, elusive muskie, and even brown trout! While the lake doesn’t support a reproducing population, wildlife officials from Kentucky and Tennessee stock it with browns that live for several years and grow to significant sizes.
If you decide to spend a long weekend here, Dale Hollow is almost completely surrounded by public land, offering ample opportunities for camping and canoe/kayak touring around secluded coves.
If you like getting off the beaten path and catching large fish, you’ll love everything that Dale Hollow has to offer. While catching monster fish is always the goal, the population of fish means you’ll likely catch a lot, providing hours or days of fishing fun.
For kayakers, canoers, or paddle boarders, this quiet, low traffic lake is a dream to explore with your fly rod close at hand. Though finding fish can be intimidating in a large lake, beginners will feel just fine at Dale Hollow as long as you’re willing to cover a lot of shoreline and fish until you get a strike. If you find one, you’ve likely found a lot of fish hiding around the same spot.
There is no one place on Dale Hollow that is the best place to start, but look for a public boat ramp with access to the main channel. Coordinates for a great public put-in are listed above.
You may either possess a Kentucky or Tennessee fishing license for Dale Hollow.
Catch and Release is always the sporting thing to do, but if you want to harvest a fish from one of the cleanest lakes in the South, remember that smallmouth between 15 and 21 inches long must be thrown back to ensure trophy-sized fish for other anglers.
Written by Charlie Morgan for RootsRated in partnership with Kentucky Tourism.

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