Minimum size limits for smallmouth bass changed in Cumberland River, others

Anglers are reminded to check the 2023-24 Kentucky Fishing and Boating Guide before wetting a line this season.​​

A new 15-inch minimum size limit for smallmouth bass in the upper reaches of the Cumberland, Barren, and Kentucky rivers is reflected in the guide.​​

​​Anglers are responsible for consulting the guide — an annual publication that explains the latest regulations — prior to fishing. Printed copies are available wherever fishing licenses are sold. Fishing regulations and digital copies of the guide are also available online at Those with questions about Kentucky’s fishing or hunting regulations can call the Information Center of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources at 1-800-858-1549, or email them at

​​The 15-inch minimum size limit to keep smallmouth bass now applies to the following waters:

Cumberland River: The river and its tributaries upstream from Cumberland Falls.

Barren River: The river and its tributaries upstream from the former site of Lock and Dam 1 at Greencastle, including Barren River Lake.

Kentucky River: The river and its tributaries upstream of Lock and Dam 14; this includes the North, Middle and South Forks of the Kentucky River, and Carr Fork below Carr Creek Lake.

Dave Dreves, Fisheries Division director for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, said the new regulations should improve fishing.​​

​​“These new regulations are based on research from our Stream Investigations Branch,” he said. “They used scientific computer modeling to predict the conditions of smallmouth bass populations using different regulations; those different simulations indicated that a 15-inch minimum size limit would help the smallmouth bass population in these streams.”

Dreves also said many anglers have requested more protection for younger age-classes of smallmouth bass in these streams, and some have contacted members of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission about their concerns. Commission members agreed to change the regulations, which later received final legislative approval. ​​

“You should check the ‘New This Year’ section and any new regulations highlighted in blue text in the Kentucky Fishing and Boating Guide each year,” Dreves said. “It is smart for anglers to check the regulations guide each year for any regulation changes to their favorite waters or any new waters they plan to fish.”​​

Dreves said the Fisheries Division plans to monitor the smallmouth bass populations in the upper Barren River, the upper reaches of the Kentucky River system and in the Cumberland River above Cumberland Falls in the coming years to gauge the success of these new regulations.​​​