While Cumberland River is world famous for its fishing, there are tons of activities for everyone that does not necessarily include fishing.
Example A for this year, when the annual Cumberland River free fishing day catfish rodeo was cancelled because of a lack of catfish. In its place came Waterfest: a free event for kids and pets put on by the Cumberland River Compact. It attracted hundreds of families to the event and made for a great event for everyone.
The Cumberland River Compact put on the Waterfest to help raise support for improving water quality in the Cumberland basin. That, and a promotional coupon offered by Hotels.com in the wake of the cancellation led to a spike in attendance from overheated tourists and locals alike.
Organizers say that they were heartened by the attendance this year, and that they hope to put on Waterfest every year, not just on catfish cancellation years.
Tennessean.com “Waterfest Makes a Splash”
Looking for accommodation for your fishing excursion on the Cumberland River? You can save yourself some money by using Booking.com coupon codes. Burkesville in Kentucky is one of the best places to stay in Kentucky for fishing, please note that it is a dry county.
The Cumberland River boasts some excellent fishing of Bass and Trout, and you can also find walleye and sauger. The season for fly fishing runs from April to October, and there is good fishing to be found year round in some of the lakes that are a part of the larger river system. Don’t forget to obtain a proper fishing license for either Kentucky or Tennessee, depending on which part of the river you will be fishing in.
Trout are widley considered by sports fisherman to be some of the wiliest and most difficult to catch fish. You can find both Rainbow and Brown Trout in the Cumberland River, but the Brown Trout are typically bigger. If you are interested in catching some big trout then the area of the river just below Lake Cumberland in Kentucky is your best bet, it’s some of the top trout fishing to be found in the southeastern United States. The state record for a Brown Trout is 21 pounds and for a Rainbow Trout it is 14 pounds and 6 ounces. Lake Cumberland is formed by the Wolf Creek Dam, the cold water that it churns out makes an excellent breeding ground for both species of trout, however when it is running at full capacity to generate electricity it also generates a powerful current that can be dangerous.
The best baits to use are as follows.
With a spinning rod:
- Red, chartreuse, or white in-line spinners
- Salmon eggs
For fly fishing:
- (to catch Rainbow in the summer) Beadhead pheasant nymphs
- (Rainbow) Smaller midge pattersn
- (Browns) Larger olive, brown, or black wooly buggers
- (Browns) Shad-colored streamers
- (Browns) Crayfish patterns
- (Both) Chicago fly
Please note the following restrictions on fishing in the Kentucky area of the river:
- One brown trout over 20 inches may be harvested per day
- All rainbow trout between 15 and 20 inches must be released
- Five rainbow trout under 15 inches may be kept
The Cumberland River has produced some of the biggest Stripers known to man. Typically the better Striper fishing is found in the Tennessee section of the river, though you can find some downstream from the dam in Kentucky, closer to the state border. The Tennessee state record for a stiper is 65 pounds and 6 ounces, that’s a big fish! The river in this area provides an extraordinarily fertile breeding ground for the fish, which is why they get so big. Make sure to bring heavy rods and heavy line, stripers over 40 pounds will not be possible to catch with conventional tackle. At that point your are no longer dealing with a fish, but a wild animal that will take time and patience to reel in. Striper season runs from fall through to mid-March.
A great relaxing way to view the river is to go on a boat cruise. There are a few different tour operators offering a variety of experiences with departure points in both Tennessee and Kentucky.
General Jackson Showboat
Leaving from Nashville, this is an old-style paddle boat that you think of when you picture rivers in the deep south. Most paddle boats these days are floating casinos, but the General Jackson is one of the few non-gaming paddle boats in the world. Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturday they have two shows, one midday and one in the evening, and the rest of the week they just do an evening cruise, except for Sundays when they do a Brunch Jubilee. Sometimes there can be changes in the schedule due to private events or holidays, so please check their calendar before going. You are treated to a meal (please note that alcoholic beverages are not included in the ticket price) and a live country music show, on the Sunday brunch cruise the show changes to gospel music. The cruises are 3 hours long and the show starts after the meal has been served. There is also plenty of deck space and a bar up top for you to enjoy the river scenery. It gets mixed reviews on Trip Advisor, most people agree that the show is excellent and the food is just okay, so if you are not really interested in country music and are just looking to go out for dinner there are plenty of restaurants in downtown Nashville that would probably suit you better.
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Cumberland River Cruises
This pontoon boat tour is based out of Lebanon, TN which is less than an hour from Nashville by car. You’ll be touring the Cumberland River and Old Hickory Lake with your guide Captain Jesse who has quite the sense of humour and a great knowledge of the area. You can choose to focus on the nature and history of the area during your cruise, or he can show you the homes of celebrities who call or called the area home. Captain Jesse’s prices are quite reasonable, no meals are included but water and soft drinks will be available. There is also a bathroom on board the boat. As Captain Jesse says, travel by boat is much safer than going by cars, which always sink when you take them out on the water! The tour is described as relaxing and fun and is very well reviewed.
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Blue Heron Cruises
Similar to the above Cumberland River Cruise, this tour leaves from Ashland, TN approximately 30 minutes from downtown Nashville. Also a pontoon boat (equipped with restroom) you can enjoy an informative 3 hour tour of the river. You are welcome to bring a cooler of your own food and drink provided that it can fit under the seats (aisles must be kept clear for safety), and bottled water is provided free of charge. It’s a great activity for people of all ages and a really fun way to enjoy a day on the river with your family or travelling group!
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Cumberland Star Riverboat Cruises
This tour leaves from near Corbin, Kentucky, in the Daniel Boone National Forest, meeting up at the Laurel Boat Ramp which is located where the Laurel River meets the Cumberland River. They offer lunch cruises which serve a buffet style lunch, you can sit up top on the sun deck or in the shaded area down below. The cruise heads uprive, and picks up rafters from one of the tour grops other excursions. There is no charge for children 5 and under, and there is 10% discount for adults aged 65 and up on weekdays. The boat is also available for breakfast, lunch and dinner chartered cruises.
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The biggest city that you will find along the banks of the Cumberland River is Nashville, TN. Famous for it’s country music scene, it has been voted one of the top riverside cities in America. There is always a lot to see and do in Nashville, but here are some activities and places to see specific to the Cumberland River.
This is a park, but also a venue for concerts. During the Country Music Awards week and on Thursdays during the summertime you can catch some great shows right along the river banks. It’s also a great place to have parties and games, or pick up some food from a local restaurant have a picnic on the banks. The Riverfront Park also has an ice skating rink and a popular carousel. It’s very close to the busy downtown area and all of it’s attractions and shopping.
There is a new park area being planned that would be 10 times the size of the existing park and include boardwalks, overlooks, fountains, spraygrounds, wetlands, piers, performance spaces, increased bikeways, plazas, new docking facilities, and open play space.
Cumberland River Pedestrian Bridge
Visible from the Briley Parkway, this is the other pedestrian bridge that goes over the Cumberland River (the other one being near the downtown area). It can be a little bit tough to find, you need to take the water park exit off of the Briley Parkway, park at Two Rivers Park over by the skate park, and then take the path under the parkway. If you are walking please use caution as there are also lots of bike riders and according to reviews they are usually going through pretty quickly. There are great views of the river from the bridge, and you can continue on to the Shelby Bottoms Greenway. The nearby playground at Two River Park is great for the kids as well.