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Art Lander’s Outdoors: Built nearly a century ago, Herrington Lake is Kentucky’s oldest major reservoir

Herrington Lake is about 25 miles south of Lexington and forms the boundary between Mercer, Garrard, and Boyle counties.

The lake was impounded from the Dix River, a tributary to the Kentucky River. The dam is about three miles above the confluence of the Dix River and Kentucky River at High Bridge.

Herrington Lake (Image from Google Maps)

Herrington Lake is open to the public for recreation but is owned by Kentucky Utilities Company (KU), who built the lake for the generation of hydroelectric power. KU owns the shoreline to elevation 760.

Anglers can telephone 859-748-4685 to hear a daily recorded message of the current lake level.

Built nearly a century ago, the lake reached a seasonal pool for the first time in the spring of 1925. Very little timber was cut from the lake bed and when the gates of Dix Dam were closed, an immense, forested valley was flooded.

The main access highways are U.S. 27, Ky. 33, and Ky. 152.


Summer pool elevation varies from 735 to 740, so the lake ranges in size from 2,410 to 2,580 surface acres. Herrington Lake is 35 miles long with 92 miles of shoreline.

The winter drawdown reduces the lake to about 2,250 acres at elevation 725.

One of the deepest reservoirs in Kentucky, Herrington Lake has an average depth of 78 feet and is 249 feet deep above the dam. The lower lake has a rugged shoreline, with steep rock walls and long, sloping bedrock points.

There are two islands mid-lake, Dunn and Gwinn.

Managing Fishery Biologist

Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Central Fishery District, Jeff Crosby, District Biologist, 1 Sportsman’s Lane, Frankfort, KY 40601, telephone 502-892-4464.

Marinas and Boat Launching Ramps

There are nine marinas.

All of the marinas have boat launching ramps, but they may not be open to the public or may have limited parking, so call ahead. Days and hours of operation vary.

Barkley’s Pandora Marina, open year-round, is on Ashley Camp Road, four miles east of Burgin, Ky, off Ky. 152, adjacent to Kennedy Bridge. For information telephone 859-748-9121. The fee to launch is $15.

Royalty’s Fishing Camp and Marina is one of nine marinas on the lake. (NKyTribune file photo)

Cane Run Marina, open year-round, is on Cane Run Camp Road, four miles east of Burgin, KY, off Ky. 152. For information telephone 859-748-5487. The fee to launch is $5.

Chimney Rock Marina, open seasonally, is four miles east of Burgin, KY, off Ky. 152, adjacent to Kennedy Bridge. For information telephone 859-748-7625. The fee to launch is $15.

Coffey’s Cove Marina, open seasonally is on Taylor Road, northeast of Danville, KY, off Ky. 34, on the south side at Dunn Island. For information telephone 859-324-1236. The fee to launch is $5.

Gwinn Island Marina is on Gwinn Island Road, five miles north of Danville, off Ky. 33. For information telephone 859-236-4286. The fee to launch is $6. The boat ramp is open year-round.

Herrington Lake Marina, open seasonally, is on Homestead Lane, west of Bryantsville, KY, off U.S. 27. For information telephone 859-548-2282. The fee to launch is $20.

Kamp Kennedy Marina, open seasonally, is five miles east of Burgin, off Ky. 152, adjacent to Kennedy Bridge. For information telephone 859-548-2002. There is no public boat launching.

Mid Lake Marina, open seasonally, is on Cedar Lane, four miles south of Burgin, off Ky. 33 and Hughley Lane. Open on Friday afternoons, Saturdays and Sundays now. For boat launching information telephone 859-748-8888.

Royalty’s Fishing Camp & Marina, open seasonally, is on Norman’s Camp Road, three 3 miles east of Burgin, off Ky. 33 and Curdsville Road. For information telephone 859-748-5459. The fee to launch is $8.

Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for the Northern Kentucky Tribune. 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.

Local Tourism Information

Harrodsburg/Mercer County Tourist Commission, 488 Price Avenue, Harrodsburg, KY 40330, telephone (800) 355-9192.


Herrington Lake is a eutrophic lake of high productivity.

The watershed drains limestone-rich agricultural land in Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region.

Herrington Lake supports populations of two species of black bass (largemouth bass and spotted bass), two species of temperate bass (white bass and hybrid striped bass), bluegill, two species of catfish (channel catfish and flathead catfish), and crappie.

There is also a large population of longnose gar, the most abundant of the four species of gar in Kentucky, easily distinguished from other gars by having an extremely long and narrow snout, and jaws with long, sharp teeth. Longnose gar can grow to more than three feet in length. During the fall schools of gar can be found near schools of shad. Trophy-size gar, 40 inches, are present in the lake.

The main forage fish are gizzard shad and threadfin shad.

For years, threadfin shad were trap netted from Herrington Lake and stocked in major lakes across the state with marginal success, due to die-offs in the winter when water temperatures fall below 42 degrees.

Largemouth Bass

The largemouth bass fishery is rated good/excellent.
There are good numbers of fish over 12 to 15 15 inches, with potential for trophy-size fish (23 inches).

During the summer, there is good fishing is at night.

Herrington Lake is one of only five major lakes in Kentucky that has a 12-inch minimum size limit on largemouth bass. The other lakes are Green River Lake, Guist Creek Lake, Martins Fork Lake and Paintsville Lake.

Hybrid striped bass (Photo by Mike Cline, Wikipedia Commons)

Hybrid Striped Bass

The hybrid striped bass fishery is rated fair/good.

Numbers are increasing, and 2 to 5-pound fish are present, with potential for trophy-size fish (23 inches). The population is maintained by annual stockings.


The crappie fishery is rated poor/fair.

Crappie are difficult to locate but many quality-size fish (10 inches plus) are present.

The best fishing for white crappie is around brush or fallen trees in the upper half of the lake. There is potential to catch large black crappie around debris in inlets in the main lake.

White Bass

The white bass fishery is rated good.

There are good numbers of fish in the 13 to 15-inch size range, with trophy-size fish present (16 inches).

Herrington Lake’s spring white bass run is the stuff of legends.

The best fishing usually starts in April when the redbud trees are blooming and nighttime temperatures are above 50 degrees for several days.

Anglers in boats targeting white bass staging for the spawning run, fish the lake headwaters to the first riffle of the Dix River.

For anglers who want to fish from the banks, there is access at the end of Rankin Road, in Boyle County, off Ky. 52, near the bridge over Dix River between Lancaster and Danville.

Gwinn Island is one of two islands in Herrington Lake (Photo from Flickr Commons)


The bluegill fishery is rated good.

There are stable numbers of fish up to eight inches long.

Fish around cover in embayments and along steep rock walls in the lower lake.

Flathead Catfish

The catfish fishery is rated good.

All sizes are present.

The best fishing is at night, drifting live bluegill or shad.

Special Regulations/Minimum Size Limits and Daily Creel Limits

Statewide regulations apply for all fish species.

Tailwater Fishing Opportunities

There is no public access by automobile or on foot to the tailwaters.

Anglers must enter the tailwaters by boat. The closest ramp is on the Kentucky River, at High Bridge in Jessamine County, off Ky. 29.

Rainbow trout are stocked in January, March, May, July, and November, with an annual total of 4,500 fish.

Trout waters extend for about two miles below the dam.

Boaters beware, shallow riffles and large rocks make the stream hazardous for fishing boats powered by outboard motors, especially at low water.

The tailwaters below Dix Dam were designated as Kentucky’s first blue-ribbon trout stream in the spring of 1990, in hopes of producing a trophy fishery, but it never reached the potential biologists envisioned.

Fish Attractors

There are no fish attractors.

Bank Access and Fishing Piers

There is no bank access or fishing piers.

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  1. Ryan Riddle says:

    Good to see your article. My dad, Clarence Riddle, was a featured angler many times in the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s fishing out of Paradise Camp and Royalties Camp. The fishing reports from you, Virgil Pryor, and Fishfinder Magazine were a must read before planning a fishing trip. I still have his scrapbook of the articles. I grew up fishing Herrington with dad and my grandfather Richard “Dick” Riddle.

  2. Roger Pearson says:

    We were at the High Bridge boat ramp yesterday—blocked off with no trespassing signs. Apparently it’s been closed by Jessamine county. Anyone have any information?

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