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A Fishing Guide to Kentucky's Major Lakes

A Fishing Guide to Kentucky's Major Lakes

Arthur B. Lander
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 304
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    A Fishing Guide to Kentucky's Major Lakes
    Book Description:

    " This updated fishing guide by expert fisherman Art Lander will help anglers of all skill levels make the most of their time at any of the state's twenty-two most important reservoirs. Lander reveals what type of fishing is best at each lake, where fish can be found during the various seasons, and what tackle and techniques have proven best for each species. Detailed maps of each lake and information on fish feeding habits and marinas make this book an essential guide to the region's lakes and the top fifteen sport fish species inhabiting them.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-2778-1
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-vii)
  3. [Map]
    (pp. viii-ix)
  4. Why We Fish
    (pp. x-xi)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xii-xiv)
    Art Lander Jr.
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xviii)

    A Fishing Guide to Kentucky’s Major Lakesis the definitive source of information on the top twenty-two reservoirs in Kentucky and the fifteen sport fish species found in these impoundments. It is a valuable tool for anglers of all skill levels. Fishery biologists assess the current status of important fisheries, and there are where-to and how-to recommendations from local experts and guides who fish regularly and know the lakes intimately. The book is especially useful to anglers planning weekend trips or family vacations to unfamiliar waters.

    The fish and lakes profiled are listed in alphabetical order, and each profile includes...

  7. The Fish

    • Introduction
      (pp. 1-8)

      Because of its climate and geography, Kentucky has always been a fisherman’s paradise. The fish fauna of Kentucky is as diverse as anywhere in inland North America. Only two states, Tennessee and Alabama, have more species. There are 242 fish species in Kentucky, 226 of which are native. About forty fish species are important to anglers, and fifteen species are common in Kentucky’s major lakes, all of which are manmade impoundments. Three black bass species, the largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass, are Kentucky’s most popular game fish. Other popular and widely distributed game fish are crappie, catfish, bluegill, and white...

    • Catfish
      (pp. 9-13)

      Catfish are abundant in Kentucky’s major lakes. During the summer months, large numbers of anglers pursue these “whisker fish,” all of which are members of family Ictaluridae. The channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) is by far the most widely distributed catfish species. Two other important species of catfish caught from Kentucky’s major lakes are the flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris), and the blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus).

      Catfish have a smooth, scaleless skin and flexible barbels (whiskers) that enable them to find and taste food in turbid waters. They are popular with anglers because they are easy to catch and are good eating....

    • Crappie
      (pp. 14-15)

      Both species of crappie are common in Kentucky, the white crappie (Promoxis annularis) and the black crappie (Promoxis nigromaculatus). These two members of the sunfish family, Centrarchidae, can be distinguished from one another by coloration and the number of dorsal spines. The white crappie, commonly called newlight, has a silvery olive shading to a darker olive green on its back. It usually has six dorsal spines, in rare cases five. The black crappie, known throughout the South as the spec or calico bass, is also silvery olive, but with dark green to black wormlike markings. The black crappie usually has...

    • Hybrid Striped Bass
      (pp. 16-17)

      The hybrid striped bass is Kentucky’s newest predator fish. Called the “Sunshine Bass” in Florida, and the “Whiterock” in Georgia, it is an example of interspecific hybridization, the crossing of two species. But the cross must occur in the controlled environment of the hatchery since it does not happen naturally in the wild. Offspring are usually sterile. The original cross is the eggs of the female striped bass (Morone saxatilus) mixed with the milt of the male white bass (Morone chrysops). The so-called reciprocal cross is the eggs of the female white bass mixed with the milt of the male...

    • Largemouth Bass
      (pp. 18-23)

      The largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) is Kentucky’s most popular native game fish. Common in lakes, rivers, farm ponds, and streams throughout the state, the largemouth is more likely to be found in reservoirs and sluggish waters than high-gradient streams. A member of the sunfish family, Centrarchidae, its geographic range extends from Mexico to Ontario and from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi Valley.

      Coloration deepens in clear water. The largemouth’s back and upper sides are olive green, with gold or bronze luster. There are faint, radiating lines on the cheeks, a dark lateral band, and silvery undersides.

      The best bass...

    • Muskellunge
      (pp. 24-25)

      The muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) is king of Kentucky’s major lakes—a voracious predator and big-time brawler on even the heaviest fishing tackle. “Old Briartooth” is a sport fish in a class by himself.

      Of the three subspecies, onlyE. m. ohioenis, the Ohio Muskellunge, which is found throughout the Ohio River Valley, is native to Kentucky. In North America, the muskie’s range extends from Tennessee and South Carolina, up the Mississippi River valley, and into the Great Lakes and Canada.

      The muskie is a member of family Esocidae, which also includes pikes and pickerels. Pollution and siltation almost destroyed native...

    • Sauger
      (pp. 26-27)

      The sauger (Stizostedion canadense) is a river fish that isn’t as widely distributed or abundant in Kentucky as it once was. Since sauger prefer current to slack water, and high-rise dams are a hinderance to migration, sauger do not thrive in the lake environment and have not adjusted as well as other species. In lakes, sauger populations seem to fluctuate wildly.

      A member of the family Percidae, the perches and darters, the sauger closely resembles the walleye and is often misidentified by anglers since both fish frequently live in the same waters. Sauger are cool-water fish that begin their spawning...

    • Smallmouth Bass
      (pp. 28-30)

      Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) are found throughout central and eastern Kentucky in lakes and rivers, with limited populations in the western third of the state. They are well established in the lower Green River, but are absent in the Purchase Region, where streams flow into the Mississippi. Common names include brown fish, smallie, and bronze back. They are members of the sunfish family, Centrarchidae. One of Kentucky’s top sport fish, smallmouths prefer high-gradient streams (4-to 20-foot drop in elevation per mile) where rock, sand, and gravel are present. They thrive in lakes of moderate to low fertility and feed on...

    • Spotted Bass
      (pp. 31-33)

      The spotted bass(Micropterus punctulatus) has found a home in Kentucky. On February 27, 1956, Kentucky’s General Assembly passed Senate Resolution 70 establishing the spotted bass as Kentucky’s official game fish. Soon afterward, the legislation was signed into law by Gov. Albert B. “Happy” Chandler. From that date, the spotted bass became known as the Kentucky bass, a common name that is widely accepted throughout much of the fish’s geographic range.

      The spotted bass was chosen as the state’s official game fish because of its abundance in the Ohio River and tributaries to the south, many of which arise or...

    • Striped Bass
      (pp. 34-35)

      The striped bass (Morone saxatilis) is a nonnative species first stocked in Kentucky waters in 1957. The preferred common name is now striper, since rockfish has fallen out of favor with fishery biologists. The striper’s body shape is elongated and less compressed than that of the white bass (M. chrysops), with a moderately forked tail. Coloration is dark greenish to blue above, with pale, silvery sides that have seven to eight dusky longitudinal stripes. The base of the tongue has two parallel patches of teeth. Adult stripers can reach 50 pounds in Lake Cumberland, and 20-pounders are common.

      Each year...

    • Sunfish Species
      (pp. 36-41)

      Kentucky’s major lakes support several species of sunfish. Some are found in large numbers, others are scarce. All are native species, but some have been stocked to establish populations or bolster existing ones. The sunfish that anglers are most likely to encounter in Kentucky’s major lakes are bluegill, green, longear, and redear.

      The bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) is the most popular panfish in Kentucky, but it does not get the respect it deserves. Anglers and biologists alike tend to consider the bluegill as more of a forage fish than a game fish species. This is because bluegill are the main food...

    • Trout
      (pp. 42-44)

      There are three species of trout established in Kentucky’s major lakes and/or their tailwaters. All three are nonnative species, introduced to take advantage of cool-water habitats.

      The rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) was introduced into selected cool-water streams, lakes, and tailwaters. While Greenbo Lake, Laurel River Lake, and Paintsville Lake are the only major lakes in Kentucky which receive rainbows, thirteen tailwaters profiled in this book are stocked annually. The rainbow thrives in tailwaters because of daily discharges of cool, oxygenated waters, which seldom reach 70 degrees even in the hottest summer weather. The Lake Cumberland tailwaters, which extends for more...

    • Walleye
      (pp. 45-47)

      The walleye (Stizostedjon vitreum) is native to Kentucky, but the southern strain of fish that inhabited the state’s rivers has all but disappeared. A northern strain of walleye more suitable to lake environments was stocked as fry in Kentucky waters beginning in the late 1960s. ln 1973, when the Minor Clark Fish Hatchery opened, department personnel began collecting broodstock in-state and producing walleye fingerlings (1 1/4-inchers) for stocking. A member of the perch family, Percidae, the walleye’s common name is pickerel.

      The walleye is fairly distinctive in appearance. It has large, glassy eyes and a prominent dark blotch on the...

    • White Bass
      (pp. 48-50)

      The white bass (Morone chrysops) is a true bass, a member of family Serranidae. It is found in streams and rivers throughout the state; therefore, it is present in many of Kentucky’s major lakes. The deep-bodied silvery fish has a small head and terminal mouth. There are two separate dorsal (back) fins; the first has nine spines. The belly is milk white. The back is bluish-sliver with metallic reflections. Its sides have dusky, broken stripes. Adults are 10 to 14 inches long, rarely 18 inches.

      For most of the year it is an open-water (pelagic) species in lakes, but in...

  8. The Lakes

    • Introduction
      (pp. 51-56)

      Kentucky has a mix of lake types and sport fish guaranteed to test the skill of any angler. The lake types range from flatland reservoirs dominated by warm-water species to deep, clear mountain lakes, where cool-water species thrive. Kentucky’s major lakes are manmade impoundments built for flood control, water supply, and navigation, with fishing and outdoor recreation as secondary considerations. All but two of Kentucky’s major lakes are storage impoundments, built in headwater tributaries. Only Kenrucky Lake and Lake Barkley are main stem reservoirs, which are characterized by high exchange rates of water. It takes just eighteen to nineteen days...

    • Barren River Lake
      (pp. 57-65)

      Location Barren River Lake is about 103 miles south of Louisville in Barren, Monroe, and Allen Counties. The main access highways are Interstate 65 and U.S. 31E. The dam is on Ky. 252, southwest of Glasgow. The lake was impounded from the Barren River, a tributary to the Green River. The gates were closed on the dam in March 1964, but the lake did not reach seasonal pool until 1965.

      Size The 10,000-acre lake at summer pool, elevation 552, has 140 miles of shoreline, is 33 miles long, and is about 70 feet deep above the dam. There is a...

    • Buckhorn Lake
      (pp. 66-73)

      Location Buckhorn Lake is in Perry and Leslie Counties, about 28 miles west of Hazard. Completed in 1961, the lake was built by the Louisville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the middle fork of the Kentucky River. The dam is 43.3 miles above the middle fork’s confluence with the north fork in Beattyville, and the drainage area above the dam is 408 square miles. The main access highways are Ky. 28, Ky. 1833, and Ky. 257.

      Size Buckhorn Lake is 21 miles long at summer pool (elevation 782) and has 1,230 surface acres, with 65 miles...

    • Carr Creek Lake
      (pp. 74-79)

      Location For more than twenty years it was known as Carr Fork Lake, but in January 1997, Congress officially changed the name of the project to Carr Creek Lake. By whatever name, the lake is in Knott County, about 16 miles east of Hazard, on Ky. 15. The dam is 8.8 miles above the mouth of Carr Fork, a tributary to the North Fork of the Kentucky River. The drainage area above the dam is 58 square miles.

      Size The 710-acre lake is 8.2 miles long at elevation 1,027. The scenic mountain lake was completed in December 1975 and has...

    • Cave Run Lake
      (pp. 80-90)

      Location Cave Run Lake is in Menifee, Morgan, Bath, and Rowan Counties, about 15 miles southwest of Morehead. The major access highways are Interstate 64, U.S. 60, Ky. 801, and Ky. 1274. The project was completed in 1974 at a cost of $83 million. The dam is 173.6 miles upstream of the mouth of the Licking River, which empties into the Ohio River at Covington.

      Size At summer pool (elevation 730), Cave Run Lake is 8,270 acres and 48.1 miles long. The 6-foot winter drawdown to elevation 724 creates a lake with 7,390 surface acres of water. The scenic reservoir...

    • Dale Hollow Lake
      (pp. 91-104)

      Location Dale Hollow Lake is Kentucky’s oldest major reservoir. Construction began in 1942 but was halted until the end of World War II. One of the first impoundments built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under the Flood Control Act of 1938, the cost of the project was $52.3 million. About 130 miles south of Lexington, the lake straddles the Kentucky-Tennessee border. The waters lap Kentucky’s Cumberland and Clinton Counties and four counties in Tennessee—Clay, Overton, Pickett and Fentress. Take Ky. 61 from Burkesville, or Ky. 553 or Ky. 738 from Albany, for access to the Kentucky potion...

    • Dewey Lake
      (pp. 105-109)

      Location Dewey Lake is about 120 miles east of Lexington in Floyd County. The dam is about 4 miles northeast of Prestonsburg, off Ky. 3. Impounded from the John’s Creek, a tributary to the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River, Dewey Lake opened in the spring of 1951. The cost of the project was $7.8 million. The main access highways are U.S. 23/460, Ky. 302 (formerly Ky. 3), and Ky. 194.

      Size The lake has 1,100 acres at summer pool (elevation 650), and 900 acres at winter pool (elevation 645). It has 52 miles of shoreline, is 50 feet...

    • Fishtrap Lake
      (pp. 110-115)

      Location Fishtrap Lake is about 147 miles southeast of Lexington in Pike County. The dam is about 15 miles southeast of Pikeville, off Ky. 1789. It was impounded from the Levisa Fork, a tributary to the Big Sandy River. Construction on the 195-foot-high and l, 100-foot-long dam began in 1962.

      Size The 16.5-mile reservoir opened in 1968. Its summer pool elevation is 757 feet, and there is a 32-foot drawdown to winter pool (elevation 725). The 1,131-acre lake has 40 miles of shoreline and is 84 feet deep just above the dam.

      Trophic State Index (TSI) Fishtrap Lake has a...

    • Grayson Lake
      (pp. 116-121)

      Location Grayson Lake is in Carter and Elliott Counties. The main access highways are Ky. 7, Ky. 182, and Ky. 504. The dam is about 7 miles south of Grayson, off Ky. 7. Construction began in 1964, and the lake opened in April 1969.

      Grayson Lake is beautiful in the fall. Above Bruin Creek boat ramp there are big boulders in the water and towering rock cliffs along the shore. There is standing timber in the side hollows on the west bank of the lake, and scattered beds of aquatic vegetation provide numerous fishing opportunities.

      Size Impounded from the Little...

    • Greenbo Lake
      (pp. 122-128)

      Location Greenbo Lake is about 107 miles east of Lexington in Greenup County, 8 miles south of Greenup, off Ky. 1. The major access highways are Interstate 64 and U.S. 23. Impounded in 1955, the lake was built at a cost of $235,000. The Greenbo Lake Association raised $110,000, and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources chipped in $125,000, which paid for the design of the lake and construction of the concrete and earthen dam. Greenbo Lake is clear most of the year, which makes it very difficult to fish.

      Size The 181-acre impoundment, surrounded by woodlands, is...

    • Green River Lake
      (pp. 129-140)

      Location Green River Lake is about 90 miles southeast of Louisville in Taylor and Adair Counties, east of Ky. 55 between Campbellsville and Columbia. The dam is 26 miles upstream of Greensburg, and 305.7 miles above the mouth of Green River. Drainage area above the dam is 682 square miles. The main access highways are Ky. 55, Ky. 551, Ky. 372, Ky. 1061, and Ky. 76. Construction began in April 1964, and the lake was completed in June 1969.

      Anglers are reminded that there are six no-wake embayments—Robinson Creek, Stone Quarry Creek, Butler Creek, White Oak Creek, Snake Creek,...

    • Herrington Lake
      (pp. 141-154)

      Location Herrington Lake, about 30 miles south of Lexington, forms the boundary between Mercer, Garrard, and Boyle Counties. The main access highways are U.S. 27, Ky. 33, and Ky. 152.

      For several reasons, Herrington Lake is very different from the other reservoirs profiled in this book. Herrington Lake is open to the public for recreation, but is privately owned. It was constructed by Kentucky Utilities Company (KU) for the generation of hydroelectric power. KU does not own or operate any boat launching ramps or marinas on the lake, disseminate information (brochures or maps) about the lake to the public, or...

    • Kentucky Lake
      (pp. 155-170)

      Location Kentucky Lake is 15 miles southeast of Paducah in Trigg, Lyon, Marshall, and Calloway Counties in Kentucky, and extends into Tennessee. The massive reservoir was impounded from the Tennessee River, the Ohio River’s largest tributary, which drains 40,569 square miles in parts of seven states. Kentucky Dam is 25 miles upstream of the Tennessee River’s confluence with the Ohio River. As many as five thousand men worked on the project, which was six years in construction, between July 1938 and August 1944.

      Built by the Tennessee Valley Authority, Kentucky Lake was the first of two “sister” lakes (the other...

    • Lake Barkley
      (pp. 171-180)

      Location Lake Barkley, named by Congress to honor the late Senator and Vice President Alben W. Barkley, is 30 miles southeast of Paducah, in Trigg, Lyon, and Livingston Counties. Impounding the Cumberland River, Barkley Dam is located at river mile 30.6. The 7,985-foot-long earthen and concrete dam includes a navigation lock, canal, and hydroelectric plant. Construction began in June 1957 and was completed in July 1966. The main access highways are Interstate 24, the Western Kentucky Parkway, U.S. 62, and Ky. 139.

      Size At summer pool (elevation 359), the 57,920-acre lake (42,020 of the acres are in Kentucky) is 118...

    • Lake Cumberland
      (pp. 181-199)

      Location Lake Cumberland is about 100 miles south of Lexington in McCreary, Whitley, Laurel, Pulaski, Wayne, Russell, and Clinton Counties. The Cumberland River, more than 700 miles long with a drainage basin of 18,000 square miles in Kentucky and Tennessee, was named in honor of William Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland, by pioneer explorer Dr. Thomas Walker on April 17, 1750. Wolf Creek Dam was built at river mile 460.9, 10 miles south of Jamestown. Construction began on Lake Cumberland in August 1941 but was delayed for three years during World War II. The project, built at a cost of...

    • Lake Malone
      (pp. 200-204)

      Location Lake Malone is a rocky, scenic lake about 18 miles north of Russellville, in Muhlenberg, Todd, and Logan Counties. The main access highways are U.S. 431, Ky. 973, and Ky. 1293. Built by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, in cooperation with the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, the lake opened in 1963. The state-owned lake was impounded from Rocky Creek, a tributary to the Mud River.

      Size The 10-mile, wishbone-shaped reservoir has 692 surface acres and 34 miles of shoreline. A deep, flat-bottomed lake, Lake Malone has a mean depth of 20.8 feet, with a maximum depth...

    • Laurel River Lake
      (pp. 205-215)

      Location Laurel River Lake is about 100 miles south of Lexington, in Laurel and Whitley Counties. The dam is about 20 miles east of Corbin, off Ky. 1193, about 1 1/2 miles above the Laurel River’s confluence with the Cumberland River. One of the state’s most scenic lakes, Laurel River Lake is surrounded by Daniel Boone National Forest and has tree-covered hills and rocky cliffs along the shoreline. The Craig’s Creek embayment is spectacular in the fall, when colored leaves are the backdrop for rugged islands and waterfalls. The main access highways are U.S. 25W, Ky. 1193, and Ky. 192....

    • Martins Fork Lake
      (pp. 216-220)

      Location Martins Fork Lake is about 4 miles southwest of Cawood, in Harlan County, adjacent to Cranks Creek Wildlife Management Area. The dam, at river mile 15.6 of the Cumberland River, is a 97 -foot-high concrete gravity structure, flanked by earthen fill and riprap. The lake, which flooded a flat valley on the Kentucky-Virginia border, was built to provide flood protection to the city of Harlan 13 miles downstream at the junction of Clover Fork of the Cumberland River. Built by the Nashville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at a cost of $20.3 million, Martins Fork Lake...

    • Nolin River Lake
      (pp. 221-228)

      Location Nolin River Lake is about 85 miles south of Louisville in Edmonson, Grayson, Hardin, and Hart Counties. The dam is 7.8 miles upstream from the Nolin River’s confluence with the Green River, and is off Ky. 728, about 10 miles north of Brownsville. The lake is just a short drive from Mammoth Cave National Park, one of Kentucky’s most popular tourist attractions. The main access highways are the Western Kentucky Parkway, Ky. 259, Ky. 88, and Ky. 1827. Construction on Nolin River Lake started in January 1959 and was completed in March 1963.

      Size The 5,790-acre reservoir is 39...

    • Paintsville Lake
      (pp. 229-236)

      Location Paintsville Lake is a scenic mountain lake bordered by rock cliffs and vast forests of pine and hardwood trees. Lush stands of mountain laurel and rhododendron drape many of the shady, steep-sided hollows. The scenic reservoir, filled in 1983, is 116 miles east of Lexington in Johnson and Morgan Counties. The main access highways are the Mountain Parkway, Ky. 40, and Ky. 172.

      Size Paintsville Lake was impounded from Paint Creek, a tributary to the Big Sandy River. Maintained at elevation 709 year-round, the 18-mile lake has 1,139 surface acres of water. The lake is about 90 feet deep...

    • Rough River Lake
      (pp. 237-243)

      Location Rough River Lake is a Y-shaped reservoir located about 70 miles southwest of Louisville, in Breckinridge, Hardin, and Grayson Counties. Construction on the lake began in November 1955 and was completed in June 1961. The dam is 89.3 miles above the Rough River’s confluence with the Green River, and 6 miles above Falls of Rough, Kentucky. The main access highways are the Western Kentucky Parkway, Ky. 79, Ky. 259, and Ky. 737.

      Size At summer pool (elevation 495), the lake is 5,100 acres, has 220 miles of shoreline, is 39 miles long and is 65 feet deep just above...

    • Taylorsville Lake
      (pp. 244-253)

      Location Taylorsville Lake is about 25 miles southeast of Louisville in Spencer, Anderson, and Nelson Counties. The lake was completed in the sununer of 1982 and reached sununer pool the following May. Impounded from the Salt River, the dam is 4 miles upstream of the city of Taylorsville and 60 miles from the Salt River’s confluence with the Ohio River. The main access highways are Ky. 44, Ky. 248, Ky. 1066, and U.S. 62.

      Size Taylorsville Lake is 3,050 acres at summer pool (elevation 547). The winter drawdown is minimal, only 2 feet, reducing the acreage to 2,930. At summer...

    • Yatesville Lake
      (pp. 254-262)

      Location Yatesville Lake, Kentucky’s newest major reservoir, is 5 miles west of Louisa in Lawrence County. The backdrop is piney, forested hills. Impounded from Blaine Creek, which flows into the Big Sandy River about 25 miles upriver from Ashland, Yatesville Lake is within an easy drive of southern Ohio and the large urban area in nearby West Virginia. The main access highways are U.S. 23, Ky. 32, and Ky. 3. A state park is under development, with plans for a campground, picnic area, and sand beach.

      Size The 2,242-acre lake first reached summer pool (elevation 630) in the spring of...

  9. Additional Information
    (pp. 263-274)

    Kentucky’s major lakes are patrolled by employees of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Division of Law Enforcement. They have full police powers to enforce wildlife and boating laws. Kentucky boating laws are detailed in the free brochureKentucky Sport Fishing and Boating Guide,which includes such topics as registration, safe operation, idle speed, personal flotation devices, fire extinguishers, navigation lights, littering, and boating accident reporting requirements. For a copy of theKentucky Sport Fishing and Boating Guidetelephone toll free (800) 828-BOAT.

    Anglers are reminded that Kentucky state law prohibits drinking alcoholic beverages in public places, including...

  10. Index
    (pp. 275-280)
  11. About the Author
    (pp. 281-281)