Kentucky Lake Recedes; Anglers/Lakers Relieved and Rejoicing!
Written by Steve McCadams - Published on March 6, 2019
Lake levels on both Kentucky and Barkley reservoirs are falling fast. After weeks of flooding that saw water elevation crest more 12 feet above normal winter pool elevation in many places levels are now receding almost two feet per day! Here on Kentucky Lake TVA has really pulled the plug. Lake levels at midweek were in the 364.8 range at Kentucky Dam but projected to fall to 361.2 by Friday. The rapid decline in lake stages will continue for several consecutive days. Normal winter pool is in the 355 range. Actually, TVA has been discharging a huge volume of water through Kentucky Dam for weeks but in simple terms more has been coming in than they could let out! Heavy rains across the entire TVA valley had massive runoff entering the Tennessee River watershed, resulting in flooding. Especially hard hit was the southern portion of Kentucky Lake upstream toward the Pickwick Dam region. Presently a wall of water is rapidly flowing north as elevation at midweek near New Johnsonville was reported to be in the 368.3 range. The same day the elevation at Kentucky Dam was 364.8! The reservoir further south is narrow so lake levels are higher there but it shows just how much water is passing through the system this week. TVA continues to revise its lake level forecast on a daily basis. At the present drawdown rate Kentucky Lake could return to normal winter pool by the middle of next week! Resorts, marinas, campgrounds and public boat ramps are presently assessing damage to roads and shoreline erosion as are lakefront property owners with ramps and boathouses. Meanwhile, anglers are anxious to return to the lake and wet a line. By this weekend many launch ramps, which have been closed off and inaccessible due to high water, will reopen. That is a big step in the right direction on the return route to normalcy. Last week a Bass Fishing League LBL Division tournament slated for Paris Landing State Park marina was cancelled and this week a Big Bass Splash event was also postponed due to high water. Both events have rescheduled for later in the year. Many obstacles still exist for boaters as swift currents were present in the main channel area and floating debris was present in the form of logs and trees. Those hurdles will quickly diminish in the days ahead, however. Water color is also improving quickly too. Muddy and dingy water is leaving creeks and bays but the main river channel area remains muddy. Cold weather this week has pulled surface temperatures back into the low to mid 40’s. Some rebounding will take place this weekend as a warming trend takes over with temps forecast to reach 70 degrees on Saturday. Although no flooding is expected, rain and possible thunderstorms are in the weekend forecast, however. Crappie and bass anglers will return to the lake in the days ahead---some are out there already---and resume their winter search. Sometimes fish and anglers play the current. Fish may take on a pattern and choose a locale based on current that’s washing baitfish into an spot or zone. Bass fishermen will be targeting some bridge piers and rip-rap levees where current is washing in and pushing fish up against such areas. Tossing Rattle Trap style baits will be a popular choice as will other suspending crankbaits. Fish that made a blitz the last week to ten days toward shoreline habitat are now pulling out and following the falling water. Those shoreline trees and buck bushes that offered abundant cover last week will soon be high and dry. Bass may pull back inside deeper ditches near shorelines as they stage for a spell and ride out the rapidly receding lake levels. Swim baits may appeal at times too in such scenarios. Crappie anglers will have their work cut out as they return to main lake areas and stalk deep ledges and drop-offs where crappie were residing prior to the flooding fiasco. Odds are crappie will return to their deep winter hideouts for a few days as lake levels fall and pull baitfish back to deeper venues. As long as the lake is falling crappie anglers will likely target deeper main lake zones of 18 to 25 feet and perhaps even deeper. Stalking some deep brushpiles and stumps may pay dividends. There’s a lot of trial and error ahead. The fish have been confused as have the anglers. So it may take a lot of guessing as to the crappie whereabouts. Once surface temps rebound and lake levels stabilize watch for some crappie to move toward midrange depths and settle down. Until that occurs, crappie may be tough to pattern and still on the roam. March is a month where a lot of transition takes place in the fishing community. With stable lake levels on the horizon and warmer surface temps returning anglers may quickly put this flooding nightmare and unstable winter temps in their rearview mirrors. It’s almost mid-March. Things can change quickly!