Mood of Crappie Mysterious to Most Anglers; Lake Levels Recede
Written by Steve McCadams - Published on April 8, 2021
At a time when Kentucky Lake crappie should be making a blitz toward spawning structure and anglers should be loading the boat with slabs it has been somewhat challenging out there. Apparently the fish didn’t get the memo!
After last week’s cold conditions traded places with southwest winds and rising temperatures most fishermen thought the recipe was working in their favor for a dramatic turnaround. All the signs pointed toward a positive change.
Warm days and light winds. Surface temps crossing the threshold into the 62 to 63 degree range and rising. It’s the first full week of April and that’s normally prime time for spawning phases of crappie here on the big pond.
High lake levels have no doubt been a factor to some degree as that has a tendency to displace and scatter fish who roam and follow the rise to various locales, bypassing their usual stair-stepping path to spawning structure.
However, the mood of crappie this week has been a bit mysterious in the opinion of most anglers. The fish have not targeted shallow to midrange structure the way they normally do when such warmups occur.
Places that usually attract crappie as they move up to spawn have not been appealing to the fish. That could change quickly but most shallow structure in the 5 to 10 foot zones have yet to attract early spawning crappie.
A few fish have been taken by boaters using long-line trolling methods this week as the fish are staging offshore and suspended out over open water areas.
Pulling Road Runner jigs in the orange/chartreuse and grape/chartreuse have been good color choices. The success of long lining and spider rig style techniques out away from the bank and over deeper water reflects the present day comfort zone of crappie.
That technique allows boaters to slow troll over vast areas, covering a lot of water and presenting multipole presentations of different colored jigs to finicky crappie who are meandering around out there in la-la land.
One bright spot has been the upper Big Sandy around the New Hope and Country Junction sector as traditionally crappie follow the rise and head up to that area in high water. That appears to be taking place now as long-lining, drifting and spider rig techniques in that area are producing decent stringers as fish occupy the flats in 7 to 13 feet.
Several dark male crappie have been taken there the last few days. That may explain why activity has been off in the Paris Landing sector as it’s not unusual for crappie to move and head up the Big Sandy where waters warm quicker and the rising lake pushes them to head that direction. Watch for things to change, however, in the next few days as falling lake levels could reposition the fish. The roller coaster conditions continues!
Crappie have not been in the mood to navigate toward submerged structures such as brush piles, stakebeds and shallow stump rows.
That behavior has been puzzling to many crappie anglers who like to apply such methods as casting grubs around shorelines or shallow structure. Also in disbelief are several anglers who spend long hours and labor to sink manmade fish attractors such as stakebeds, concrete filled buckets with various structures, treetops and such for spawning fish habitat.
Although a few fish have been taken by boaters using vertical presentations of jigs and minnows around submerged structures at times the overall bite has been off for that style at a time when it should be heating up and productive.
A lot of fishermen are asking themselves where the fish have gone and why the negative mood swing. Lake levels are likely influencing the behavior of Kentucky Lake crappie these days.
Meanwhile, fishermen are hoping fish change their mind and perhaps make a run toward active spawning phases by this weekend and throughout next week. That’s a strong possibility.
This time of the year things happen quickly in the world of fishing. Yesterday’s unproductive zones can rapidly appeal to the mood swings of crappie on the verge of spawning.
Meanwhile, lake levels have stayed high and danced around the summer pool elevation now for over a week. Readings were around the 359 range at Kentucky Dam at midweek and are now falling slowly. TVA projects the reservoir to fall six inches by this weekend with a projection of 358.5 by Friday and continue to recede.
Surface temperatures have continued to rise slowly. Readings on Wednesday were in the 62 to 64 degree range and even warmer in the upper end of Big Sandy and throughout some shallow bays.
Water color had cleared dramatically since last week as rising lake levels seemed to push the muddy or stained water back.
Lake levels crested earlier this week and stayed at summer pool, which is about 3 ½ feet above normal for this time of year. TVA’s projections, which may start changing daily, were still showing the summer pool level to continue as the weekend approaches but upstream at New Johnsonville lake stages were starting to recede.
Just how much fluctuation will occur in the next few days is an unknown. Odds are falling lake stages are in the future to some degree as TVA will likely pull the reservoir back down to its normal curve in order to create more storage capacity in the reservoir.
Bass fishermen are also watching changing lake levels with a cocked eye. For over a week now water has inundated shoreline habitat and abundant dead grass and some bushes and willows have sufficient levels to attract bass.
With the rapidly rising surface temperatures bass are moving and following the rise to the newly flooded shoreline habitat. Bass are in prespawn phase but their biological clock will respond to the warming conditions and abundant shoreline cover that has quickly provided spawning territory.
That scenario has bass fishermen concerned. Rightfully so.
Bass anglers are monitoring lake levels and somewhat worried that fish will dart toward shoreline structures that have now warmed sufficiently. Some fish are likely to begin fanning spawning beds. And, if that happens a drastic drop in lake levels could have a negative impact on the survival rate.
Both bass and crappie anglers have a reason to be concerned at the present time. Future year classes of fish may depend on what happens the next two weeks as to Kentucky Lake’s elevation.
As to present day fishing reports bass fishermen have been tossing spinnerbaits and floating fluke style worms and craws around shallow grassbeds. Those abundant and popular yellow flowers are already blooming in pockets and bays, a target area for early bass success.
Already in the arsenal of bass anglers have been some topwater jerkbaits and buzz baits in addition to the floating worms.
Texas rigged craws and worms are producing as well. Lots of buck bass are on the prowl in shallow cover.
For offshore style bassers current will continue to be part of the fishing scene for the next week or two. Island rims and main lake areas where bridge piers and rip-rap will be influenced by the current.
If you’ve been somewhat off balance by the roller-coaster lake levels and weather lately you’re not alone. Odds are things may rapidly rebound for crappie anglers. Bass anglers are beating the banks and wondering what lies ahead but enjoying the warm weather that has now confirmed spring’s arrival.
Kentucky Lake’s spring fishing scene has been both interesting and perplexing at times!