Fishing Scene Heats Up; Bluegill/Bass/Cats Head Shallow
Written by Steve McCadams - Published on April 28, 2021
There’s a little pep in the step for Kentucky Lake anglers these days. Warmer days plus rising lake levels have teamed up to hopefully put nasty spring weather in the rearview mirror.
Anglers have ample reasons for optimism this week as several changes are taking place that will likely work in their favor.
For starters lake levels are expected to reach normal summer pool elevation on Saturday. A rising tide floats all boats and seems everyone from bluegill and shellcracker anglers to struggling bass, catfish and crappie fishermen are whistling a different tune.
Kentucky Lake’s fishing scene has several things going for it, namely the approach of the annual spawning phases of both bluegill and redear sunfish, commonly known as shellcracker. The rusty bull bluegill are anxious to get the show going as are the olive drab male brute shellcracker.
Warmer surface temperatures this week have coincided with rising lake stages and that signals the start of the early spawning phases which should kick in this weekend. Some anglers have attempted to locate early spawning sunfish earlier this week but cool surface temps have delayed an early bite despite a full moon that kicked the week off. That apprehensive mood is soon to change!
Current conditions show water temps rising thanks to warm nights and sunny days. Look for 72-plus water temp by the weekend. Water color is clearing.
Lake levels will crest by Saturday as TVA’s target date for summer pool (359) will occur on Saturday. The reservoir should be relative stable in the weeks ahead barring any drastic rainfall across the TVA valley.
Once surface temps cross the 70-plus degree mark these aggressive panfish will go on a tear. The time to dust off the light spinning tackle, ultra-light rods, bobbers and round up the cricket box is here.
Redworms, nightcrawlers, meal worms and various larva type baits tipped on a long shank number 6-size bait keeper hook will be appealing to this panfish army that is waiting for the battle to begin. Bobbers disappearing is a sight for a sore eye and has no age limitations.
The males haven’t had a total mood swing just yet and gotten territorial but that will change each passing day.
Rising lake levels have also been anticipated by bass fishermen anxiously awaiting the return of pitching and flipping techniques now that shoreline habitat has been inundated with sufficient water. Bassers got a taste of that a few weeks ago during a surge in high water but the honeymoon was short as lake levels fell out about as fast as they came up.
A few buck bushes, dead grass and various aquatics are now holding enough water to appeal to buck bass and some restless sows eager to begin fanning.
From floating fluke style worms to Texas rigged lizards, spinnerbaits, all sorts of floating craws and worms plus a buffet of topwater jerk baits are now on the menu. Bass anglers can delve into their arsenal and pull out a variety of lures or use assorted techniques to find and catch bass in the weeks ahead.
Just a foot or so of water once the reservoir creeps up toward summer pool range makes all the difference in the world for shallow water bass anglers who love this time of year on the big pond.
Also on the threshold of spawning are catfish who are now on the prowl and slowly moving toward rocky banks and shorelines seeking crevices and various habitat.
Watch for significant improvement this week for bank fishermen too as it’s their time of year once those rip-rap roadbeds and various rocky banks pull fish to their locale. Boaters will be in luck too as they work the steep rock bluffs or any rock banks in the days ahead.
While a variety of baits will produce results during the catfish craze it’s the time trusted nightcrawler that seems to work best.
Still in the conversation among the ranks of crappie fishermen is the strange spring status of this year’s spawn. Earlier this week a few decent stringers were taken in 5 to 10 foot zones by boaters long lining across shallow flats.
A few boats reported luck while casting jigs in 8 to 10 foot depths too. Boats pushing spider rig style pole presentations were still finding scattered fish in midrange depths but having to cover a lot of water to achieve a tally of decent numbers.
Vertical techniques by anglers using 1/16-ounce jigs tipped with either live minnows or Berkley Power Bait nibbles were finding some nice size slabs hiding in their stakebeds and manmade fish attractors but buried treasures were scattered for most.
Monitoring the fish cleaning stations still showed several female crappie bearing eggs at times but there were also a few fish that had lost their bulging profile, an indication that some had deposited their eggs sacs recently.
Dark male crappie were still roaming shallow to midrange depths. And, some females showed signs of a few eggs still in their sacs and had signs of slight discoloring that may indicate some reabsorption has taken place.
Given the weird spring weather patterns we’ve had this year coupled with dramatically changing lake levels I wouldn’t be surprised if several female crappie may have held on to their eggs. Mother Nature has shown her nasty face these last few weeks and upset the applecart as far as the spring crappie spawn was concerned.
Most anglers never really figured out when the peak of spawning phases occurred. And, there are times when the spawn may just spread out over a longer and later period without a real blitz from the fish due to all the variables they encountered.
There have been exceptions. Some anglers landed hefty stringers a few days but for the average guy it has been a somewhat inconsistent and mixed up spring. Some caught fish one day only to return to spots and depths the next---if the wind allowed---to find the fish had vacated the premises.
Once crappie enter the post-spawn phase look for them to further scatter and suspend. Some will venture to shallow shoreline structure just because they followed the water while others will hang out in mid-range depths and suspend as the annual ritual is stressful so they’ll ride it out until mid or latter May before returning to a structure oriented mode.
There might be a few fish caught in shoreline bushes and trees but anglers won’t likely see a massive late spawning run there.
Now that May has pushed a stubborn April out of the fishing picture look for more stability to enter the scene.
Kentucky Lake is now offering a variety of species that are in the process of transitioning to spawning phases in shallow zones. It’s that time of year when most of the fish and fishermen are in the same proximity.