Low Lake Levels Reveal Kentucky Lake's Submerged Secrets
Written by Steve McCadams - Published on February 3, 2022
Low lake levels have really raised the eyebrows of some winter fishermen along Kentucky Lake this week.
Starting off the week was winter’s lowest reading as to lake elevation and the lowest some folks have seen in many years. Some commented they’d never seen the lake that low!
Elevation at the beginning of the week was reported at 353.7 (that’s feet above sea level) in the Kentucky Dam sector. Upstream around New Johnsonville it may well have been a few inches below that. That’s low!
Generally speaking present day winter pool dances around the 355 mark. It often dips a few inches lower than that with slight fluctuations but rarely does TVA pull the reservoir down below 354. However, it did earlier this week!
The low elevation was short lived as by the weekend TVA was forecasting a rise back to 354.1 in the aftermath of rains this week.
It’s amazing what just a few inches in lake levels can reveal when it dips below normal winter pool stage.
A few of us old duck hunters were out Monday picking up decoys and mopping up after a dismal season while some seasoned fishermen were out and about earlier this week too, marveling at the sights which low lake levels reveal.
From old stump rows showing their heads above water to extended island flats, open lake sandbars and exposed roadbeds the visual tour was quite a sight to behold. Just below the surface were multiple stumps, rocks and other interesting finds.
Clear water conditions further revealed lost decoy weights, tools and even old boats the lake had claimed over the decades. I reclaimed some buried treasures that I thought were gone forever.
For those who scour the sandbars and shorelines for artifacts the low lake stages offer a mecca of new hunting ground.
I recall low lake levels back in the 1960’s and early 1970’s when similar lake stages exposed so much habitat, revealing what stayed submerged for most of the year. For short periods it was a glimpse behind the curtain of what’s really down there.
Looking for things with sonar equipment has really revolutionized things for today’s boaters and fishermen but seeing it firsthand during low water is indeed another dimension. Nothing like being up close and personal to the submerged world of Kentucky Lake!
Manmade fish attractors such as stakebeds and brushpiles were showing up in abundance. All along the shorelines were remnants of aging natural structure that had slowly lost the battle with an aging reservoir. Ice and siltation had taken their toll in a reservoir just shy of its 80th birthday!
In times past many anglers would venture out across the reservoir during the low ebb of winter pool elevation searching for potential fishing spots once high water returned during the spring, summer and fall seasons.
In the days before Global Positioning Systems (GPS) folks would take a camera to record the structures exposed and then try to find them once high water returned. Others would make notes with pad and pencil, hoping to record landmarks and use triangulation in hopes of returning to the buried treasures of structure where big crappie and bass might reside in other seasons of the year.
Meanwhile, earlier this week was quite an opportunity for me and clear water conditions helped make it perfect. Had it been dingy or muddy water sightings would have been limited to a large degree.
No doubt there will be some future opportunities when low lake stages return for short periods but no one knows when that will occur or whether or not clear water conditions will be present.
It’s interesting out there. Best be cautious if you go as low lake stages deliver more obstacles for boaters!
Meanwhile, the winter fishing scene continues to face a day or two of warm weather sandwiched between nasty cold fronts that have kept most anglers at bay.
Portions of the region are again under a winter storm watch as the weekend approaches. Nasty north winds are part of the picture as are falling temperatures. Not a good fishing forecast says the weatherman.
Surface temps have danced around the 34 to 37 degree range. Some shallow bays had ice last weekend.
A few crappie angers have been out and stalking deeper depths hoping the fish have fallen back during the cold spell and falling lake levels. Some fish were found in 18 to 25 foot depths by anglers using jigs and minnows rigs around deep structure.
The extended forecast on weather shows a slight moderation in temps by midweek but cold nights---consecutive readings below the freezing mark---are in the picture at least through late next week.
Winter fishermen best put another log on the fire and keep the coveralls hanging by the door.