Spring Returns for Anxious Anglers; Crappie Bite Improves
Written by Steve McCadams - Published on March 16, 2022
Spring officially arrives on Sunday, setting the stage for an upswing in the fishing scene for anxious anglers around Kentucky Lake and everywhere for that matter.
For most it has been a topsy-turvy winter where changing weather patterns delivered a roller coaster of conditions for outdoorsmen. From fishermen to hunters, the unusual series of highs and lows as to temperatures and overall conditions had most of us off balance.
Once spring arrives it sort of puts pep in the step of fishermen, turkey hunters and anyone who ventures outdoors. It’s uplifting. Buttercups have already screamed a change as have a few blooming saucer magnolias. Dogwoods will be peaking out soon and Bradford pears are about to parade their early spring display.
All signs point toward a warming trend as the seasons transition. That’s good news for weary fishermen who are anxious to see the water warm and jumpstart spawning phases of both bass and crappie.
While things look good for next week with temps forecast to be in the 70’s to start the week off, wise are the fishermen who keep the coveralls and hooded sweatshirts handy. March is a month full of variables. Don’t get too complacent as there’s still a few nasty northwest winds hiding in the weatherman’s bag.
Small waters such as farm ponds and lakes will warm quicker than big water so a lot of bank fishermen are already seeing the bite improve there.
Kentucky Lake’s water levels have stabilized this week after quite a ride throughout late February and most of March. Projections for the weekend indicate the reservoir will hold steady around 355, which is on the threshold of winter pool.
With warmer weather teaming up with stable lake stages fishermen can expect the bite to improve. Water color is good too. Now anglers just hope March winds cooperate and allow them to hit the open water as whitecaps often dictate where boaters can go.
Meanwhile, some improvement in the crappie department this week in the aftermath of last weekend’s snowstorm that had the hillsides of Kentucky Lake painted white. Warmer days quickly chased away the snow and now fishermen are back out in force and donning light shirts at times but keeping the rain suits and heavy gear nearby.
Kentucky Lake crappie are in the prespawn phase, slowly emerging from the main lake deep water hideouts that held them during winter’s grip. Once surface temperatures reach the low to mid 50’s a lot of movement starts to take place.
That’s happening now as surface temps at midweek had climbed to 55 to 56 degrees in some bays. Fish were already transitioning toward midrange depths of 6 to 14 feet.
Crappie sort of stair-step their way toward spawning areas once waters warm and their slow migration occurs via creek channels and sloughs that offer both deep and shallow depths in close proximity. Already anglers are reporting improved catches from the mouths of big bays along creek channels as the fish stage in preparation for a blitz.
Active spawning phases won’t kick in until surface temps reach the 62 to 66 degree range, which generally speaking, arrives the first week to ten days of April. There have been exceptions over the years when unusually warm weather descended in late March and altered the biological clock of crappie.
Odds are that won’t happen this year but anglers can expect to see a lot of movement these next few weeks as fish transcend toward shallow flats and secondary channels. The sloughs or submerged ditches that weave around within bays or even out on the main lake will harbor crappie looking for spawning spots.
Decent stringers were taken the last few days by boaters pushing multipole rigs, better known as spider rigs, along the edges of creek channels or ledges. They’re offering a buffet of baits consisting of live minnows and various colored jigs.
Moving slowly along these corridors between winter hideouts and spring spawning zones is where most of the success has come from as of late. This style allows boaters to meander along and cover a lot of water once they establish the strike zone with sonar equipment.
Even when fish are suspended and scattered the slow trolling presentation of spider rigs and also long lining techniques is effective on prespawn crappie. Some long lining of twister tail grubs, Roadrunner type jigs and just plain tube skirted jigs or those sporting hair bodies have been effective.
Some vertical style anglers working manmade fish attractors such as stakebeds and brushpiles in the 6 to 14 foot range are catching fish too. They’ve had to make several stops as the fish are a bit scattered but that will continue to improve in the days ahead.
Even a few crappie were taken this week by anglers casting slip bobbers and fixed style Carlyle style floats over submerged structure. Both jigs and live minnows were paying dividends.
So the fish are on the move and following a typical prespawn pattern. It’s fair to say a variety of patterns and depths are producing fish. From casting jigs to spider rigging or just vertical presentations that put the bait right in the face of finicky fish, Kentucky Lake’s midrange depths in a multitude of places are beginning to produce increased numbers of crappie.
Bass fishermen have seen some improvement too along the gravel banks, rip-rap levees and shallow roadbeds. Right now it’s crankbait heaven along Kentucky Lake as bass begin to move up and respond to warmer surface temps.
Crawfish colored crankbaits are the norm this time of year but a wide variety of color combinations will produce as the water color has cleared. The last few weeks saw a lot of muddy to dingy water around but falling lake levels pulled most of the stain out of shallow areas.
Some bass fishermen are tossing swim baits off the deep shoreline banks plus offering Carolina rigs at times. And, the ever popular Texas rigged craws in green pumpkin pepper are popular too as are jig and craw combos worked slowly over rocks.
Topwater presentations have yet to get going but that will soon change when surface temps reach the upper 50’s and low 60’s. Some fishermen have been tossing spinnerbaits around any exposed wood such as crappie beds or perhaps logs that extend into deeper water from the shoreline.
Soon everyone can say spring has sprung. Let the games begin!