Prespawn Crappie Phases Advance
Written by Steve McCadams - Published on March 23, 2022
Still playing the cards dealt by illusive weathermen are the anglers on Kentucky Lake. This week’s fishing scene had quite a mixture of conditions but that’s vintage March; always unpredictable.
Some decent stringers of crappie have been taken as the fish progress during the prespawn phase. It’s that time of the year when each week has a few nice warm days sandwiched between some not so nice ones.
It has been a typical late March week that started off with anglers sporting shirtsleeves but it appears it will end in overcoats. Add a few days of rain and wind to the mix too!
As surface temperatures climbed into the 56 to 58 degree range this week---even warmer at times in a few spots---it sure increased fishing fever for legions of anglers who ventured out last Sunday and Monday in the aftermath of a nasty cold front.
A couple warm days saw spring fever running rampart as trees were budding and shouting spring. Boats were abundant across Kentucky Lake last Sunday as fishermen were basking in the sun and finding a few fish playing their game.
The most productive technique around the upper Big Sandy and West Sandy sector as well as the Paris Landing area region has been long lining or spider rigging. Pulling Road Runner style jigs in the 15 foot depth range has worked well for some who boated limits a day or two.
Those pushing spider rig multipole presentations with a buffet of baits have also scored decent stringers at times while those using the one-pole vertical presentation over manmade fish attractors such as stakebeds and brushpiles have struggled for the most part.
That’s not to say vertical fishing methods haven’t produced a few as has casting jigs at times but the slow trolling techniques have produced best as of late.
Seems fish have been scattered for most anglers who are having to cover a lot of water to accumulate numbers. It appears the crappie are still suspended and scattered in their staging areas during prespawn.
There have been a few fish moving up to midrange depths and responding to the rising surface temperatures at times but no real blitz has taken place just yet. Watch for that to happen whenever warm weather resumes as several consecutive days of warm sunshine are needed to jumpstart the early spawning phases.
Lake levels this week have been relatively stable. Minor fluctuations have taken place as the reservoir has stayed around the 355 range all of last week but began a slow decent earlier this week as Tennessee Valley Authority pulled levels down to the 354.5 range a few days.
Heavy rains were forecast at midweek across the region so it appears TVA was creating more storage capacity by lowering lake levels in anticipation of massive runoff.
If heavy rains live up to the forecast from meteorologists anglers can expect rising lake levels to be part of the picture by this weekend across Kentucky Lake. If not, no problem as the current elevation is at a normal winter pool range for this time of year.
Presently water color has been good for fishermen who have seen a slight stain present. Just how much dingy water enters the reservoir from heavy rains to our south is still unknown.
Normal reservoir filling for TVA’s curve doesn’t start until April 1 with a summer pool (359 elevation) projection date of May 1 each year. That schedule can be thrown off if abnormal rainfall occurs.
Meanwhile, some hefty female slabs caught this week that tipped the scales in the 1 ½ to 2 pound range were bulging with eggs. They were clearly preparing for the annual ritual. Eggs were still firm and still a week to ten days away from peak spawning time.
The biological clock is ticking. Once surface temps cross the 60-degree threshold look for the blitz to begin as fish migrate up from midrange depths toward shallow flats and move back into the upper ends of bays.
Depths of 4 to 8 feet should start producing fish soon. A few have already been taken there but they aren’t there yet in significant numbers.
Male crappie have started changing slowly toward their beautiful dark purple color but aren’t sporting peak change just yet. The change occurs courtesy of hormonal influence as spawning nears.
Once the water warms to the 62 to 66 degree range and stays there for a day or two look for the early phases of spawning to begin. It looks like the first week to ten days of April will again offer the potential for some good fishing but cooler weather could prolong the spawn and push it back further into April.
What most anglers hope for this time of year is stability in weather patterns combined with a slow and gradual rise in lake levels. When things move slowly it doesn’t upset the apple cart and crappie stair-step their way up to spawning territory.
It’s the drastic changes in surface temperatures that occur overnight or dramatic changes in lake levels that sometimes happen quickly that throw a curve to both the fish and fishermen.
Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for weather normalcy in the weeks ahead.
From the bass department comes word of some good smallmouth taken the last week to ten days up and down the reservoir.
Most of the nicer stringers have been taken on the east side of the reservoir as those bays and creeks offer somewhere steeper bluffs and gravel fed creeks that deliver less turbid water color.
Some of the better fish have been taken on a variety crawfish colored variations on deep diving crankbaits while a few came off suspending crankbaits and leadhead jigs sporting a twister tail grub.
There’s always a few savvy bass fishermen tossing finesse baits as well in their efforts to fool finicky bronzebacks into taking smaller presentations cast on light spinning rods.
Still beating the banks with shad and crawfish colored crankbaits are early spring bass anglers who have been finding some fish relating to rocky points and just along gravel shorelines. A few exposed roadbeds and some rip-rap banks have produced fish too.
Some shallow structure in the form of exposed crappie beds, logs and various blowdowns with enough water depths have held a fish or two. Tossing shallow running crankbaits and a spinnerbait at times has worked.
There has been current present this week when TVA began pushing water through Kentucky Dam in preparation for approaching rains. That has attracted boaters to target island rims or sloping sandbars where bass were holding.
Rattletrap style presentations have worked lately too as it allows anglers to cover a lot of water with their long casts in search of fish that might be roaming as well.
Late March and early April is a time of change across Kentucky Lake as both surface temps and lake levels rise.