High Waters Throw Curve to Fishing Scene; Lake Levels Receding
Written by Steve McCadams - Published on April 20, 2022
After a week of abnormally high lake levels that really threw a curve to Kentucky Lake’s April fishing scene the reservoir crested Tuesday and began falling slowly by Wednesday.
In the aftermath of heavy rains across the region ten days ago the reservoir jumped dramatically, rising some three feet above normal for this time of year. Floating debris has been rampant across the lake making boating somewhat dangerous at times. As lake levels recede the debris should diminish. For anglers and pleasure boaters it has been mean out there lately.
Both the fish and fishermen have been attempting to adjust to the changing lake levels now for over a week. It has been tough going for most. Stability has not been in the cards for fishermen this spring.
Of concern to both bass and crappie anglers are the falling lake levels during spawning phases that are presently underway. Anglers are worried that year classes could suffer.
Bass fishermen followed the fish to shoreline habitat this week and began stalking the newly inundated shoreline cover. Fishermen were pretty much waking up to a new lake each day. It took a few days but the bass began moving up and anglers were soon fishing areas that were high and dry two weeks ago.
Normally the curve for reservoir filling on Kentucky Lake by Tennessee Valley Authority begins on April 1 with a target date of May 1 for summer pool elevation (359). However, when floods occur across the valley all that changes.
The reservoir rose to almost 361 elevation in the Paris Landing area before it crested. Falling lake levels will be in the picture now for several days as TVA is likely to pull the lake back down to its curve, which by next week will be slightly below summer pool.
Bass fishermen are concerned about the spawn taking place in shallow areas and then receding lake levels diminishing the success rate. If eggs are deposited in shallow areas then a drastic drop in lake stages these next few days could mean a year class loss or one greatly impacted.
The wild rise in the lake and now a quick drop could not have come at a worst time as far as spawning bass and crappie are concerned.
A strange spring has pushed back the crappie spawn as surface temperatures are just now reaching the ideal spawning range of 62 to 66 degrees. With this weekend’s warm forecast---temps are projected to reach the low 80’s-- surface temps are likely to jump to the upper’s 60’s in the next few days.
Joining the concerned bass fishermen worried about the situation at hand are crappie anglers too. Some crappie had moved up to shoreline structure last week but cold weather appeared to push them back out recently.
Some crappie up Big Sandy had attempted to move up to bushes and various shallow shoreline structure about ten days ago. Whether or not a few started early spawning phases is still an unknown.
There are still male crappie that haven’t turned dark like they normally do during the peak of spawn. No doubt the crazy spring weather has been a factor as prolonged cold spells have kept surface temps from warming.
The stage appears to be set for some crappie to kick in their spawning phases in the next few days. Anglers will see falling lake stages as surface temperatures rapidly rise.
Bass fishermen have enjoyed the early honeymoon of high lake levels and quickly adapted to pitching and flipping techniques. From Texas rigged craws to jig and pig combos, the short casting style is attractive for anglers working the thick cover.
Some have tossed spinnerbaits around the submerged grassbeds too as the ever popular yellow flowers were holding some bass that moved up fast, following the water that suddenly opened up a new world for them.
Meanwhile, crappie fishermen have been running about in search of scattered crappie that have been very tough to pattern. During the high water many crappie were roaming and not relating to structure the way they normally do when spawning is on the threshold.
Even long lining techniques that allow boaters to cover a lot of water were struggling at times. The fish were so scattered they were having tough luck as were spider rig fishermen and one pole vertical style anglers working stakebeds and brushpiles.
While a few scattered stringers of nice size slabs have been taken, it has been quite a challenge for the average angler as of late. It has been a one-here, one-there scenario.
The crappie bite could improve in the coming days as lake levels fall and fish change back to a structure oriented pattern as they should be seeking cover in which to deposit their eggs.
Some scattered crappie were taken in 9 to 12 feet that last few days while other reports had them coming from 14 foot depth ranges.
Hopefully the overall fishing picture will improve quickly as the lake gets back to the summer pool range. TVA may choose to stop at summer pool and hold the reservoir at that level next week instead of pulling it down lower.
We’ll see what happens. Meanwhile, both bass and crappie anglers have their fingers crossed that eggs and small fry hatching out don’t get left high and dry in the coming days. Future year classes could be adversely effected by all the yo-yoing of lake levels.
The saga of a strange spring continues!