Anglers Swelter As Summer Heat Wave Lingers
Written by Steve McCadams - Published on July 13, 2022
By Saturday Kentucky Lake’s fishing scene will have seen 29 consecutive days where temperatures have reached the 90-degree mark says the National Weather Service. That’s assuming we don’t have a cool snap before then but you get the picture.
Hot weather has been a big factor for fishermen now for several weeks. Several catfishermen and some die-hard bass and crappie anglers continue to hit the lake early, logging several hours of decent fishing conditions before midday.
Most days it feels like a sauna after a midmorning sun takes over and calls the shots.
Surface temperatures this week climbed to the highest reading of the year. Most days temps start out around 86 degrees and heat up to the 89 to 90-degree range by the afternoon. Some shallow pockets have seen readings of 91. Water color is clear across the reservoir.
Lake levels continue a slow decent as Tennessee Valley Authority initiated its annual drawdown just after the Fourth of July holiday period. Projections going into the weekend show the elevation will rest around the 358.7 range, which is down a few inches from the 359 summer pool mark that stayed around during May and June.
Anglers and recreational boaters will notice a gradual decline in lake levels throughout the summer and early fall months. That’s part of TVA’s curve, drawing down lake levels to create more storage capacity.
The catfishing scene seemed to benefit somewhat from increased current this week. TVA has been pushing 25,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) through Kentucky Dam the last few days and that’s up a bit from last week.
That’s enough flow to stimulate decent conditions along the main Tennessee River channel and stir up baitfish activity.
Decent stringers were taken in the 40 to 50 foot depth range. A few fish were suspended at times as anglers offered nightcrawlers, chicken livers, big minnows and other varieties of bait presentations along the main channel bank.
Once popular among the ranks of summer time catfishermen were the use of catalpa worms for bait. They worked very well on catfish and bluegill liked them too.
However, catalpa worms are hard to find these days. The big green leaves on catalpa trees attracted the dark black and yellow worms throughout the summer months.
Fishermen once sought their whereabouts before heading to their favorite fishing hole. It was a free bait source courtesy of Mother Nature.
Unfortunately catalpa worms have almost vanished although many trees still remain. No clear reason for the demise but I have a hunch herbicides and pesticides have likely contributed to the worm’s disappearance.
Some crappie have been taken lately on main lake ledges where anglers found a few in the early morning hours relating to structure in the 18 to 25 foot depth range. Live minnows seem to be working well but so are jigs if you experiment and find the right color.
Solid body grubs such as Bobby Garland solid bodies in such color combinations as blue/chartreuse, mayfly, monkey’s milk and chartreuse with sparkle are a few popular choices.
The bite seems to diminish by midmorning once the sun rises higher as the fish are light sensitive some days when no cloud cover is present to help filter out the beaming sunlight.
Night fishing for crappie hasn’t caught on here like it has in east Tennessee and Kentucky Lakes that are deep and clear.
Trolling crankbaits has produced a few crappie too. Boaters targeting main lake ledges are picking up some fish in the 12 to 15 foot depth range.
Bass fishermen on the other hand are turning to night fishing more and more during the summer season. Several boats have been going that route and finding a few smallmouth falling prey to a big spinnerbait or jig and craw combo.
Working rip-rap shorelines or levees near deep water has worked for night anglers as have bridge piers.
As to daytime angling boaters are finding main lake ledge bite paying off some days when the current kicks in. This past week saw an increase in flows and that seemed to help.
Tossing big deep diving crankbaits in black/chartreuse, Tennessee shad, pearl or bone colored variations and chrome/blue have been a few popular choices.
Big 10-inch Texas rigged worms have worked on ledges as have jig and craw combos. Carolina and Alabama rigs are also part of the summer bass angler’s arsenal these days on Kentucky Lake.
Scattered mayfly hatches continue to emerge up and down the reservoir. At times the aftermath of the hatch brings a few bass and bluegill up shallow to feast on the natural buffet so it seems there’s always the potential of a few fish shallow somewhere on Kentucky Lake if schools of pin minnows are located or mayflies are hatching.
Tolerate the heat and humidity as best you can but realize your limitations!