Pumpkin Month Should Boost Angler's Attitudes
Written by Steve McCadams - Published on September 26, 2022
Autumn angling is here in full force. Nothing says more about the transition from summer to fall than the appearance of pumpkins across the countryside in people’s yards. Displays are everywhere welcoming harvest time.
Kentucky Lake’s fishing scene already has a different feel to it too courtesy of a few cooler days and nights that just has a different feel to it. Something is indeed in the air.
Soon fishermen will see cooler surface temps as the lake has already dropped a few degrees in the last week to ten days. Most of us are ready to don the jackets in the early morning hours and perhaps negotiate a few patches of fog in route to our favorite first stop fishing spot.
Surface temperatures this week dropped slightly and were in the 77 degree range by morning and warming to the 79 range by midafternoon.
Water color is clear. Lake levels dropped slightly from last week and are now down to the 355.1 range. Boaters best be cautious out there!
I love this time of year. Jacket mornings fade away to shirt sleeve afternoons. Already turning to light reds are maple trees and some sweet gums. Soon the hillsides around the lake will parade their display of colors once scaly bark hickories turn a brilliant yellow and oaks go orange.
While all that’s taking place there’s a transition underway within the waters of Kentucky Lake too. Bass and crappie respond favorably to the lower surface temperatures and once the readings fall to the low 70’s and upper 60’s fish have a mood swing.
The bite usually turns more aggressive. Fish get more pep in their step too, just like the anglers chasing after them.
Schools of shad begin roaming the surface as they meander about feeding on zooplankton. Their journeys take them toward backwater bays and out over shallow sandbars and flats. Hot on their trail will be a variety of fish such as bass, crappie, white bass and the pesky schools of yellow bass that never seem to get their fill when robbing your bait.
Like a green fly at a picnic these little rascals can be annoying. They are feisty. Fun to catch at times too. They do aggravate crappie anglers, however, by stealing minnows as soon as your drop in or perhaps pecking away at a jig and tearing away the skirt or causing premature hook sets as they dart about.
They also possess very sharp fins that will cut your hand in the blink of an eye. Their gill covering, known as the operculum, is sharp as a razor and will slice your hand in mid-air as you release the little bait stealer.
Crappie anglers working submerge structure with a jig or live minnow presentation often have trouble just getting the bait down to the right depth where the cover resides and crappie hide in preparation for their ambush.
Once the word gets out that fresh morsels are on the menu the schools of yellow bass act like piranha who just smelled blood. They go on a feeding frenzy. Sometimes anglers just have to pick up and move to get away from them or risk letting them destroy your bait supply or tear up your jig skirts.
Meanwhile, fall crappie fishermen on Kentucky Lake will soon be seeing more activity in medium to shallow depth areas. As the baitfish transition toward 6 to 12 foot areas—or even less---crappie will be hot on their trail.
Crappie have already begun to pull out of some of their deep summer hideouts and slowly stair-step their way toward shallow venues. It doesn’t happen overnight. As cooling takes place the crappie know to move up to midrange depths and that’s taking place now.
Sometimes a cloudy day mixed with a dab of rain will see the shallow bite really turn on. Crappie are somewhat sensitive to light, which is why they’re more finicky at times just after a front passes through leaving high sunny skies and a north to northeast wind in its path.
Meanwhile, should cloudy days descend or a dreary rainy day enter the forecast it’s a good time to zip up the rain gear, slip on the rubber boots and strike a trot to the lake. Fish feel the low pressure as weather is changing and it stimulates movement throughout the food chain.
From tiny zooplankton to larger baitfish, the whole army of forage is out and about feeding. Also feeding are the larger predators such as bass and crappie so that plays into the hands of anglers yearning for a tug on the line.
I’ve always said the best time to go fishing is whenever you can! My theory there hasn’t changed but there are sometimes better conditions that work in favor of good fishing and a cloudy, rainy day throughout the fall is one of those times.
Bass fishermen know it too. When sluggish bass show little interest in even the best lures cast in the right spots sometimes it’s just a lethargic mood of the fish that’s tough to change.
That lethargic mood changes to an aggressive feeding spree when cloud cover or rainy days move in. When the baitfish start moving about the bass, catfish, crappie and other gamefish go on a tear. Suddenly the stars are in line for good fishing days.
Kentucky Lake bass fishermen have been slugging it out in the trenches for several weeks now. The rash of hot weather this summer and fall was tough on them. Fish just played hard to get for even the most experienced fishermen.
Several tournaments mirrored the status of the fishery. Smaller stringers were coming in at the weigh-ins as both numbers and size seemed to be off.
In the weeks ahead watch for some improvement as the shallow bite should have more appeal. The abundance of gravel banks will hold bass that move up to feed in the early morning and late afternoon hours.
Tiny insects such as midges will hatch in lowlight conditions and that attracts feeding sprees from shad. Bass know it and follow them up to shallow sloping gravel banks where anglers can sometimes hit a good topwater opportunity.
Jerk baits that mimic the tiny shad are deadly choices. Chrome colored stick baits fished with a light tip rod that twitch and dart about will attract a strike. Catching bass on topwater is about as good as it gets in the opinions of most anglers.
All this time the catfish bite stays underway too out along the banks of the Tennessee River. Some catfish move up to midrange depths too but a lot of the big blues hang out along the riverbank in deep depths all fall.
A slow moving current will put anglers in the driver’s seat to encounter plenty of action. About the only hurdle is a high wind that puts whitecaps in the vast open water and dictates where anglers can fish.
Yet fall is a season known for stability. Battling those uninvited cold fronts and nasty north winds, as was the case this spring, isn’t as likely this time of year.
This week the weather has been great and it should hold up in the weeks ahead. A few warm days here and there but the heat and humidity won’t last as autumn weather is calling the shots.
Best get out there and partake of this wonderful season now upon us.