Wind, Warm-up, Changing Lake Levels - All Part of March Fishing Scene
Written by Steve McCadams - Published on March 7, 2023
March madness is here and back in style for the Kentucky Lake fishing scene. If you don’t like the weather just stick around a few minutes; it will change!
Fishermen these last two weeks have seen the weather roller coaster go wild. Number one has been the wind! Gale force at times and some days it felt like a tornado or a hurricane was on the verge of blowing us away. Wow!
Boat docks have blown away. Decks, piers and boat houses sustained damage. Downright dangerous to be on or near the lake at times one day, only to see a calm day in the aftermath of it all.
Lots of trees down in many areas and all up and down the lake’s shoreline. The only good thing about blowdowns is that they provide additional structure for fishermen. Once big trees lose their footing and bend over into the lake it creates great shallow habitat for a variety of fish, especially bass anglers.
Lots of different species will partake of the new structure as schools of pin minnows will thrive in the shoreline cover later this spring as they seek refuge in the branches and along logs once the tiny fish hatch out and hide from their predators.
Crappie will head to the treelaps too just like a rabbit seeking a new briar patch. So the storms are damaging and disappointing when they occur, often contributing to shoreline erosion along islands and around beautiful waterfront property.
Nasty weather leaves a path of destruction but it’s sometimes a double edge sword. Even downed trees throughout the forest create additional habitat for all sorts of wildlife seeking shelter.
Meanwhile, once winds subsided Kentucky Lake’s army of bass and crappie anglers wasted no time in heading back to the front lines of fishing.
Some nice stringers of crappie and bass have been taken recently. It’s fair to say lots of folks have spring fever these days courtesy of above average temperatures at times that have trees budding and bees buzzing.
For the record spring doesn’t officially arrive until March 20th. So, we’re still in the winter season according to the sometimes weird March calendar.
Surface temperatures this week were up to the 52 to 55 degree range in some areas of the reservoir. Cool nights are in the forecast so watch for that to fall back a few degrees in the days ahead.
Lake levels have been changing from week to week due to the storms. Last week Tennessee Valley Authority dropped lake levels several inches in anticipation of heavy rains and this week a steady rise has been underway.
Last week the lake dropped to a low readying of 354.3 for a day or two but quickly rebounded and has risen back to an elevation of 356.2 earlier this week. Water color is pretty good across most of the area with some stain in the main river area plus some bays where wind and runoff have stirred things up.
Tennessee Valley Authority is currently discharging a lot of water through Kentucky Dam. A rate of 146,000 cubic feet per second, which means considerable current is present in the main Tennessee River channel area.
Meanwhile, crappie are in their prespawn phase and really putting on the feedbag. As winter loses its grip and spring takes over the fish prepare for the annual ritual of spawning by bulking up their physiology courtesy of a hefty appetite.
The females are already developing heavy egg sacs and for anglers that means the best time of the year for catching trophy size crappie. Actually there are other times of the year to catch big slabs too but when the females are somewhat out of proportion due to bulging bellies they tip the scales a bit more!
Just last Saturday a small crappie club - West Tennessee Crappie Trail - held an event the day after the big storm out of Springville Pumphouse boat ramp, which is up West Sandy, with 15 boats in competition. Almost half the field weighed in a 7-fish limit that tipped the scales at 14 pounds plus! Big fish of the day was a slab weighing over 3 pounds!
So there’s been some pretty good reports these last two weeks when anglers could get out on the lake and fight the wind.
Productive depths have been midrange at times where 10 to 14 foot water gave up decent numbers. The warmer weather likely pulled a few fish out of deep water lately but some anglers were still stalking deep structure and reported finding some slabs in 18 to 20 feet as well.
While some were using live minnows or tipping jigs with minnows most credited their catches to jigs. From chartreuse combinations to some loud colored leadheads or even some dull colored skirts, jigs seemed to be the cat’s meow.
Bass fishermen have increased the pep in their step lately too. Several decent stringers have been reported by anglers tossing mostly crankbaits in shad colored variations. Some opted to use loud colors when they encountered dingy water in some bays.
Gravel and rock banks are the tickets as are some rip-rap and road beds. Some anglers were using suspending jerk baits or tossing a jig and pig combo at times.
Generally speaking the bass and crappie bite has been pretty good when the weather allowed fishermen to get out and about on the lake and travel to their favorite fishing holes.
March madness will continue for a few more weeks so keep the raincoat, overcoat and suntan lotion handy. You never know which one you’ll need!