Lake Levels Fall; Crappie Bite Improves
Written by Steve McCadams - Published on September 11, 2019
Anglers and recreational boaters best play close attention to channel markers as TVA has Kentucky Lake elevation down several feet from summer pool elevation. For the next several months boaters don’t want to take those shortcuts across main lake sandbars or cut corners entering bays, marinas and boat ramps.
Lake levels this week are resting at the 355.5 mark, which is down a few inches from last week and some 3 1/2 feet below summer pool elevation.
TVA begins its annual winter drawdown schedule in early July each year. A gradual drawdown allows the agency to create more storage capacity for winter rains across the valley but no doubt the lack of rain recently may have contributed to the present low level status.
Temperatures have been rising while lake levels have been falling. Surface temps this week were hanging on to the 83-degree range. Anglers are yearning for cooler days but hot and humid weather has worn out its welcome across the region.
Last Tuesday set a record high across much of middle and west Tennessee as temps topped out around 97 in some counties. A cool front has been stubborn to arrive but the weatherman says Monday’s high will finally fall out of the 90’s with some much needed rain expected to escort slightly cooler conditions.
Water color remains clear across the reservoir due to a lack of rain.
Crappie fishing has shown some improvement lately despite above average surface temperatures. Anglers are finding a few fish holding in midrange depths of 9 to 12 feet.
Each year crappie transition into midrange depths by early September as they follow schools of shad that meander across the open main lake flats and up into large bays. Crappie follow their forage and often move toward shallow areas when cooler conditions arrive.
Anglers haven’t had much cooperation lately from the weatherman. Cloudy days and cool fronts haven’t been in the cards. Fall officially arrives on Monday, September 23.
Still, a few anglers have braved the summer conditions and managed to find a few fish playing their game. Producing patterns have range from a slow trolling, multipole presentation of spider rigging to vertical fishing live minnows over manmade fish attractors.
The late summer and fall crappie fishing on Kentucky Lake usually delivers stable weather and lake levels, which contrasts greatly to unpredictable spring weather when cold fronts, gale winds and changing lake levels challenge fishermen.
Personally, fall fishing one of my favorite times to be on the lake. Soon cooler days will take over and those jacket mornings and shirt-sleeve afternoons will be the norm.
Once you find fish in a certain depth range or locale they stay put to the extent you can depend on their whereabouts for the coming weeks.
Recent reports indicate a few more baitfish are visible compared to the last two to three years. Schools of shad are usually visible on calm days as they roam in big numbers feeding on zooplankton. That hadn’t been the case the last few years so that’s a positive thing for the fall fishing season ahead.
Producing best have been live minnows. A few jigs tipped with minnows have worked too but sometimes the crappie are selective and they make the rules!
Other anglers are trolling crankbaits and long lining Road Runner style jigs with token results. And, as lake levels fall there are likely a few more fish holding on main lake ledges in slightly deeper water this week.
The catfish bite has held up pretty good for those boats targeting the edge of the river channel. Bumping bottom in the 25 to 25 foot depths has paid dividends but a few crappie fishermen working midrange depths of 9 to 12 feet are picking some up too so all the catfish are not deep.
Baits of choice for catfishermen continue to be nightcrawlers with a few anglers using big minnows and chicken livers. The current is the big factor these days for river fishermen who like to drift slowly and bump bottom.
However, some days the current isn’t moving much and that situation seems to derail the catfish bite.
Bass fishing has been sluggish the last week or two for most boaters. Still finding a few are those anglers working a summer pattern and tossing big crankbaits, Texas rigged worms, Carolina rigged craws and swim bait out on the main lake flats and sandbars.
It’s time more bass were moving up to shallow flats and back into bays in pursuit of shad schools. Watching the gulls will help you locate the baitfish this time of year.
A few white bass and schools of small yellow bass have been breaking at times on calm days as they bust the surface feeding on shad. Find them and you’ll like encounter some large bass there with them.
Late afternoon and early morning gravel banks haven’t attracted much activity but that pattern should improve once surface temps fall back into the low 70’s.
Most all anglers are yearning for cooler days and perhaps next week will bring needed change.