Late Summer Fishing Update
Written by Steve McCadams - Published on September 4, 2019
Kentucky Lake’s late summer fishing scene has shown some improvement lately for crappie and catfishermen. There’s already a touch of fall in the air and that seasonal change is fast approaching.
Lake levels continue to fall slowly and TVA’s drawdown curve is pretty much on schedule. Elevation this week hovered around the 356 range (normal summer pool is 359) at Kentucky Dam and only a few inches higher upstream in the New Johnsonville area.
Lower lake levels are common on both Barkley and Kentucky Lakes throughout the late summer and fall months. TVA implements its winter drawdown schedule beginning in early July each year in order to create storage capacity within the reservoir in anticipation of winter rainfall.
Surface temperatures cooled slightly and this week readings were in the 83 to 84 degree range. Water color is still clear across the reservoir.
There has been slow current present in the main Tennessee River channel, which has worked in favor of catfishermen stalking the edges of the main river channel. Depths of 25 to 35 feet have given up some decent stringers lately for anglers using nightcrawlers as their bait of choice. A few anglers credited their catches to chicken livers and big minnows as bait.
The cooler nights the last week or so have helped curtail the heat and humidity to some degree and made the early morning outings quite nice for anglers. Those warm days haven’t totally disappeared but conditions are more enjoyable on the lake when compared to a month ago.
Crappie fishing has shown some improvement lately with a few more anglers chalking up decent stringers at times. Several stringers have been taken from relatively shallow to midrange depths this week.
Stalking depths of 5 to 10 feet in some areas has produced a few crappie as have midrange depths of 10 to 14 feet at times. A few boats have attempted to locate some deep water fish while vertical fishing minnows and jigs around brushpiles but the deep bite has been inconsistent.
Live minnows have been the bait of choice as the crappie have shown a preference for minnows over jigs but some fish have been taken by anglers tipping 1/16-ounce jigs with minnows. Tipping the jigs has also paid dividends.
Some boats have been slow trolling or pushing spider rigs in the back of big bays. Other techniques producing have been vertical fishing minnows down in stakebeds and brushpiles where fish are holding tight at times around the submerged structures.
Finding crappie up in shallow to midrange depths may seem odd during hot weather but the fish follow their forage base, namely threadfin shad and that seems to be where the baitfish are at times. Cloudy or rainy days will especially help out the shallow pattern as the fish are more aggressive with cloud cover as the bite subsides at midday when the bright sun changes things.
With cooler days now entering the picture plus lower lake levels the fall transition will slowly begin to take place as fish move up. Another week or so of cooler days will see significant improvement in the shallow bite.
Bass fishing has been a bit sluggish lately as anglers haven’t been able to boat big numbers. Finding schooling fish has not been in the cards this summer.
In the past those abundant grassbeds were full of baitfish and the late summer pattern in the backs of bays was dependable but that’s not the case nowadays.
Although bass haven’t moved up to shallow gravel banks thus far, that pattern should emerge in the days and week ahead. Early morning and late afternoon gravel banks should start holding bass that move in to feed in the lowlight conditions when small insects such as midges hatch.
The midge hatch attract the shad and close on their trail are bass who know the early morning and late afternoon buffet occur for short windows of opportunity. Tossing Rattle Trap style lures and assorted topwater is usually productive.
Still producing a few scattered bass is the typical summer pattern of main lake ledges. Anglers working the main lake ledges are playing the current when it’s present and tossing swim baits, crankbaits, Carolina rigged worms and craws, jig and craw combos and some occasional suspending jerk baits.
Shallow style bass anglers are finding a few fish lingering around stickups and exposed crappie beds. Casting spinnerbaits and shallow running crankbaits has worked well around shallow structure plus boat houses and roadbeds.
Once surface temps fall back into the upper 70’s, which should occur soon, Kentucky Lake’s fishing scene should see overall improvement. Fall officially arrives on Monday, September 23 if you’re keeping score on the calendar but fall patterns usually start well before the season arrives.