Steve McCadams' Fishing Report
Lake Levels Recede as Temps Rise; Mayfly Hatches Continue
Report for July 8, 2020
Lake levels on Kentucky Lake have dropped since last week’s surge that saw the elevation jump a foot or so above normal summer pool in the aftermath of some very heavy rains across the TVA valley.
Another reason for the drop in lake levels is the implementation of winter drawdown by Tennessee Valley Authority. The agency’s curve on water level management sees a gradual drawdown begin once the popular recreational period around the Fourth of July holiday passes.
The months of May and June sees the reservoir resting around summer pool (359) until the drawdown kicks in. Projections for the upcoming weekend will see the reservoir falling to the 358.5 range. Water color remains clear across the reservoir.
A slow but gradual fall in lake levels will be underway through late fall when TVA pulls the lake down to winter pool range of 355 or less to create more storage capacity in the reservoir when late fall and winter rains occur.
Surface temperatures have been climbing, reflecting the hot days and warm summer nights that are dominating the summer fishing scene. Readings this week have seen surface temps in the 83 to 86 degree range as temps start out the mornings in the low range and peak at midafternoon.
A few bass fishermen slowly emerged this week after yielding to the Fourth of July recreational boat traffic that was abundant last weekend.
Most anglers are hitting the lake in the wee hours before the sun rises high and the heat takes over around midday. With falling lake levels now underway it has put some current out there in the main channel and across main lake ledges and various open water humps and sandbars.
That should stimulate the ledge bite for summer bass patterns that draw most anglers to the lake’s abundance of drop-offs and variety of submerged sandbars. Depths of 9 to 14 feet have been producing some bass lately and several anglers are concentrating on deeper depths than that.
Yet that midrange depth often produces well if schools of shad occupy the area. Even crappie anglers trolling crankbaits lately searching for scattered summer crappie have been tying into bass on a regular basis so that helps tell of the present day whereabouts of bass.
Anglers are tossing big deep diving crankbaits and the usual arsenal of big Texas rigged worms, Carolina rigged worms or Zoom’s Brush Hog have been popular along with swim baits and the ever popular jig and craw combos.
Meanwhile, not all the bass are deep as some fishermen have taken advantage of recent Mayfly hatches that pulled some bass toward shorelines and river island rims. Blowdowns have been popular hangouts for bass as not only mayflies have been abundant but so have huge schools of pin minnows.
A late hatch of shad fry has really offered an abundance of forage to the reservoir and bass have been chasing them around bushes and visible weeds, which locals refer to as “water willow”.
The enormous shad fry hatch is a positive sign for all anglers as the increase in the lake’s forage base will be of benefit to the entire fishery in the weeks and months ahead.
Tossing a spinnerbait around the schools of pin minnows has been paying dividends as have Texas rigged worms in the green pumpkin-pepper colors. Some topwater jerk baits and some buzzbaits have worked in the early morning and late afternoon hours when lowlight conditions were present.
Mid-summer crappie anglers have diminished in numbers lately but there are still a few boats finding enough fish to keep their attention. While some are following open water schools of shad and targeting that pattern in depths of 9 to 14 foot others are resorting to fishing manmade fish attractors in similar depths with vertical presentations of live minnows and jigs.
A few boats that have attempted to locate some schooling crappie hanging out on the deep sides of main lake ledges have found that pattern to be tough going. Deeper sides of drop-offs have been reluctant to give up fish as they have not congregated around deep structure much. A few have been taken but no schooling activity.
Some boats have chosen to troll crankbaits along the main lake sandbars and attempt to stay on the edge of a drop-off where some crappie have been taken. Trolling allows anglers to cover a lot of water and when crappie are scattered or suspended as they pursue meandering schools of shad then the trolling technique can be productive.
Summer trolling also produces bass and catfish that often tag a swimming crankbait that enters their comfort zone. So, trolling can, at times, put a variety of fish in the icebox.
A few boats targeting catfish are now working the edge of the main river channel since current seems to enhance that fishery. Bumping bottom with both live minnows and nightcrawlers works well this time of year when current stimulates movement from schools of shad.
Watch for more mayfly hatches to occur these next few weeks as well. It appears the dog days of summer are here!
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Steve's reports cover Kentucky Lake from Paris Landing to New Johnsonville.
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About Steve McCadams
A member of the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Legends of the Outdoors, Steve McCadams is a professional guide and outdoor writer from Paris, Tenn.