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101: Lake Elevation & Conditions

Home | Fishing | 101 | Lake Elevation & Conditions

Lake Elevation, Current, and Water Temperatures

Many factors come into play when fishing the Big Lakes of western Kentucky.  Some of the more common factors are seasons, weather, lake elevation & current, and lake structure.  We've taken these factors and others and asked Dave Stewart how these things effect fishing on our lakes.

Lake Elevation

Generally speaking, how does the elevation of the lakes affect fishing, such as fish feeding on vegetation during high waters or them moving to deeper water during winter pool?

The general "rule of thumb" for rising water levels and falling water levels is that when the water is rising the fish will move up with the water (i.e. more shallow and when the water is falling they will move deeper).  This rule applies when the water levels are fluctuating rapidly (over a short period of time) such as during a flood or hard draw down.

As far as seasonal water levels for the lakes, the levels really do not dictate the fish to move shallow or deeper.  Their movements are predicated though out the year on a number of things, such as spawn, food sources, oxygen levels, water temperatures, etc.

Water Temperatures

How do water temperatures affect fishing?

Generally speaking cold water slows down the metabolism of the fish (they are cold blooded) and so they are not as active nor do they eat as much.  In very warm water temperatures such as in deep summer the warmer water holds less oxygen and thus the fish become sluggish from a lack of oxygen.  For more about this, continue on to Lake Current.

Lake Current

How does lake current generally affect fishing?  What happens when a massive amount of water is being pulled through the dams?  What about the lack of current?

Current can have a number of affects on the fishing depending on the flow rate.  During normal rates of flow such as when the dams are  generating electricity, the water on the main lake will become more oxygenated and thus the fish will get more active.  This is especially  true during the deep summer months when the water temperatures are high and the oxygen levels are lower.

A high rate of flow such as we get when the gates are open at the dams will have a tendency to reposition the fish.  The fish will find areas of current breaks such as eddies formed by points jutting out into the lake causing current breaks.  In many cases, this will concentrate the fish in these areas.  It should be noted here that fish will always face into the current and this becomes important to the angler when presenting lures/baits to the fish. 

A very heavy flow of water such as we have seen when all or most of the gates are open will move a lot of the fish that are on the main lake into the bays so that they can escape the heavy current.  A lack of current during the spring, fall and winter does not really affect the fishing that much.  However, during the heat of the summer, the lack of current can have an adverse affect on the fishing because of lower oxygen levels.

Continue to Weather Patterns >

Fishing 101 Credits:

Written by Dave Stewart, Bass Buster Guide Service
Edited by Shawn Dunnaway
Fishing 101 may not be reproduced or reprinted and is provided exclusively by ExploreKentuckyLake.com

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Photo by John Mahler

If you've never visited The Land Between The Lakes in the fall, you are missing a real treat. Whether you are hiking, fishing, boating or just sight-seeing, fall is one of the most beautiful times to visit the lakes.