Explore Kentucky Lake

Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkley Fishing
Facebook Twitter Instagram Google YouTube Contact Us About Us
Switch Mobile/Desktop

Archived Fishing Report

Anglers Recover From Cold Front; Better Days Ahead

Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 05/19/2016

Dominating the conversation lately among the ranks of fishermen on Kentucky Lake has been the annoying cold front. It was a mean one!
    
Since late last week anglers have donned overcoats, coveralls and rain suits as they battled the elements. Mid-May weather wasn’t supposed to be like this but bone chilling northwest winds blew in a dramatic weather change that saw daily highs some 8 to 10 degrees below normal for five to six days back to back.
    
Surface temperatures had a significant drop too. Readings at midweek were in the 66 to 68 degree range, which is also well below average for this time of year.
    
The good news is a warming trend is now in progress and the mercury is projected to climb back into the mid 70’s this weekend and perhaps reach the 80-degree mark early next week. A rapid rebound is indeed underway.
    
Water levels have been normal this week but that’s about the only normalcy fishermen faced. Projections for the weekend show the reservoir will stay at summer pool range of 359 at both Kentucky Dam and New Johnsonville area barring any drastic rainfall.
    
Most of the reservoir is sporting a good color for fishing. A little stain is present in some areas due to wind or small feeder creek runoff.
    
Just about all type anglers experienced a negative impact from the unusual weather change this past week. The popular panfish species of redear and bluegill had a mood swing. Redear, commonly referred to as shellcracker, really backed off their bite and spawning phases that were in high gear last week pretty much hit the brakes.
    
Bluegill action slowed some too but didn’t shut down like the shellcracker. Some good stringers were still taken most days but anglers had to fish a bit harder to entice finicky fish to bite. Strikes were sluggish as the bluegill backed off the banks a bit and occupied slightly deeper venues.
    
Since the cold front descended late last week bluegill seemed to drop back off shallow fanning beds and resided in 4 to 7 foot depths at times. Anglers had to slow their presentation as stubborn males that normally display an aggressive behavior were timid and reluctant to bite at times. Fish wouldn’t even take a bobber under most mornings.
    
With the arrival of the first full moon of May, which occurs on Saturday, watch for spawning phases to resume for both bluegill and shellcracker. The warming trend will no doubt have a positive influence. A lot of the big female shellcracker were spawning prior to the cold front’s arrival but odds are a few will get back into the swing of things by this weekend and early next week.
    
Both these species are sensitive to quick surface temperatures changes. It’s not unusual to see dramatic changes in their mood when cold fronts pay uninvited visits and linger several days, which is what happened late last week and most of this week.
    
Catfish have been hitting good lately as their spawning phases continue. Good numbers were taken despite the cold front’s impact this week.
    
Shallow pockets off the main lake areas are attracting a lot of catfish that are on the move and searching for rocky or gravel type bottoms in which to deposit their eggs. Shoreline anglers are catching them around rip-rap banks but a lot of bluegill and shellcracker fishermen continue to tie into some dandies on a daily basis while casting light tackle.
   
Bass action slowed this week as the fish were a bit turned off by the cold spell too. Still, anglers are targeting post-spawn fish that have backed off the banks a bit and relating to secondary structure or midrange ledges.
    
Tossing big deep diving crankbaits and swimbaits has paid dividends lately as have some big Texas rigged worms, jig and craw combos and Alabama rigs.
    
Not all the fish have left shallow shoreline habitat. Some decent bass were still residing in weedbeds around island rims. A few fish were responding to topwater presentations or suspending jerk baits. 
    
Some boats were pitching and flipping shallow bushes and blowdowns while others were tossing spinnerbaits around visible cover.
    
With warmer weather on the way and rising surface temperatures, the ledge bite should improve next week across the reservoir.
    
Crappie anglers continue to find a few scattered post-spawn fish in midrange depths. While low numbers of shallow crappie have been taken in 7 to 8 foot depths, most successful anglers were working the 13 foot depth range with either vertical presentations of jigs and minnows around stakebeds or slow trolling crankbaits for suspended fish out in the main lake area.
    
In the wake of mean cold front that wore out its welcome, Kentucky Lake’s fishing scene is rapidly returning to stability where warm days dominate and light winds are the norm. Time to shed the jackets and get the sunscreen back out.
     
May is usually a mild, predictable month for fishermen but it has been a weird spring! Can I get an Amen on that?

More Kentucky Lake Fishing Reports

Now That You're 'Hooked' on Fishing... Come See Us!

If you've dug this deep in our Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley fishing reports, you are probably just itching to come down and visit the South's biggest lakes.  Get started by finding that perfect place to stay!  Find a Kentucky Lake cabin or a Lake Barkley campground, a full-service resort or a marina.  Heck, there are even dozens of hotels off the water to choose from! 

Don't have a boat?  No worries!  Bank fishing is always an option for panfish. But if you're heart is set on largemouth or smallmouth, you can rent a fishing boat at many of our local resorts!

The perfect place to start looking for a place to stay at Kentucky or Barkley Lakes?  Right here on our main lodging page.


Honker Bay
Photo by John Mahler

Honker Bay, located near The Nature Station, is a great place to hike or simply stop to observe a beautiful sunset.