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Archived Fishing Report

Mayfly Hatches Signal Summer for Kentucky Lake Anglers

Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 06/30/2016

Nothing says summer for Kentucky Lake fishermen more than a mayfly hatch. Seems they always descend around the Fourth of July and earlier this week they did just that around the Paris Landing sector and elsewhere on the reservoir.
Old timers among our ranks recall fond memories of flyrods and popping bugs. Commonly referred to as “willow flies” because of their attraction to overhanging willow trees along the lake’s shoreline, anglers of all ages got a thrill from the feeding frenzy with cast after cast producing strikes from hungry bluegill and bass.
You quickly came under the spell when the flies swarmed and fell to the water, causing the placid waters to erupt with splash after splash from lucky fish gorging themselves on nature’s buffet. Birds of all kinds hit gold too, bouncing from limb to limb and helping the fishermen and fish as they stirred things up.
Although not as abundant as yesteryear, mayfly hatches still occur from mid-June through late August. Bass fishermen often find their targets lying beneath the overhangs, feeding on both the files and other small fish that come to the picnic.
Just about every species of fish benefits from a mayfly hatch. The adult fly has quite a biological journey from a dormant larva stage sleeping all year in the mud to taking flight and mating. It has a short life span once it hatches but lives long enough to keep the cycle going.
Meanwhile, Kentucky Lake’s fishing scene continues to hold up well for bass and crappie anglers. A few catfish are showing up too, along with bluegill.
Lake levels have been relatively stable this week with a slight rise of a few inches in the Kentucky Dam area. TVA projects a reading 359 this weekend, which is normal summer pool. Upstream at New Johnsonville lake levels are slightly lower with an elevation of 358.7 projected. Water color remains clear.
Surface temperatures this week have been in the 84 to 85 degree range. Anglers got a little reprieve from the heat and humidity on Wednesday and Thursday as a north wind brought a slight touch of fall to the morning air.
Winds have been kind to anglers this week too. A slight breeze out there most days helped stir the air and kept things tolerable.
Bass anglers are still landing decent stringers as they target main lake ledges in search of larger schools of fish. Some have found success too, locating a few schools of fish while tossing big spoons, crankbaits, swim baits, jig and pig combos and those 10-inch Texas rigged worms.
Ledge fishing is always hit and miss. At times you find the right drop-off at the right time when fish are aggressive and chasing shad in a feeding mode. Other times you make cast after cast on what appears to be a decent spot but the bass won’t bite.
Most anglers targeting main lake drop-offs this time of year prefer to have current. The moving water stimulates baitfish activity and when the shad are roaming and feeding on plankton the bass bite improves.
There are times when veteran anglers mark fish with their side-scan sonar units, a valuable tool for some modern day fishermen who depend on their electronics to help eliminate dead water. Locating a sleepy school in deep water hideouts can be the cat’s meow.
Those who master the art of interpreting electronics often find and catch fish when others struggle. With the use of swim baits, big spoons and deep diving crankbaits anglers can sometimes trigger sluggish fish into biting.
That’s been the scenario lately for many deep water bass anglers on Kentucky Lake. However, there are a lot of fish lingering in midrange depths of 10 to 14 feet and relating to structure such as submerged crappie beds, stumps and brushpiles.
Shallow bass are still there too and some are moving up to take advantage of the mayfly madness. Tossing topwater in the early morning hours has produced this week as have some spinnerbaits and Texas rigged worms around the parameter of shallow grassbeds.
A few schools of pin minnows have been showing up this week around shallow visible structure and when you locate the minnows you’ll find bass.
Even in hot weather there is still a productive shallow pattern at times for Kentucky Lake bass fishermen.
Crappie continue to show up for early summer anglers stalking the midrange depths of 10 to 14 feet. Those deeper stakebeds and brushpiles have paid dividends throughout the month of June and fish will linger there for another week or two it appears.
Tipping jigs with minnows or just presenting a minnow by itself have worked well lately. A few anglers are tipping a jig with Berkley power bait in the white and chartreuse colors. However, that live minnow has been the bait of choice.
Some pretty nice size crappie have been taken too. Anglers can expect to catch a lot of small fish mixed in there with a nice slab at times.
Somewhat annoying are the aggressive little yellow bass that act like there is no tomorrow when they tag your bait. The little fellows dart around and really put a bend in the pole once hooked. They are the pigmies of the fishing world and will quickly show you their sharp gill covering or needle point spines if you grab them incorrectly.
The little fellows are part of the summer fishing scene, however. Unfortunately, they possess a never ending appetite for live minnows and will lower the population of your bait bucket. Seems they go crazy once mayfly hatches occur as they also feed on the larva stage emerging from the lake’s substrate.
Summer crappie fishing has been pretty good overall so hit the lake early and you’ll beat the heat.
A few catfish are still hanging around midrange depths. That shows they haven’t pulled back to those main river channel banks just yet but will likely do so as the summer progresses.
Jug fishermen have been catching a few as they allow their army of baits to drift across flats. Nighcrawlers, shrimp, big minnows and chicken livers have been productive as have commercial concoctions.
Kentucky Lake’s summer fishing scene has been favorable to a variety of anglers this week and should hold up for quite a spell. Here’s hoping you have a good Fourth of July weekend on the water but be extra careful out there and respect other boaters competing for the same routes, ramps and parking spots!

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Fallow Deer
Photo by Murray Blake

There are only a few small herds of fallow deer in Land Between The Lakes, but occasionally a lucky explorer will catch a glimpse of one.