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Archived Fishing Report

Anglers Ready to Rebound; Spring Arrives Monday

Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 03/15/2017

Kentucky Lake’s fishing scene is braced for a rapid rebound after a week of winter weather that delivered frigid temps, snow and nasty north winds.

Just knowing spring officially arrives on Monday should make anglers feel a bit better. All anglers need an attitude adjustment! Warmer weather is indeed in the forecast.

Most bass and crappie anglers yielded to the inclimate weather this week, opting to stay indoors and wait it out. Last week delivered a few days of decent fishing conditions and some nice stringers were taken but last Friday opened the door to a mean cold front that drastically dropped temperatures not to mention 2 ½ inches of snow.

Since then brutal cold and bone chilling winds have dominated, dropping surface temps and putting the brakes on what many thought would be an early spring. However, as the weekend approaches temps will moderate and climb out of the cellar, paving the way for better fishing conditions in the days ahead.

Lake levels are up a bit from last week at this time after some heavy rains and snowmelt entered the reservoir. TVA projects an elevation of 355.6 by this weekend at Kentucky Dam. Upstream around New Johnsonville the elevation will be in the 355.4 range. Lake levels are falling slowly.

Surface temps lost ground and dropped back this week to the 49 to 50 degree range. Watch for a slight rise in water temps in the days ahead. Water color is in pretty good shape across the reservoir with some dingy conditions in the backs of bays and where ditches or creeks empty into the main river areas.

Some crappie fishermen were talking early spawning phases a month ago at this time but their predictions were premature as most of March has lived up to its reputation as a mean month with roller coaster weather patterns.

I recommend you hope for the best and plan for the worst when making March plans. Bring your overcoat, raincoat and suntan lotion; you just never know which one you’ll need this time of year! Yet the gamble can pay off at times as some dandy bass and crappie can be taken this time of year.

Crappie are riding out the cold fronts and staging in their typical prespawn areas awaiting a warm up. Once surface temps return to the upper 50’s crappie will make a move toward shallow to midrange depths such as the 5 to 10 foot zone.

Active spawning phases won’t begin until stability returns and allows surface temps to reach the 62 to 66 degree range and stay there for more than just a day or two. Fish are in a transition pattern now and it’s not unusual for anglers to find them in several different depth ranges.

Prior to the cold fronts crappie were biting pretty good for anglers dunking jigs and jigs tipped with minnows. Depths of 5 to 9 feet were holding several. Most were vertical fishing jigs in the red/chartreuse, chartreuse with red glitter, blue/chartreuse color combinations just to name a few. Others were tipping a jig with Berkley crappie nibbles and scoring too.

Deeper ledges in the main lake areas were holding on to big numbers of small fish. Boats stalking the drop-offs were having to measure a lot of crappie that fell shy of the 10-inch minimum length limit. Even those fishing stakebeds and brushpiles in shallow to midrange depths were encountering a lot of small fish so there hasn’t been a magic depth for bigger fish.

Other techniques producing have been casting minnows or jigs beneath slip bobbers. That always seem to produce at times but especially for bank fishermen or those working shallow structure. Some are using Bobby Garland style grubs while others prefer a tube type skirt or small Road Runners style jigs.

Boats pulling long-line jig presentations, trolling crankbaits and slow trolling spider rigs have done fair but not as well as those using bottom bumping rigs in deep water or vertical presentations of jigs and minnows over structure. 

Male crappie have yet to show a darkening phase when hormonal changes cause their pigment to turn a beautiful, dark purple. Once that starts male crappie will transition toward gravel banks and shallow structure enroute to spawning territory.

It appears the timetable for Kentucky Lake’s crappie spawn is back on track for the normal early to mid-April period.

Bass fishermen who braved the elements last weekend landed some hefty females in their prespawn phase. Several fish in the 5-pound range have been taken.

Crankbaits continue to produce. Most are using some crawfish color shades but various shades of shad have worked well for those tossing suspending crankbaits and jerkbaits.

Carolina rigged craws are working too as anglers pull them slowly off sloping gravel points and along flats and sandbars near the main lake. 

Others are alternating between several crankbait rods with shallow runners and Rattle Trap style presentation with a jig and craw selection rigged up in the boat too.

Odds are the falling surface temperatures pulled a few bass out of shallow areas this week. The fish often pull back to spots near deeper water and stage there until warm weather rebounds and the shad move back toward shallow venues.

Now that bitter weather is in the rearview mirror anglers should see things bounce back but it may take a few days. Both bass and crappie anglers wake up to a changing lake every day this time of year. Changing with it and establishing that pattern is what keeps us going!

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Elk Herd
Photo by Melodie Cunningham

This herd of female elk are enjoying a winter's day in the Elk and Bison Prairie in Land Between The Lakes.