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Crappie Spawn Resumes; Wacky Weather Week Alters Timetable

Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 04/06/2017

Kentucky Lake’s crappie spawning phases will resume later this weekend and kick into high gear by early next week as warm weather is in the forecast.
    Temps are predicted to stay in the upper 70’s to low 80’s beginning Sunday and last several consecutive days, delivering an extended warm spell that will trigger active spawning of Kentucky Lake crappie. The fish and the fishermen have been a bit confused this week.
    Although the area’s most popular panfish had the stage set to begin early spawning phases as April rolled around, two nasty cold fronts and several days of gale force winds curtailed activity and delayed the timetable. It seems a dose of March weather slipped in the door and that roller coaster roared on here in the first week of April as anglers had a potpourri of weather patterns to deal with.
    Cold northeast winds seemed to cool surface temps a few days just as the water reached the 66 degree range. Crappie prefer stability of a 62 to 66 degree range for prime spawning phases but it takes more than just one warm day to jump start the annual ritual.
    With a good forecast on the horizon it appears next week should see crappie make a blitz to shallow structure. Surface temps have fluctuated this week, influence by cold winds and chilly nights. There were a couple of nice warm sunny days and fishing responded favorably but the bulk of the week had anglers donning overcoats and dodging nasty winds that whipped up whitecaps.
    Dogwoods are blooming, a clear indicator in the minds of many that crappie are spawning. Some years that may be true but surface temperature and stable weather patterns are two key indicators as to the starting time.
    Several male crappie have transition toward shallow gravel banks this week, another indicator the spawn is close at hand. A few bank fishermen were landing crappie as they cast jigs beneath slip-bobbers around rocky banks and structure in two feet of water.

    Elsewhere across the Paris Landing sector decent stringers were taken in the 4 to 9 foot depth range the last few days by anglers vertical fishing jigs over stakebeds and brushpiles. A lot of crappie are beginning to stage in the midrange depth zone before moving up early next week when the warm spell gets here and stays here.
    Other techniques producing have been long lining Road Runner style jigs in the main lake areas where some boats found decent numbers still lingering in deep water. Cold fronts earlier this week pulled a few crappie back to deep venues where they are staging until that surface temp stabilizes.
    Slow trolling jig and minnow rigs in a spider rig type presentation has worked too as have crankbaits pulled across midrange depths on open lake flats.
    A few days when rare calm winds were present saw several fish taken in the New Hope sector up Big Sandy. Dandy stringers were caught in 6 foot depths. Similar results came for portions of West Sandy as well.
    Popular jig colors have ranged from white/chartreuse to firecracker glitter/chartreuse to blue/chartreuse just to name a few. Anglers are experimenting with jig head colors too and often tipping with Berkley Power Bait to entice strikes.
    Fish should really take on a structure oriented mood this coming week whereas the last week had seen several still suspended near main lake river channel areas due to the cold snaps.
    The back of Swamp Creek has yielded some decent catches lately as have portion of Eagle Creek and Cypress here in the Paris Landing vicinity. It’s that time when fish migrate back into large bays or work their way on top of main lake flats searching for structure in which to drop their eggs.
    Water color is relatively clear across the reservoir, which means crappie can easily spawn out away from the banks and find their needs met in 4 to 10 foot depths. Surface temps this week had started out the mornings in 62 to 63 degree ranges and climbed to 66 by midday but cold fronts stopped the progress when temps did some backsliding at midweek.
    Lake levels have been relative stable this week and hanging around the 355.6 range at Kentucky Dam and a bit lower upstream at New Johnsonville where reading were 355.5. TVA’s curve for reservoir filling began April 1 so anglers can expect a slow but gradual rise in lake levels to occur this next week.
    A few 2-pound plus slab crappie have been taken this week as a lot of those big females are bulging with eggs. Although a few fish may have attempted to spawn earlier this week, it appears the bulk of the population is right on the threshold and awaiting next week’s warmup.
    It’s that time of year when anglers are trying many different depths and techniques. At times about all of them produce too!
    When fish are on the move and making that transition from deep main lake venues to midrange flats via creek channel and secondary ditches it’s not unusual to hear about many different techniques fished in many different depths. That’s happening now.
    With warming weather entering the picture anglers should have a good week coming up. Don’t let this prime time pass you by!
    Bass anglers have also had to fight the wind and weather lately. Despite last weekend’s cold front a few dandy stringers were taken by tournament anglers in the American Bass Association tournament out of Paris Landing. A hefty stringer of 29 pounds plus won the event last Saturday! And, it took over 25 pound to make the top 4 or 5 spots.
    Most of the big stringers came from crankbaits worked on gravel banks to jig and pig or jig and craw combos worked around shallow stumps.
    A lot of fish will blitz back to shallow water this next week as surface temps rebound. Lake levels are not quite high enough to inundate shallow grasslines or outside bushes just yet but fish will stage on points near feeder creeks or flats just waiting to move up.
    Best be ready for battle. Looks like this next week could really see things break loose and it appears the weatherman will be in a better mood too!

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Fishing at Sunset
Photo by Sherry Bailey

So many childhood memories have been made on the banks of Kentucky and Barkley Lakes. These boys are determined to fish until the sun goes down.