Lake Levels/Temps Rise; Crappie/Bass Make A Blitz
Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 04/13/2017
Rising temperatures coincided with rising lake levels this week and the combination has helped increase the enthusiasm levels as well for bass and crappie anglers on Kentucky Lake. After several weeks of inclimate weather fishermen on the big pond were the beneficiaries of consecutive warm days this week that may have finally put stubborn cold fronts and nasty north winds in the rearview mirror. Both bass and crappie anglers have seen a lot of transition taking place this week. Rising lake levels have inundated shoreline grassbeds that were high and dry last week at this time. Those popular stands of yellow flowers that cover the shorelines and island rims now have enough water to attract bass, offering anglers plenty of shallow, visible habitat. The next few weeks should see significant improvement in the shallow bite for bass fishermen who can now toss spinnerbaits, floating or Texas rigged worms, lizards and craws, topwater jerk baits or just about anything shallow running. Odds are the army of buck bass have already taken advantage of the surge in lake levels this week and occupied the aquatic hideouts that are so popular each spring. While some bass anglers are still tossing crankbaits and jig/craw combos on sloping points out away from the shorelines, most anglers are targeting the shallow bite as bass move up to new habitat and warmer surface temps. Lake levels this week had a little surge as the elevation jumped more than a foot from last week at this time and touched the 358 mark in the Kentucky Dam area at midweek. Projections for the weekend indicate a slight drop in the elevation as TVA got a little bit ahead of its curve. The forecast shows a reading of 357.8 for the Kentucky Dam area in the days ahead. Upstream around New Johnsonville the lake will be a bit lower with a reading of 357.2. Water color has been clear as the rising lake stages pushed what little stain was present back up in the bays. Surface temps have gradually rebounded this week and were climbing from the 62 degree mark in the early mornings up to 67 by midday in the upper end of Big Sandy. Temps were slightly cooler in the Paris Landing sector. Anglers can expect a two or three degree increase by the weekend, which has already stimulated some crappie to hit spawning territory. At the beginning of the week several male crappie had blitzed toward shallow shoreline gravel banks and weedbeds. The male crappie enter that phase first as their darkening coloration is a clear indication spawning is underway but females often lay out away from shallows until stable surface temps open the door for them to head to structure and broadcast their eggs. Unlike other gamefish such as bass or bluegill that form craters in the gravel or mud substrates for spawning beds, crappie broadcast their eggs on the roots of stumps, bushes, brushpiles, stakebeds and similar structure. They may sometimes use grassbeds or rocks but white crappie especially prefer wooden type structure submerged in a variety of depths. Generally speaking, the more dingy or turbid the water the shallower crappie will come to spawn. In the muddy water of yesteryear Kentucky Lake’s annual spawn took place along shoreline buck bushes and willow trees. Present day clear conditions allow sunlight to penetrate to deeper depths and thus many fish spawn out away from shorelines. Some decent stringers were taken this week up Big Sandy by a few boats working shorelines utilizing casting techniques. Jigs retrieved beneath bobbers were producing around very shallow areas, especially in the late afternoon periods of lowlight conditions. Odds are the shallow fish are a bit spooky due to the clear water so casting techniques allow anglers to lay out away from the shorelines or submerged structures, which may improve success rates. Anglers using vertical presentations of jigs and minnows managed to land good stringers too while targeting depths of 4 to 11 feet. Stakebeds and brushpiles were holding fish pretty good earlier in the week but crappie seemed to scatter at midweek when rising lake levels put them in a roaming mode. That should change once fish resume active spawning and take on a more structure oriented mood these next few days. Popular jig colors have ranged from aqua blue with metal flake to electric chicken, chartreuse/black, chartreuse with red glitter and threadfin shad just to name a few. Anglers are experimenting with painted leadheads in the red, orange, chartreuse and neutral unpainted color at times. Although spawning phases are underway, fish will react strangely when rising lake levels mix with a north wind, high skies and rising barometric pressure. Turn the tables to a warm cloudy or rainy day with a light south wind and action seems much better. A few two-pound plus slabs were caught this week but at the same time anglers were landing a lot of small crappie that measured just short of the 10-inch minimum length limit. Expect to measure several fish despite peak spawning phases being underway. Open water areas were seeing several boats slow trolling Road Runner style jigs and curly tails out over main lake flats in depths of 8 to 14 feet but success was mixed. Up Big Sandy around the New Hope and Country Junction area fish were taken in 4 to 7 foot depths but scattered. Females were still sporting eggs at midweek but should be dropping them by this weekend across much of the reservoir. The spawn usually last for several weeks with a short peak in the middle of three to five days. A variety of techniques should produce some good stringers these next few days. Surface temps have been slow to cross the threshold of 66 degrees and stay there but that all changes this week as warm days have descended. Looks like the coveralls and overcoats can finally go back into the closet. It’s a move that was long overdue too.
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