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Archived Fishing Report

Lake Levels Ahead of Schedule; Crappie/Bass Bite Hold Up

Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 04/20/2017

Kentucky Lake’s fishing scene has anglers facing lake levels near summer pool some ten days ahead of schedule. TVA’s normal curve for reservoir filling begins April 1 each year with a target date of May 1 for normal summer pool elevation of 359.

Lake levels have climbed all week and were dancing around the 358.8 mark at midweek, which inundated shoreline grassbeds and some other structure. Rising lake levels sometimes scatter fish that roam and follow the rise to new habitat.

Overall it has been a pretty good week for both bass and crappie anglers despite rising lake stages that sometimes had floating debris scattered about the open water. Anglers dodged a few thunderstorms this week but temperatures have remained mild.

Water color is clear across the reservoir. Surface temperatures have been in the 68 to 69 degree range in the mornings and climbing to the 71 to 72 degree range a midday.

Crappie continued their spawning phases this week but were a bit scattered at times for most anglers here in the Paris Landing sector. Some good stringers were taken at midweek by boats slow trolling the main lake areas using long line presentations of Road Runner style jigs over 10 to 14 foot depths.

Other techniques of spider rigging were working at times as were vertical style presentations over manmade fish attractors in the midrange depth zones of 10 to 14 feet. Crappie have been a bit finicky for some as several traditional spawning areas in relative shallow depths of 4 to 8 feet have not produced as they have in times past.

Clear water conditions are likely contributing to fish spawning in deeper water this spring. Some shallow shoreline activity took place early last week but was short in duration as the fish seemed to pull away from their initial shallow approach.

Most anglers are encountering a lot of small fish and releasing big numbers that were just shy of the minimum 10-inch length limit. A few slabs are showing up but several females taken in the last few days appeared to have already dropped eggs as they were sporting a thin profile compared to last week at this time.

A few days anglers found fish showing a preference for live minnows or jigs tipped with minnows. Other days jigs tipped with Berkley Power bait crappie nibbles in the white and chartreuse colors seemed to work just fine.

Up Big Sandy toward the New Hope area a few crappie were taken in the 6 to 8 foot depth range. However, big numbers of crappie have not been taken up in that sector as they have in times past when rising lake levels and warm weather coincided.

Crappie fishermen are landing decent numbers across the reservoir this week but the fish have been throwing a curve to many who have not found the fish using traditional spots and depth ranges.

Most successful anglers this week had to make several stops to accumulate 20-fish limit. Numbers of bigger crappie have a bit tough to come by as it has been a one here; one there type pattern or a bunch of small fish mixed in.

A few days the fish seemed to acclimate toward structure when spawning was underway but they haven’t stayed there, often suspending out away from structure in midrange depths. The fish have a way of making all anglers humble at times!

With the rising lake levels have come increased opportunities for shallow water bass fishermen. Anglers were tying in to a lot of fish this week that moved up on a daily basis to shallow shoreline grassbeds where those patches of yellow flowers were attracting fish.

Scores of anglers were targeting shallow patterns while tossing spinnerbaits, Texas rigged worms, craws and lizards plus some topwater jerk baits.

No doubt the shallow bite has improved quickly as many bassers were not expecting lake levels to jump this fast and reach shoreline structure. River stages on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers have been high and that had TVA holding back on discharge rates which resulted in lake levels rising faster than normal projections.

Some bass anglers are still tossing crankbaits and Carolina rigs toward points and gravel banks hoping a few big fish were still holding out away from shallow shorelines.

As surface temps continue to climb watch for the early phases of spawning to begin for red ear sunfish, commonly referred to as shellcracker. These popular panfish usually start in late April, depending on weather conditions.

Bluegill will continue to move toward shallow areas next week too but won’t likely begin bedding phases for another week or more. A cool snap is in the forecast for early next week which will likely halt the advance in surface temps for a few days.

Anglers have had a pretty good week of fishing despite having to don raingear at times and dodge thunderstorms. April is about to fade into May and the transition time continues for several different species.

Kentucky Lake’s fishing scene continues to change month by month as lake levels and surface temps climb. Looks like more good fishing days are ahead.

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Shy Doe
Photo by J. Kent Harmon

The dense forests in Land Between The Lakes make the perfect hiding place for deer and other native species. You never know who might be peeking at you from the treeline.