Catfish Prowl, Crappie Rebound As Bass/Bluegill Bite Continues
Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 05/25/2017
Catfish have been prowling around rocky banks this week searching for spawning territory and crappie have rebounded from their sleepy post-spawn slump. Bluegill are still bedding and making some late spawning attempts in shallow areas while bass begin to back out toward deeper venues. Overall it has been a pretty good week for Kentucky Lake anglers. Despite a cool snap on Wednesday that brought some rain and fall like temps courtesy of a northwest breeze, the weather has been decent and will be warming as the Memorial Day weekend approaches. Surface temperatures this week have started out in the 73 degree range each morning and climbed to 75 degree mark by midday. Water color has some slight stain in pockets and bays where shallow feeder creeks are located but relatively clear out in the main lake areas. Lake levels, although normally stable by late May, continue to fluctuate. TVA pulled the reservoir down almost six inches below summer pool at midweek, which is somewhat of a surprise as it deviates from the agency’s projected curve. Elevation on Thursday fell to 358.4. Normal summer pool is 359. The lower level pulled water out of shallow shoreline habitat for a few days, which hasn’t set too well with some bass and bluegill or shellcracker fishermen who had been finding success in parameter of grass and bushes. Anytime lake levels fall below normal summer pool this time of year it can have an adverse impact on survival rates for crappie, bass and bluegill or shellcracker fry. The tiny young of the year need the shallow weeds and bushes for refuge from larger predator fish. Meanwhile, some nice stringers of big bull bluegill were taken this week by anglers working two to three foot depths baiting with crickets, wax worms and redworms. Despite falling lake levels several bluegill stayed shallow, attempting to spawn around shallow structure where they began fanning beds last week when lake stages were a bit higher. Anglers can expect the bluegill bite to hold up another week or two as the fish usually make a late surge in spawning activity in late May and early June. The next full moon occurs June 9 so watch for a blitz from the bronze bobbers in the days ahead. Crappie have shown improvement this week as they traditionally do once late May arrives. Action should continue to improve these next few week as the fish have slowly recovered from the stress of spawning and worked their way back out to midrange depths of 9 to 14 feet. Each year the crappie bite resumes around the Memorial Day period when fish meander back to structure and park in midrange depths for several weeks before mid-summer phases push them deeper. Many anglers overlook the month of June as it offers stability in terms of weather, wind and lake levels. That scenario delivers good crappie fishing conditions. It is indeed much more predictable than early spring. Bass action has held up well but fish have pulled out of very shallow shorelines this week due to falling lake levels. Anglers were finding decent stringers on the outside shoreline cover but even some of that is a bit too shallow at the present time. Anglers are falling back and beginning to target deeper water the last few days. Humps and ledges on the main lake are now attracting more fish than they were last week at this time. Depths of 8 to 15 feet were producing and some fish were even deeper. Tossing big deep diving crankbaits and Texas rigged worms has produced this week as have Carolina rigs. Some anglers were hopping jig and pig combos on the ledges too, along with Alabama rigs and swim baits cast on tops of ledges. The ledge bite will improve even more once surface temps warm to the low 80’s, which will likely occur by early June. Rocky banks were giving up nice stringers of catfish this week as anglers used nightcrawlers to work the popular venues. Spawning was still underway as fish were relating well to any rip-rap rock levees or rock bluffs such as the old Danville railroad levee east of Big Sandy or the east side of Highway 79 at Paris Landing where bank fishermen were doing well on the rocks. The overall bite has been pretty good for bass, crappie, catfish and bluegill. Lake levels falling a few inches below normal summer pool is a bit odd but TVA moves in mysterious ways at times, especially during peak spawning phases the lakes most popular species of fish! With the unofficial kick off of the summer season fast approaching, make sure you use courtesy and respect as a busy boating weekend arrives. Boat ramps, parking spots, fishing holes and most waterways will be a bit crowded so be careful out there. Expect to be checked by Kentucky Water Patrol or Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency as you boat on Kentucky Lake these next few days. Take a moment before you hit the water to make sure you’ve updated everything from your fishing license to the boat registration, not to mention making sure there’s a life vest for everyone on board, which works best when worn!
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