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Archived Fishing Report

Sluggish Summer Fishing Phase Underway; Anglers Yearn for Fall

Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 08/16/2017

Kentucky Lake’s summer fishing scene has been a bit sluggish lately as most anglers are yearning for fall’s arrival. The hot summer doldrums have taken their toll on many fishermen who are opting to wait for cooler days and early September mornings.

The local fishing scene hasn’t been all bad as a few bass, catfish and crappie anglers are testing the water each morning and finding enough fish to keep their interest levels high. Despite a rise in temperatures and humidity this week, several boats are hitting the water early and getting their fishing in before the midday heat pushes them off the lake.

Lake levels surged a bit this past week in the aftermath of heavy rains across the TVA valley. Normally the reservoir is on a slow fall throughout the summer months as TVA’s curve has a gradual drawdown underway but things change when a lot of runoff enters the picture.

Elevation this week jumped about a foot from the previous week. Projections for the weekend at Kentucky Dam will be in the 359.9 range, which is back near summer pool level. Upstream at New Johnsonville the reservoir will be in the 358.4 range.

Watch for lake levels to crest this weekend and begin falling quickly. That means anglers will have a lot of current in the main channel this weekend and well into next week, which should boost the catfish bite.

Water color is relatively clear across the reservoir. Surface temperatures have been in the 81 to 83 degree range but will likely increase a degree or two as the forecast indicates temps will be in the 90’s for several consecutive days.

Crappie fishermen working deep ledges are still finding a few fish in the 17 to 20 foot depth range. Most are using bottom bumping minnow rigs but other are tightlining a jig and frequently tipping it with a minnow or Berkley Power Bait crappie nibbles in the white or chartreuse color.

The rising lake levels this week seemed to pull a few fish back to midrange depths as more fish moved up for a few days. Depths of 12 to 14 feet were holding several crappie but keeper size fish were still hard to come by. Most everyone reports having to cull a lot of small fish before finding many good ones for the cooler.

A few boats are slow trolling deep diving crankbaits along main lake ledges and finding some suspended crappie in the 12 to 15 foot depth range. Most are trolling chartreuse and white colored Bandit crankbaits or similar shad colored variations.

Sometimes the trollers are utilizing light line which has a smaller diameter allowing the lures to dive to deeper depths. A few anglers reported catching some crappie in the 18 to 20 foot depth range along the main river channel areas.

Catfishing should improve in the days ahead as current will stimulate the bite. Watch for more action in the 25 to 30 foot depth range along the main river channel this weekend and well into next week.

Bass anglers continue to score sufficient numbers with some hefty ones tagging a bait now and then. Although there have not been big numbers or schooling fish found as was in the case in summers past when milfoil was present, anglers are still pounding main lake ledges with big crankbaits and Texas rigged worms and finding the ledge bite worthwhile.

Popular color choices on big deep diving crankbaits have ranged from sexy shad to blue and chartreuse combinations. Worm colors paying dividends have been green pumpkin-pepper, black/blue, red shad with sparkle and pumpkin-pepper with chartreuse tail.

A few bass blitzed back toward shallow structure this week in response to the rising lake levels. Shallow baitfish lured bass back to treelaps and some docks and piers where both shade and baitfish activity were appealing.

The late summer time frame is usually a sluggish fishing phase for Kentucky Lake anglers. Not a lot of boats are on the lake. Most succumb to the hot weather and choose to wait on September’s arrival and cooler mornings.

Fishermen know each day makes fall that much closer!

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If you've dug this deep in our Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley fishing reports, you are probably just itching to come down and visit the South's biggest lakes.  Get started by finding that perfect place to stay!  Find a Kentucky Lake cabin or a Lake Barkley campground, a full-service resort or a marina.  Heck, there are even dozens of hotels off the water to choose from! 

Don't have a boat?  No worries!  Bank fishing is always an option for panfish. But if you're heart is set on largemouth or smallmouth, you can rent a fishing boat at many of our local resorts!

The perfect place to start looking for a place to stay at Kentucky or Barkley Lakes?  Right here on our main lodging page.


Remarkable Sunset
Photo by Jennifer Dunnaway

This is one of my favorite photographs of a Kentucky Lake sunset taken from the eastern shore of Kentucky Lake near Fenton.