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Archived Fishing Report

Fall Is Here; Boaters Best Use Caution During Low Lake Levels

Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 09/20/2017

Fall officially arrives Friday but where did that fall weather go we had back in early September? That’s what anglers are asking now that hot and humid days are back on the Kentucky Lake fishing scene.

Those jacket mornings and shirt sleeve afternoons faded fast as summer conditions returned this week, bringing hot days back to the fishing picture. Anglers are yearning for cooler times as we got spoiled for a couple of weeks when everyone thought an early fall was here to stay.

Surface temperatures this week reflect the warm night and hot days. Readings are starting out in the early morning hours around 76 but warming to the 79 to 80 degree mark by midafternoon. Temps had cooled down to 73 degrees a couple of weeks ago but have rebounded since.

Lake levels have been falling slowly this week but are relatively stable now. Elevation is projected to be in the 355.3 range at Kentucky Dam this weekend. Upstream at New Johnsonville TVA predicts somewhat lower lake levels with a reading of 354.9.

With the reservoir creeping back down near its low ebb of winter pool pleasure boaters and anglers need to pay close attention to channel markers and resist the temptation to take those open water shortcuts. Several shallow sandbars and stump fields are now just right to play havoc on the lower unit of your outboard motor or boat hull.

Crappie that had shown additional interest and moved up shallow earlier in the month have now pulled back to somewhat deeper depths in response to higher surface temps and lower lake levels. Fish had been hitting pretty good in 7 to 10 foot depths last week but action there has diminished. 

Depths of 16 to 22 feet are holding increased numbers of crappie this week. There are still a few fish holding on to the 12 to 14 foot depth range in places but they’re quite scattered. 

Transition time usually begins for crappie in early September as schools of baitfish meander toward shallow venues, bringing crappie and bass with them. However, once cool and cloudy days disappear it seems the fish take on a lethargic mood, especially when a high sun takes over without any wind on the lake.

Anglers are still managing to find big numbers of fish but the size continues to plague most who are somewhat mystified at the low number of big crappie showing up. Most days you can expect to cull the majority of your catch, which are just short of the 10-inch minimum length limit.

There are a few making the cut but it’s pretty clear there’s a weak year class of fish in that 4-year plus range. Crappie in the 1-pound plus category have been tough to come by in significant numbers.

Once cooler weather returns anglers will likely see the bite improve from a few more big fish but right now there’s an abundance of crappie in the 8 ½ to 9 ¾ inch range sporting an appetite. Expect to utilize your culling board a lot!

Also competing with the crappie are those pesky yellow bass which never seem to get their fill. The aggressive little rascals are out in force during the fall and will nail a minnow or jig that enters their depth range.

Fun to catch as they put up quite a tug. However, they are so competitive you sometimes have to catch several before you can ever get the bait down into structure where sluggish crappie are holding. Expect to encounter these yellow bandits wherever you go on Kentucky Lake.

Meanwhile, crappie are taking live minnows when fished on bottom bumping tightline rigs or when added to a jig. Popular jig colors have been pink/chartreuse, black/chartreuse, blue with sparkle and some pearl/chartreuse just to name a few.

A few boats are still slow trolling crankbaits and Roadrunners along main lake ledges and back inside of big bays where some scattered, suspended crappie are staging. Once cooler surface temps return and fish will likely head to structure and take on a more aggressive attitude in shallow depths.

Bass fishermen have returned to a summer pattern lately in response to the hot weather. Some are targeting the main lake ledges in the same manner they did during the hot summer months.

Tossing crankbaits and Texas rigged worms, along with swim baits and Rattle Trap style lures has been the most popular presentations. A few boats are working the big bays and looking for some shallow schooling fish in the upper ends but action there had been unpredictable.

No aquatic vegetation is present across most of the reservoir so bass fishermen are looking at shallow sandbars and ledges in the main lake while hoping for some help from slow moving current. The current stimulates baitfish activity so ledge fishermen always yearn for current.

A few bass had begun to move up on shallow gravel banks and roadbeds until the hot weather backed them off. Nowadays there is a little window of opportunity in the early morning and late afternoons but the shallow or topwater bite has a very short window most days unless a rainy or cloudy day enters the picture.

Not to worry as some cooler days will be back soon. Add a little cloud cover to the scene or perhaps a slow drizzle and both bass and crappie fishermen will see a quick turnaround in the fall bite.

Fall is now the official season. Fall weather will return soon so don’t bury those long sleeve shirts and jackets too deep in the closet. You’ll need them again soon!

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Autumn
Photo by John Mahler

If you've never visited The Land Between The Lakes in the fall, you are missing a real treat. Whether you are hiking, fishing, boating or just sight-seeing, fall is one of the most beautiful times to visit the lakes.