Crappie Bite Sluggish; Better Days Ahead as Lake Levels Rise
Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 03/28/2018
Kentucky Lake anglers are ready to put a mean March in the rearview mirror. Enough already of this nasty wind and unstable weather. Things should get better by this weekend and next week look to have some warm and stable weather in the forecast. It’s about time! Both crappie and bass anglers have had it pretty tough this past week as the bite has been off. Gale winds have dictated how anglers could fish and where they could go. Most days this past week haven’t been kind to anglers hope to have some early spring success. Sluggish crappie have been keeping anglers at bay. Late March has been pretty decent fishing in times past as prepsawn crappie and bass can sometimes turn on but for crappie fishermen it has been slow in materializing. Surface temperatures have mirrored the weather, falling back down to the 50 to 51 degree marker earlier this week after some cold, frosty nights influenced things. By midweek the water was warming slowly and had rebounded to the 54 degree range and still climbing. Look for surface temperatures to creep up to the upper 50’s by early next week if not sooner, setting the stage for a lot of movement by stubborn crappie that have been slow to take on a positive mood swing. Water color has been stained across much of the reservoir but not too stained to fish. Lake levels have stayed relatively low this week and danced around the 354.3 range at Kentucky Dam. Upstream around New Johnsonville the elevation has been in the 354.2 range this week. Right now anglers are watching the weather as heavy rains were in the process and were expected to drench the TVA valley before this weekend, which could send lake levels rising rapidly. Right now the forecast on lake levels is somewhat unknown as it depends on how severe the flooding will be to our south. TVA is scheduled to start filling the reservoir slowly on April 1 anyway with a gradual rise toward summer pool level of 359 by May 1. That all depends on rainfall in the days and weeks ahead. Meanwhile, the crappie spawn is dominating the conversation among the ranks of panfishermen. When will it start and when will it peak? Surface temperatures next week will likely climb into the low to mid 60’s, triggering male crappie to move up toward shallow gravel banks and head towards structure quite soon. The females will lay out away from spawning areas for a few days but make a blitz once things warm up. No dark male crappie were showing up in the creel of anglers this week but the overall bite has been well below average lately. It’s that time of the year when things are changing almost on a daily basis. A few crappie were taken on the deep sides of main lake ledges later last week and early this week. Depths of 22 to 26 feet produced a few keeper fish when anglers could get out there and work the sandbars throughout the Paris Landing area. It’s time for crappie to transition away from that deep water and begin stair-stepping their way toward prespawn areas. Fish have been very stubborn to do that this past week, opting to ride it out in deep water until warmer days arrived. Active spawning phases could kick in late next week if sunshine lingers and heats things up. The timetable appears to point toward latter part of next week as to the potential starting time with peak activity occurring during the second week of April. Once surface temps reach the 62 to 66 degree range the annual ritual will begin. There are times that has happened here in late March but not this year! Surface temperatures the last week to ten days have pushed the spawn back into April this time around. Watch for male crappie to begin sporting a darker color by midweek, a clear indication the spawn is fast approaching. Bass fishermen saw action back off a bit this week as well. Fish seemed to pull back to secondary ditches last week during the falling lake levels and colder weather. Tossing crankbaits is still the ticket but the bite really slowed this week for some strange reason. Crappie anglers and bass anglers overall have faced tough conditions this past week. Watch for warmer days and rising lake levels to bring bass up toward shallow gravel banks and near the mouths of small bays where they’ll stage for a short period and wait for the warm up. Both bass and crappie anglers can wave goodbye to low lake levels after this weekend as rising levels will slowly bring fish toward shorelines as new areas are inundated. Dogwoods are about to bloom and that signals crappie spawning on the threshold as are bass. Spring is about to make its presence known!
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