Explore Kentucky Lake

Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkley Fishing
Facebook Twitter Instagram Google YouTube Contact Us About Us
Switch Mobile/Desktop

Archived Fishing Report

Both Crappie and Those Who Fish For Them Confused! Spawn Draws Closer

Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 04/03/2018

If you see a few Kentucky Lake crappie fishermen somewhat black and blue these days it’s because they’ve been beat up by a nasty spring and stubborn fish. It has been a tough one thus far!

Late March and early April usually kick the bite in gear for Kentucky Lake’s spring crappie fishery. Seems both the fish and the weatherman haven’t gotten the memo.

The last week to ten days anglers have gotten pounded by high winds and below normal temperatures. Add several rainy days to the picture too.

No doubt the weather has had a negative impact and delayed the prespawn phases of crappie as most fish have been reluctant to move up toward shallow areas. The overall bite has been off and the few fish that have been caught have come from deeper depths such as 16 to 20 feet here in the Paris Landing and Big Sandy sector.

Odds are next week will trip the switch and send fish to midrange or shallow zones. That should have taken place already but surface temperatures have lingered in the low to mid 50’s lately. At midweek readings were in the 56 degree range but more cold fronts were on the horizon, which will keep the water from warming up by this weekend, further disappointing anxious anglers.

Crappie like some stability and will begin active spawning when surface temps reach the 62 to 66 degree range. Prior to that they begin stair-stepping their way out of deep venues and work their way toward spawning zones but that phase has been sluggish to kick in.

Overall the bite is off for anglers from the upper end of Big Sandy and West Sandy to the Paris Landing sector and clear up north past the Blood River sector into Kentucky. The lion’s share of anglers are just not finding and catching keeper size fish in the places where they normally should be.

Deep water fishermen working main lake ledges in the 20 foot depth zones have found several small fish at times but haven’t logged big numbers of keepers. Spider rig techniques and long lining that allow boaters to cover a lot of water and often find suspended and scattered fish have struggled.

Also struggling have been those slow trolling crankbaits or utilizing bottom bumping rigs loaded with jigs and minnows along the drop-offs where they’ve stalked structure with a vertical presentation.

Granted the wind most days hasn’t allowed anglers to really pursue the open water areas in the manner they’d prefer. There have been a small number of fish taken deep that indicated a few male crappie beginning to show some dark color changes but those hitting midrange stakebeds and brushpiles have not found fish occupying structure in the 8 to 14 foot depths zones yet.

Traditionally those male crappie make an early blitz toward gravel banks and search out shallow spawning territory. That has yet to happen. However, it’s that time of year when things happen quickly once sunshine enters the equation and warms things up.

Overall the status of the crappie fishery has a lot of veteran fishermen scratching their head and wondering what’s up? Legends of disgruntled anglers are hoping things get jump started by early next!

As to lake conditions the reservoir is rising slowly. TVA begins filling the reservoir each year on April 1 with a target date of May 1 for summer pool elevation, which is 359. Lake levels this week started out around 354.7 but are projected to reach 355.7-plus range by this weekend in the Kentucky Dam sector.

Upstream around New Johnsonville the lake was rising slowly and should make the 355.3 range by this weekend. Water color has been stained and dingy in several bays within the Big Sandy basin. The main lake is stained too but sporting a good color for fishing.

Surface temps at midweek were in the 56 to 57 degree range after a warm up Tuesday but nasty thunderstorms preceded a cold front that held temps back from a rapid warm-up. Unfortunately, another cool snap is on the horizon for Saturday.

Bass action has held up fair this week as anglers tossing crankbaits on gravel points and big chunk rock continue to land several fish. Rapala’s Shad Rap has been popular as has have Bandits in the Firetiger and assorted colors. Strike King’s Red-Eye Shad and Bill Lewis Rattle Traps are working too.

Rip-rap shorelines and levees have produced fish as have shallow gravel roadbeds. Bass should respond favorably to warmer surface temperatures next week too.

Some anglers are tossing a green pumpkin-pepper craws rigged Texas style and targeting exposed stickups in the form of exposed crappie beds or logs and boat houses with submerged cover.

Everyone is yearning for a few days with less wind and warmer temperatures. Next week should provide some overdue relief. If it doesn’t there are scores of anglers ready to run the weatherman out of town!

More Kentucky Lake Fishing Reports

Now That You're 'Hooked' on Fishing... Come See Us!

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.


Elk Herd
Photo by Melodie Cunningham

This herd of female elk are enjoying a winter's day in the Elk and Bison Prairie in Land Between The Lakes.