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Archived Fishing Report

Anglers Still Dealing With Variables; Warm Days Ahead!

Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 04/25/2018

Unstable spring weather continues to throw curves in the direction of Kentucky Lake anglers but it appears warm sunny days are fast approaching. Maybe---just maybe---stable spring days are on the horizon and the fishing scene can begin to stabilize.

Keeping bass and crappie anglers off balance this week was more crazy weather that had drenching rains at times sandwiched between a few warm bluebird days. In addition to the roller coaster weather has come rising lake levels in the aftermath of flooding rains both here and to our south that have entered the Tennessee River watershed.

Lake levels this week have risen daily. Lots of floating debris was present at times. Temperatures were rising slowly but so were lake stages which seemed to add another hurdle for anglers trying to figure out a weird spring fishing pattern.

TVA was projecting a crest for the reservoir on Friday at a level of 362.2 at New Johnsonville and 361.8 downstream at Kentucky Dam. Normal summer pool elevation is 359 and wasn’t supposed to climb there until May 1 but lake levels have been above normal for the last two weeks.

Water color is pretty good across the reservoir despite recent runoff from heavy downpours. The upper end of Big Sandy and West Sandy was dingy and additional stain was present in the upper end of most feeder creeks and bays while main lake areas remained in good shape.

Surface temperatures have been reluctant to climb into the 60’s this spring but finally crossed the threshold last weekend. Presently, water temps are in the 62 degree range and will continue to climb throughout the weekend. Expect to see surface temps reach the 66 degree mark the next few days as Monday’s high is forecast to reach 80 degrees!

Still putting wrinkles in the foreheads of Kentucky Lake crappie anglers are the finicky and scattered crappie. Establishing when peak spawning would occur has been a tough call this year. Fish have been quite scattered even before the rising lake levels entered the picture.

With warmer weather now at hand surface temps will climb quickly and some crappie could well enter shoreline buck bushes, willow trees and shoreline habitat that is now inundated with water. When lake levels exceed normal summer pool it puts ample water around shoreline cover that is normally high and dry or too shallow to fish.

Anglers who love fishing visible stickups may well get their wish these next few days. Odds are TVA will pull the reservoir back down to normal summer pool quickly so the honeymoon with shoreline structure fishing may be short lived.

Meanwhile, the armada of boats searching main lake flats and big bays has still found it challenging. Buried treasures have been tough to locate in decent numbers.

From long lining curly tail grubs and Road Runner style jigs to spider rigs armed with live minnows and tube skirted jigs, anglers have had trouble finding and catching decent numbers of keeper size crappie. Those vertical fishing jigs and minnows over manmade fish attractors such as stakebeds and brushpiles have voiced similar stories.

A few boats yearning to find shallow crappie migrating toward shallow submerged structure have been casting jigs and even trolling crankbaits but it has been inconsistent for all concerned.

Some fish have lingered in deep water much longer this year due to colder surface temperatures. However, anglers targeting the deep venues were still landing a lot of small fish and reported difficultly finding slabs. Several anglers continue to voice concern over thin crappie that exhibit a profile consistent with insufficient forage.

Depths of 12 to 14 feet were holding crappie the last few days so it appears fish were slowly staging in preparation for moving up by this weekend. Each day should see some improvement as rising surface temperatures trigger the urge for sluggish crappie to go toward cover and spawn.

No doubt the biological clock has been off this spring for bass and crappie. Fish have not followed their traditional patterns nor resided in depths and locations as they have in times past.

A few more male crappie were taken this week sporting a dark color change. However, males have not hit the banks or occupied shallow structure back in bays ahead of the females like they normally do. That could change quickly in the next few days.

Bass are on the move and made a blitz this week toward shoreline habitat. Rising water inundated buck bushes and the ever popular yellow flowers that grow along the shorelines.

Lake levels have opened up a whole new world and anglers have an abundance of structure to toss spinnerbaits, pitch and flip Texas rigged craws, lizards and worms or dunk a jig and pig combo around.

Topwater will enter the picture too as those submerged grassbeds in little pockets off the main lake will offer a haven for spawning bass and aggressive males. Lots of bluegill, shad and various species of minnows are now roaming the freshly flooded areas.

For those bass anglers playing the current there will be plenty in the days ahead as TVA pulls the lake back down. Current will be present around island rims, main lake points, bridge piers and blowdowns along main river shorelines.

Shellcracker and bluegill fishermen are anxious to play their game. Spawning time is near but no doubt the timetable will be pushed back due to a long, cold spring. Those surface temps need to climb into the upper 60’s to trigger redear and bluegill spawning urges and we’re a bit behind on that this year.

The overall fishing scene should see improvement this weekend and well into next week. Perhaps normalcy will return for anglers who have fought changing lake conditions and strange weather patterns for over a month!

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Fallow Deer
Photo by Murray Blake

There are only a few small herds of fallow deer in Land Between The Lakes, but occasionally a lucky explorer will catch a glimpse of one.