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Archived Fishing Report

Lake Levels Back to Normal; Bass/Bluegill Bite On; Catfish Not Far Behind

Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 05/01/2018

Warm sunny days have heated up the fishing scene for bass and bluegill anglers this week. Several nice redear sunfish, commonly referred to as shellcracker, have also gone on the prowl.

Spawning phases are underway for bass, bluegill and shellcracker. Catfish aren’t far behind. Surface temperatures climbed into the upper 60’s this week after a rapid warm up. 

Believe it or not Kentucky Lake will be back to normal supper pool level by this weekend! That’s the projection by TVA as the reservoir has been falling steadily since last week after cresting more than three feet above normal.

Lake levels were 359.7 at midweek in the New Johnsonville area and 359.3 at Kentucky Dam but falling. Expect normal summer pool of 359 by this weekend.

Water color is in good shape across most of the reservoir with some dingy color still in the upper end of Big Sandy.

Kentucky Lake’s fishing scene has seen very little stability this year but it appears that’s about to change. Nice weather has also stimulated 
the catfish to begin moving up toward shorelines searching for those rocky banks where they find crevices to deposit their eggs.

For crappie anglers the saga continues, however. It has been one of the worst springs in the history of Kentucky Lake. 

Not many success stories are coming in from disgruntled anglers who have braved the elements of a mean late winter and spring. Even when the weather improved this week the fish didn’t seem to get the memo.

This spring’s spawn has been tough to figure out. A few fish headed shallow last week when lake levels rose and inundated shoreline buck bushes and willow trees. However, those stalking the stickups found the crappie about like Easter eggs; one here and one there!

Some anglers using spider rig techniques or long-lining jigs scored a few fish at times but most never really found the fish schooled up whether they fished deep, shallow or in-between. A lot of veteran crappie fishermen using a variety of techniques across many different areas have voiced discontent.

Crappie did not blitz toward structure this spring like they have in times past.

There have been several small fish taken at times but that was the case last year too. That has fishermen wondering why more fish haven’t grown and crossed the 10-inch minimum length threshold!

Small fish last year that were near keeping size should have been there for the taking this spring but that has not been the case. Recruitment of small fish toward that keeper size category appears to be poor.

Most crappie will be in the post-spawn phase these next few weeks. That usually means they’re quite scattered out, often suspended and stressed from the annual ritual until late May or early June when they slowly start taking on a structure oriented mood.

Meanwhile, bluegill and shellcracker made a rebound this week and responded to warmer surface temperatures that triggered their spawning instincts. Fish were hitting pretty good around shoreline bushes and submerged grass beds.

Although they didn’t seem to be fanning spawning beds aggressively there were several nice dark male bluegill and shellcracker in spawning territory so some might well have kicked off the ritual as a full moon was present on Monday.

Bluegill and shellcracker anglers should have some good days ahead as spawning phases continue and the water heats up. Although the next full moon doesn’t occur until May 29 there will be some great opportunities between now and then.

Best grab the light tackle and some crickets, redworms and meal worms and head out. If you’re a member of the legion of crappie anglers suffering from frustration then hitting the bluegill and shellcracker beds might be the pill you need to cure your woes!

Bass fishing has been good for anglers beating the banks lately. The higher lake levels brought a lot of bass to the bushes on both Barkley and Kentucky Lakes these last two weeks.

Tossing Texas rigged craws, worms and lizards has been productive as have spinnerbaits and topwater jerk baits or floating fluke style worms.

Bass are likely spawning now and some may have already finished up and backed off the banks to secondary sandbars and humps between the bank and their summer venues. No doubt the pro anglers in town this week for the Basssmaster Elite Series out of Paris Landing State Park will figure them out.

Weigh-ins begin Friday at 3 p.m. After two days of full-field competition, the Top 50 anglers will qualify to fish the semi-final round on Saturday. The field will then be cut again to the Top 12 on Sunday’s championship round.

A stubborn spring has finally lost its grip. Kentucky Lake bass, bluegill and catfish anglers are strutting their stuff. Shirt sleeve days are back!

More Kentucky Lake Fishing Reports

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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.

Water Break
Photo by Melodie Cunningham

This young buck has taken a quick break for a drink. Deer are one of the more common types of wildlife that can be seen in this region.