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Archived Fishing Report

Early Hours Not Bad for Summer Anglers

Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 07/18/2018

Anglers hoping to beat the heat are hitting Kentucky Lake in the early morning hours before pitching in the towel. By midday it’s another ballgame out there where a blazing sun and high temps call the shots.

Actually, the first few hours of the day haven’t been too bad lately. Somewhat lower humidity helped out recently giving anglers a short reprieve from the doldrum days that have dominated since summer officially arrived.

Surface temperatures this week stayed in the 87 to 88 degree range. Water color is clear across the reservoir.

TVA’s gradual winter drawdown is underway so anglers can expect a slow but gradual fall in lake levels for the next few months. Elevation this weekend was projected to be in the 358.5 range in the Kentucky Dam sector and slightly lower upstream around New Johnsonville.

Summer crappie have continued to bite but their patterns have been a bit different compared to years past. Several fish have been taken this week still lingering within larger bays. Traditionally, the fish opt for midrange depths but out in main lake areas that are close to deep water.

For some reason several crappie are holding on to depths of 11 to 14 feet within bays off the main lake. Apparently the fish are following their forage and laying with the midrange depths where shad are residing.

Stakebeds and brushpiles have given up several fish lately for anglers stalking the structures while using live minnows and jigs tipped with minnows. A few fish have been taken on jigs only but the fish are showing a preference for that live minnow this time of year.

There are still good numbers of fish just shy of the 10-inch length limit but some are close to keeping size and should easily cross the threshold by fall. The stage is set for a decent fall fishing spree for crappie anglers who have endured a tough spring and stubborn summer.

Traditional summer patterns find crappie relating to the deep sides of main lake ledges once surface temperatures climb to the mid to upper 80’s. Depths of 18 to 24 feet are not uncommon and over the years anglers have learn to target such when deep structure was located.

This year has been different however. Those traditional deep drop-offs out in main lake areas near the main Tennessee River or old Big Sandy River channel have not been holding crappie. 

Traditionally, crappie pull back to the deeper venues and reside around submerged stumps and brushpiles on the breaks or off the deep side of the ledge. Anglers stalking those areas lately have not found many fish.

A few boats trolling crankbaits and covering a lot of water have stumbled over a few scattered and suspended fish at times but no real concentration. It seems most of the fish are parking in midrange depths the last few weeks and stayed there, likely because of adequate shad numbers in that depth range.

Bass anglers continue to target main lake ledges with big deep diving crankbaits, big Texas rigged worms, Carolina rigs, jig and craw combos and some swim baits. Some anglers have also tossed big spoons trying to stimulate some strikes from sluggish bass.

Most fish appear to be holding in 8 to 14 foot depth zones, especially in the early hours of the day when they’re moving to the topside of drop-offs to feed. After that they’re pulling back to deeper zones and riding it out until a later afternoon blitz.

A few bass are still relating to boat docks, piers and various structure if schools of pin minnows are present. Spinnerbaits and Texas rigged worms have continued to produce in shallow areas as have a few topwater selections in the early morning hours.

Some mayfly hatches are drawing bass to shallow shorelines or steep banks along the main river area and around island rims.

There has been a slow but steady current most days that has helped the bass bite at midday and throughout the afternoon.

Catfish are hitting pretty good when current is moving. Some big fish have been taken along the main river channel bank by anglers fishing chicken liver, nightcrawlers and cut skipjack. Depths of 40 to 4 feet have produced some of the monster size catfish as of late.

Some catfish are still lingering around the 14 foot depth range too as crappie anglers continue to tie into one now and then while vertical fishing jig and minnows around stakebeds.

Despite the heat fishing hasn’t been too bad in the early morning hours and this week there was a reprieve from the humidity for a few days too. Rise and shine in the wee hours and get in some pretty good fishing before midday heat kicks in and sends you back to places where iced tea has the most appeal!

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Photo by Jennifer Dunnaway

This shy little turtle visited our campsite recently in Land Between The Lakes. There are several different species of turtles that can be seen near Kentucky Lake.