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Archived Fishing Report

Lake Levels Continue Slow Decline; Temps Stay High

Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 07/25/2018

Kentucky Lake’s elevation continues to decline as TVA’s normal drawdown schedule is underway, which means a slow but gradual lowering of lake levels in the months ahead.

Meanwhile, surface temperatures are staying up there as summer heat dominates the July weather forecast. Both surface temperatures and air temperatures are pretty much on schedule for this period of summer.

Kentucky Lake surface temps were hanging around 86 degrees in the early morning hours and warming to 88 to 89 range by midday. Water color remains clear across the reservoir.

Summer pool elevation of 359 began receding just after the Fourth of July holiday as TVA was forecasting lake levels to be in the 357.8 range at Kentucky Dam by the weekend, which is down several inches from last week at this time. Readings were expected to be similar upstream around the New Johnsonville sector.

Summer crappie continued to be sluggish for most anglers across the reservoir. A few boats venturing out in the early morning hours were finding several small fish in the 12 to 14 foot depth range. Working submerged stakebeds and brushpiles in the 12 to 14 foot depths produced a few fish but anglers are still having to cull several small fish that aren’t reaching the 10-inch minimum length limit.

Deeper depths were being probed by anglers slow trolling crankbaits along the main river channel bank and  main lake ledges. Trolling techniques were producing a few scattered and suspended crappie from depths of 14 to 18 feet deep at times.

Trolling crankbaits always seems to catch a mixture of species and boaters using that technique often tie into a few catfish, lost white bass, largemouth, sauger and a drag tearing drum from time to time.

Other crappie anglers stalking the deep sides of ledges in depths of 18 to 25 feet have not fared well lately. Using bottom bumping rigs armed with live minnows this time of year normally produces a few fish from their summer hideouts. Not so lately, however.

Boats drifting slowly along the main river channel ledge are finding a few catfish biting, especially if current is present. Depths of 30 to 40 feet have been productive. Baits of choice continue to be nightcrawlers and chicken livers.

The summer bass bite has been fair with most of the decent stringers taken out on main lake ledges. Baits of choice have been crankbaits, swim baits, jig and craw combos, big Texas rigged worms and hefty spoons. Some anglers are also keeping a Carolina rigged worm and Alabama rig ready to throw too.

A few shallow bass have been taken around boat houses, piers and some shallow grass by anglers hitting the water at first light. Some mayflies and small schools of pin minnows were attracting a few fish to shallow during lowlight hours.

There have been a couple of mayfly hatches lately just before thunderstorms hit as the low pressure seems to stimulate a hatch. However, hatches have been scattered and not the magnitude of those from yesteryear. Veteran anglers can recall when massive hatches of mayflies once filled the air and covered the water.

Spinnerbaits, topwater and Texas rigged worms were producing for the shallow water pattern. Once the sun gets up it appears the fish are retreating to shady structures such as boat docks or treelaps along river islands.

Also diminishing from the mid-summer fishing scene have been those aggressive schools of white bass that once busted the surface in hot pursuit of schooling shad. Once popular during the summer doldrums, white bass schooling on the surface were about as good as it got for fishermen casting both topwater lures and submerged spinners such as Rooster Tails, a Little George or perhaps a Hopkin’s spoon.

Trolling was once a popular summer technique too as those deep diving Bombers worked well but especially when a short leader attached to a wobbling Barracuda spoon slivered through deep water. It was a deadly combination when white bass submerged and suspended.

A few white bass are taken nowadays on the north end of the reservoir and small numbers show up to the extreme south at times but for the most part white bass numbers across most of the reservoir have declined dramatically over the years.

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Photo by Shawn Dunnaway

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