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Archived Fishing Report

Dave Stewart's Fishing Report

Written by Dave Stewart | Originally published 04/28/2011

Kentucky Lake:  Water Level at Ky Dam - 364.44   Surface Temperature - 66  

Lake Barkley:  Water Level at Barkley Dam - 364.40  Surface Temperature - 66
Both lakes are 5 and one half feet over summer pool and on a rapid rise.  Obviously everyone is aware of the heavy rains that were experienced all  over the Midwest during the past week so I am not going to bore you with all the details but here is the current situation.  

The Ohio and Mississippi Rivers are forecasting record or near record levels as are many of the tributaries by around mid week next week.  Because of this catastrophic flood forecast, the Corps of Engineers is lowering the water outflow of both Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley as much as possible to keep from adding any more water to the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers than is necessary.  

We have been receiving daily updates on the projected levels over the past few days.  Each day the projected levels of Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley have been increasing.  The latest forecast as of the writing of this report is for both lakes to reach 373.5 by next Wednesday.  This projection will eclipse the standing record lake levels by over 3 feet.  

The current forecast for the lakes shows a level of 369.76 by midnight Saturday night.  This in itself will be a near record level.  I will say this, over the past couple of days, the lakes have been rising to levels more than was forecasted a day or so prior, so you should visit the TVA website often to get the latest forecasts and levels.  You can find links to the TVA website at www.kentuckylake.com and www.explorekentuckylake.com .   I mention these two websites particularly as they both have done a very good job of posting the latest news releases from the TVA concerning projected lake levels.  
I have been inundated with calls the past few days asking a myriad of questions about this flood.  Here are the most asked questions and my replies to these questions:
Q.  Last year during the big flood around this same time, the Coast Guard closed both lakes to recreational traffic.  Is this going to happen again this time?
A.  Last year the Coast Guard closed the lakes to recreational traffic due to very strong currents and large amounts of debris coming down river from heavy flooding upriver which occurred in a very short period of time.  The lakes were reopened in stages as this debris cleared the lakes.  This flood is different from last years flood.  

With the Corps closing the gates on the lakes, there will not be strong current until they are able to once again open the gates.  We will undoubtedly have debris on the lakes, but I do not expect near the amount of debris as last year and it won't be current driven.  A call to the Coast Guard in Paducah this morning indicated that there are no immediate plans on lake closure.  Now, this does not mean that the lakes cannot or will not be closed, but it does mean that there are no plans in the works at this time.  
Q.  Will the lakes be fishable during this flood?
A.  Last year we experienced some great bass fishing both before, during and after the big flood.  I expect the same this year.  Last year most of the Largemouth had spawned by the time the flood hit us but the rising waters moved the baitfish back into the flooded areas and the Largemouth followed.  This year, due to water conditions over the past few weeks, there are still a lot of Largemouth to spawn, this rising water is moving those Largemouth and also those Largemouth that have already spawned shallow.  

I was out today and you could just see the shallow bite getting better and better as the day passed with more and more Largemouth moving up with the water.  Note that today we were post frontal and we still had a good bite...I expect it will get even better over the next number of days.  

When the water rises like this, the Channel Catfish move shallow and feed heavily on all the newly exposed food.  As it happens, the Channel Catfish were moving shallow anyway this past week for their spawning ritual and lots of good catches were being made by Catfish anglers. This bite is just going to get better.  

The Bluegill and Red Ear have been staging the last week or two in the creeks for spawn.  They will move up with the water and feed heavily during this flood also.  Some Crappie will move into the flooded bushes and trees to feed also but they will most likely be scattered but catchable. 
Q.  Will I be able to launch my boat during the flood?
A.  Yes, there are a few ramps that are steep enough that you will be able to launch without much difficulty but they will be crowded so have patience and get there early.  Some ramps will be completely flooded over, but in some cases you will be able to launch out of the parking lots or have to back your truck and boat through water to get to the ramp drop off.  Use caution if you do this and do not attempt it unless you know for sure where the ramp is and that there are no flooded over obstructions between you and the ramp.  

Most courtesy docks will be unreachable or you will have to wade to get to them....again, use caution, if you do not know the depth of the water, do not wade without a PFD on.   Again, there may be flooded over obstructions...do not wade anywhere unless you know for sure what is there.  DO NOT WADE ANYWHERE NEAR ANY ELECTRICAL LINES THAT MAY BE IN THE WATER...REMEMBER, MANY DOCKS HAVE LIGHTS, ELECTRICAL WATER PUMPS, ETC ON THEM...DO NOT ASSUME THE ELECTRIC HAS BEEN TURNED OFF.  
Q.  What is the water color?
A.  The water color on Barkley ranges from muddy to heavily stained.  The water on Kentucky Lake ranges from heavily stained to stained with some muddy water in the backs of some of the larger feeder rivers and creeks.  
Hopefully this has answered some questions for you.  Now, I would like to mention a couple of other factors if you go fishing or boating in this flood.  

First, remember, there will be many, many underwater obstructions that may be just below the water line when you get in water that is above the original shore line....this includes but is not limited to:  docks, rip rap jetties.  concrete walls, tables, stumps, and a myriad of other obstructions.  

Second:  If you are fishing or boating near the shorelines where there are houses and docks....your wake can cause a lot of destruction.  Please have consideration for the folks that live or have businesses along the lakes, the best thing you can do is to idle your boat if you are near these properties.  
The weather forecast for the weekend is for strong south/southeast winds on Saturday.  The present forecast is calling for 19 mph winds on Saturday.  This means rough water on the main lakes, especially on Kentucky Lake.  You need to be cautious if you are on the main lakes on Saturday, it is very hard to see debris in rough water and today I already saw a number of logs floating on the main lake on Kentucky Lake.  A 70% chance of thunderstorms is forecast for Sunday.  High's Saturday and Sunday are forecasted to be 79 and 62 respectively.  
Largemouth Bass:  Largemouth Bass are being taken in shallow water around flooded brush and trees.  These fish are being taken on spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, Texas  and Carolina rigged lizards and creature baits, shaky heads and jigs.  Some Largemouth are also still being taken on staging banks and points just off the shallow flats. 

These fish are being taken on shallow and medium running crankbaits, spinnerbaits, Texas and Carolina rigged lizards and creature baits, shaky heads and jigs. Some good Largemouth were taken this week on primary points on deep diving crankbaits and Carolina rigged creature baits.   Expect more and more Largemouth to be moving up into the flooded timber and brush as the water continues to rise.
Smallmouth Bass:  Smallmouth Bass are being taken on primary points and secondary points and channel banks in the front parts of the creeks and bays.  These fish are being taken on crankbaits, Carolina rigged creature baits and jigs.  Some nice fish have been taken this week but not large numbers.
Some of the more productive lures reported this week have been:  Strike King Series 6XD crankbaits in Tennessee Shad, Bandit crankbaits in rootbeer/chartreuse, Slong's spinnerbaits in sexy shad and white/chartreuse, Slong's chatterbaits in sexy shad and blue glimmer, Zoom lizards in green pumpkin and watermelon/purple, Net Baits Baby Paca Craw in green pumpkin, Charmer shaky head worms in green pumpkin on Slong's shaky head jigs, Charmer tubes in green pumpkin and green pumpkin/orange and Slong's flattop jigs in phantom with matching Net Baits Baby Paca Craw.  Note:  Dip the tails of your green plastics in chartreuse dye.  
Crappie:  Crappie are being taken by spider rigging over brush piles in 10-20 ft of water in the creeks and bays with small jigs and minnows.  Some Crappie are being taken by casting shoreline cover with curly tail jigs but the bite is reported as scattered.  
Bluegill and Red Ear:  Earlier this week these fish were being taken on gravel bars in the back halves of the creeks and bays by fishing with worms under bobbers and on split shot rigs baited with small spider jigs tipped with worms.  With the rising water, many of these fish are moving into the flooded brush and can be taken with worms and crickets under bobbers fished around the brush and bases of trees.  
Catfish:  The Channel Catfish are being taken  in the creeks and bays on rocky shorelines and bottoms as well as on main lake rocky shorelines.  These fish are being taken by fishing with nightcrawlers under bobbers and on bottom rigs.  Jug anglers are also catching these fish by baiting their lines with shrimp and nightcrawlers.  A lot of good catches have been reported all week.

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Fishing at Sunset
Photo by Sherry Bailey

So many childhood memories have been made on the banks of Kentucky and Barkley Lakes. These boys are determined to fish until the sun goes down.