Lake Levels Recede; Anglers Battle Wind & Weather
Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 03/24/2011
Fishermen are waking up to a new lake most every day as inclement weather and changing water levels continue to dominate the fishing scene. Kentucky Lake crested at the 363. 4 range---more than eight feet above normal winter pool--- late last weekend and has been falling fast the last several days as TVA attempts to pull the reservoir back down to its curve for reservoir operations. Under normal conditions elevation would be in the 355 range on April 1 when TVA begins the slow climb toward summer pool---which is 359----slated for May 1. Lake levels forecast for the weekend will be 360.4 at Kentucky Dam and 360.5 upstream at New Johnsonville. Expect a rapid drawdown to continue for the next several days. Just how far back down the ladder TVA will go remains to be seen but most anglers and recreational enthusiasts are ready to say goodbye to the extended spell of high water that has inundated boat ramps, camp grounds, and piers not to mention erosion of shorelines and islands. Crappie anglers anxious to do battle with the area’s popular panfish have been somewhat dismayed despite several days of above average temperatures that pushed surface temps into the 57 to 59 degree range this week. High winds have wrecked havoc with anglers’ plans to stalk the open water areas as gusts in the 20 mile per hour range had main lake spots rolling with whitecaps this week. Most of March has been mean as high water and high winds have teamed up to lower productivity. Water color has improved across most of the reservoir with a slight stain present throughout Big Sandy while the main Tennessee River channel has a dingy appearance. A lot of current is present in the main channel and will continue for quite some time as TVA spills water through Kentucky Dam in large volume. With so much change taking place establishing a pattern in terms of depth and location has not been easy for crappie fishermen. Finicky fish have been on the move and not relating to structure. Despite a crazy week of weather and water levels fish are on the verge of moving up to midrange depths in large numbers and overall activity should improve once water levels stabilize and average temps return. It may take a few more days as another cold snap is in the forecast for late this weekend and early next week, which is not what anglers want to hear. With surface temps now in the upper 50’s fish have already shown some interest in 9 to 11 foot depths and will stage in midrange zones until things settle down. Spawning occurs once surface temps reach the 62 to 66 degree range but it’s likely the approaching cold front will put the brakes on rising surface temps. It appears any early spawning phases are still well over a week away if not more. Male crappie have not shown any darkening color transition just yet, another sign hormonal changes are sluggish to advance the biological clock. In times past spawning phases have begun in late March but that will not take place this spring as all signs indicate the annual ritual will be pushed back toward early to mid April. Meanwhile, most crappie taken this week have been from anglers vertical fishing jigs tipped with minnows around manmade fish attractors in the 10 to 15 foot zone. A few fish were lingering on drop-offs but quite scattered in the 19 to 23 foot zone in the Paris Landing area. Up Big Sandy around New Hope and Country Junction and into West Sandy some anglers were picking up scattered crappie while trolling Roadrunners and other jigs. A few fish were suspended in 10 to 12 foot depths there. Backwater areas such as Springville bottom and behind the levee at Big Sandy will offer ample water for fishermen for quite some time. Bottom line is that crappie have been roaming and the bite has been below average for just about all techniques. Watch for quick improvement next week after the cold front fades as it’s high time things picked up! Bass fishermen have not suffered like crappie anglers as some good stringers have been taken. And, some big fish are coming in as the females are egg laden and really putting on the feed bag. Popular techniques have been tossing Rattle Traps and various deep diving crankbaits around rock points, roadbeds, and some feeder creeks. Watch for bass to pull back out of shoreline cover and stage around steeper banks and ditches as lake levels fall. A few bass were occupying visible shoreline habitat before the drastic drawdown began but steeper banks, along with some submerged grass, will likely appeal as the fish fall back in response to lower lake levels. Current will be a factor too as bass will be hanging around the down current side of rock points, piers, and island rims this next week. High winds have whipped up some dingy water in places and casting loud colored crankbaits there has paid off. Some suspending jerk baits, spinnerbaits, and shad colored crankbaits will be popular as will Carolina rigged lizards in areas with clearing water. Catfish had been on the prowl during the high water and moved up to shallow creeks and flats but will now be pulling back to some deeper areas in the days ahead. A few stripers were taken around main river bridge piers where current was creating eddies and delivering abundant baitfish. March is a month known for its unstable weather and this year it has certainly lived up to its reputation. Hang in there as better days are ahead.
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