Spawning Time for Slabs - Annual Ritual At Hand; Rising Lake Levels and Bass Bite Continues
Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 04/07/2011
Alarms are about to sound off on the biological clocks of Kentucky Lake crappie. The annual ritual is at hand, triggered by a warm up this week that influenced surface temperatures toward the magical range that stimulates movement toward shallows. Spawning will likely begin this weekend as male crappie have moved toward shallow cover in search of housekeeping spots that will lure egg laden females in the days ahead. For the first time this year surface temps will cross the 60-degree threshold by this weekend. Active spawning phases have been sluggish in coming this spring as stubborn cold fronts and changing lake levels have combined to push back the timetable. Despite gale winds and cool conditions earlier this week warmer days are expected to dominate into next week, sending a clear signal to meandering crappie that structure is calling. Surface temps this week have climbed from 53 to 59 degrees and will warm even more as the weekend approaches. Water color has been stained in upper ends of bays throughout Big Sandy after Monday’s severe thunderstorms dumped heavy rain across the region. Main lake areas are sporting a good color for fishing. Lake levels continue their spring roller coaster ride as TVA really pulled the plug last week but elevation was changing daily in the aftermath of torrential rains and the reservoir is now on the rise. Elevation at Kentucky Dam is expected to be in the 358 range as the weekend approaches. Reading upstream at New Johnsonville will be 358.5. Presently, lake levels are up a couple of feet from last week at this time and are above TVA’s normal curve. Current is present in the main Tennessee River channel as the agency is spilling water through Kentucky Dam in an attempt to bring the reservoir back down to normal elevation, which should be in the 356-plus range for this time of year. Crappie anglers have battled high winds again this week and that has diminished catch rates, not to mention below average temperatures that had a negative impact. However, action was improving at midweek as fish responded favorably to rising surface temps and rising lake levels that influenced movement toward shallow spawning territory. Look for more fish to enter the 4 to 10 foot zone this weekend as darker male crappie were on the prowl toward some gravel points enroute to structure. The bigger females were staging off shorelines and had not moved up to shallow structure at midweek but will likely do so this weekend and throughout next week as they seek cover to broadcast their eggs. Unlike their gamefish cousins such as bass and bluegill that fan out craters in the shallow sediments and pea gravel substrates, crappie become structure oriented at spawning time. Females broadcast eggs along the roots of stumps, bushes, and various manmade fish attractors such as brushpiles and stakebeds. Popular techniques have been vertical fishing jigs down in submerged structure this week but watch for increased activity for those anglers casting jigs or slow trolling, drifting, and spider rigging or long line pulling. Main lake flats with depths of 10 to 14 feet will likely attract a lot of crappie the next week to ten days as fish stage and move up to spawn. Some big females in the 1 ½ to 2-pound range were being caught in midrange depths but they are no doubt on the move. It has been a very unusual spring thus far for Kentucky Lake crappie anglers but it appears things are about to improve. Good bass fishing reports continue to come in as hefty stringers are required to win tournaments. It is taking a 5-fish limit tipping the scales in the 23 to 25 pound range to win most events. With lake levels rising after a drawdown last week, bass will continue to move up to shallow shorelines in their prespawn phases. Watch for those big rock points and gravel banks to hold good fish as they move up toward shallow pockets and feeder ditches where any dead grass or structure is located. Shallow running crankbaits continue to produce and shad colored Rattle Traps, along with various chartreuse combinations of deep runners have been working well. Some suspending jerk baits and spinnerbaits will enter the picture next week too as waters warms and fish get more active. Some Carolina rigged lizards and swim baits have also worked lately for those anglers backing off the banks and playing the current on main lake sandbars. Expect a lot of male buck bass to blitz toward shallows in the days ahead where Texas rigged craws and worms will be popular choices. Dingy water is present in upper ends of bays from runoff earlier this week and wind has really whipped up some shoreline sediments in places so you can find about any color water you want right now. Females are heavy with eggs so some nice fish are being caught off gravel bank patterns. Current will continue for quite some time along the main river channel and around island rims, rip-rap, and bridge piers but keep an eye on those shallow mud flats to warm up quickly as the backs of bays will heat up as sunny days continue. Some catfish were hitting around bridge piers as current was washing baitfish into eddies where a few stripers and white bass were sharing spots with bottom dwelling cats. Both bass and crappie are on the move in response to warmer weather and rising lake levels that will increase action in shallow water this next week. Has spring finally sprung? That appears to be the case.
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