Finicky Crappie Playing Hide-And-Seek With Anglers
Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 04/14/2011
Kentucky Lake crappie have been playing games with anglers this week at a time when peak spawning phases should be underway. Despite some nice weather at midweek that followed high winds and thunderstorms on Monday fish have been finicky. Surface temps climbed into the 64 to 67 degree range this week and that usually signals spawning time and stringers full of slabs as they head toward shallow areas. There has been some improvement as a few isolated success stories are coming in but the overall catch rates remain somewhat below average. Seems the crappie here in the Paris Landing area and up Big Sandy and throughout West Sandy have done a good job of evading the hooks of sport fishermen this week. Increased numbers of boats were out and about once the weather warmed and the wind died down. From slow trolling spider rigs to pulling long lines and vertical presentations of jigs and minnows over manmade fish attractors, the fish have discriminated pretty much all techniques. Reports of a few fish on gravel banks came in earlier this week as anglers cast curly tail grubs and Road Runners to find a few male crappie. Scattered fish were also taken by those drifting across main lake flats in the 9 to 14 foot depth range or pulling jigs in a slow, methodical manner but overall, low numbers of fish were taken when compared to traditional mid-April outings. It hasn’t been all bad as a few fish moved into the shallows at midweek in the upper end of Big Sandy where anglers found them biting in 4 to 6 foot depths in the early morning and late afternoon hours. Water color there has some stain in the aftermath of Monday’s thunderstorms and is likely warming into the 68 degree range, which is triggering spawning phases there and elsewhere across the reservoir. Legions of boaters have trolled the flats around the power lines in Big Sandy with mixed results. Some fish were showing up in the back of Swamp Creek and across the meadows at Elkhorn basin but not in high numbers. Lake levels this week have been falling slowly but are still slightly above TVA’s curve for mid-April. Elevation forecasts for the weekend at both Kentucky Dam and New Johnsonville will be in the 357.6 range. That’s down a few inches from last week at this time. Water color is somewhat stained in the upper ends of most bays due to runoff but clear in the main lake and at the mouth of large bays. Fish were moving up to spawn and while some males were taken along gravel banks and shallow flats it has been inconsistent. Not much was happening on main lake ledges as the deeper drop-offs were just not producing significant numbers. That is unusual as even when the shallow bite peaks there always seems to be a few fish lingering on the top sides of ledges and perhaps spawning on shallow flats where brush and stumps are located but establishing a pattern has been tough. In fact, many anglers are voicing concern and asking themselves and others if the fish are really out there in significant numbers. It appears some weak year classes are contributing to the decline in catch rates. Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency boating safety officer Jim Napier worked the Big Sandy area on Wednesday and ventured up toward Swamp Creek and Elkhorn areas from his launch at Little Sulphur's Port Road Ramp. After checking some seventy boats that morning the most crappie he encountered were a mere 7 to 8 fish with most boats having less. Although the bite improved that afternoon it shows that low catches have been recorded across a wide area by a variety of crappie anglers using a variety of methods and baits. Anglers are hoping action improves the next few days but a cool snap is expected this weekend with a return of wind and inclement weather for a day or so. Napier said that eight out of ten boats have been asking him that popular question: where are the crappie? As to bass reports seems activity has held up well with increased action on shallow shorelines and mudflats. No doubt the rising surface temps have stimulated more fish to move up in their prespawn phase. Small pockets off the main lake and feeder creeks are producing some good numbers of fish. Anglers have stepped up the spinnerbait and shallow running crankbait presentations. Water was not in the buck bushes this week but some dead grass just out from the summer pool level shoreline was holding bass. Gravel banks and rocky points were still producing fish as well. Shad and crawfish colored crankbaits were appealing and some loud colored Rattle Traps and assorted shallow running crankbaits were working where dingy water was present. There is still current present in the main channel so rip-rap and bridge piers are holding some bass as are roadbeds and sloping sandbars at the mouth of big bays and around island rims. Some topwater action is likely to enter the picture this week if not already. Shad have been flicking the surface in response to the recent warm-up. A few bluegill and catfish were merging toward shallow docks and crappie beds this week too. As waters warm watch for the bluegill bite to improve. TVA will likely stabilize lake levels this weekend before resuming a gradual rise in elevation by next week. Between now and May 1 lake levels will rise toward the 359 mark of summer pool.
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