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Kentucky Lake Levels Return to Normal; Fishing Scene Improves

Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 05/19/2011

Bet you thought it would never go down! Kentucky Lakes elevation is expected to return to normal by this weekend after a wild ride that lasted for several weeks on what seemed like a roller-coaster gone out of control.
    
Lake levels have been on a steady decline and should stabilize late this weekend once the elevation reaches the summer pool reading of 359. TVA is projecting an elevation of 360.8 at Kentucky Dam as the weekend approaches and 360.7 upstream at New Johnsonville.
    
After pulling the lake at least almost a foot per day for a week straight, TVA has reduced the discharge some but will continue to release water until normal curve is achieved.
    
Surface temps have fallen some since last week as unseasonable cool conditions descended earlier this week and made it feel like fall slipped in the door. Surface temps were in the 67 to 69 degrees at midweek but warm weather is in the forecast and the water will rebound to the mid 70s later this weekend.
    
Water color has been clear in backwater bays and creeks and throughout Big Sandy while a little dingy water is present in the main Tennessee River channel. Falling lake levels really pulled stained water out of shallow areas this past week.
    
Bluegill and shellcracker continue to top the list as spawning phases have been at peak levels lately and good numbers and hefty fish continue to bite. Despite unusual conditions lately the bluegill and shellcracker bite has been consistent.
    
Odds are the spawning phases and active bite will hold up another week to ten days. Boats have been catching in excess of 100 keeper size fish per day!
    
It has been a good spring for light tackle enthusiast who have seen a lot of bobbers disappear and drastically lowered the population of crickets and wax worms at local bait shops.
    
High lake levels likely contributed to the spike in activity as these powerful panfish thrive when shoreline vegetation and structure is inundated, greatly increasing forage areas, zooplankton and phytoplankton buffets.
   
Bass activity is holding up well as some hefty stringers continue to come in and anglers are boasting as to numbers of fish being caught. It has been a mecca for visible structure style fishing.
   
Buck bushes, willow trees, and submerged weedbeds have been giving up lots of fish. With falling lake levels has come the outside bush line pattern that is now producing well. Any structure close to deeper water seems to be holding fish.
   
Pitching and flipping techniques have worked well but clear water has, at times, required anglers to lay back and cast for best results.
    
Watch for some sloping points to hold fish as well since the fish are staging near deeper escape routes after leaving spots that appealed last week but are now void of water.
    
Spinnerbaits in white and chartreuse with gold willow leaf blades have worked well as have some buzzbaits and assorted floating fluke style worms. Clear water has also worked well for jerk baits and various topwater selections.
    
Carolina rigged lizards, worms, and crawfish imitations continue to appeal when fished on sloping gravel points and mud bars. Those feeder creeks and ditches are now very popular places within the big bays.
    
Color choices in the clear water have ranged from motor oil and green pumpkin-pepper to cotton candy and black and blue pearl.
    
Watch for some ledges to begin producing too as falling lake levels and current will continue to pull fish to those venues.
    
Crappie have been slow but showing some signs of improvement. The fish are filtering back to submerged structure in the 10 to 14 foot zones. Fish are still scattered and while a lot of small fish are showing up, a few more keepers are entering the picture.
    
With warmer weather and rising surface temps approaching watch for the bite to improve as some fish that were roaming shallow shorelines last week will now begin to navigate toward manmade fish attractors in both the main lake and big bays.
    
Catfish have headed toward rocky banks lately and are spawning. Some nice fish were taken this week and rocky bluffs and rip-rap levees should attract fish this week.
    
Normal lake levels and weather patterns are long overdue and it appears conditions are headed in that direction. Can I get an Amen on that?

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Bison
Photo by Jill Asher

The Elk and Bison Prairie in Land Between The Lakes is one of the most popular attractions for visitors year-round.