Kentucky Lake's Fishing Scene Avoids Winter Woes
Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 03/01/2012
Is the recent weather pattern for Kentucky Lake’s fishing scene a touch of late fall or is it an early spring? Winter fishing conditions sure haven’t lived up to the season’s normal reputation when unpredictable cold fronts and harsh winds dictate. This week’s fishing update saw storms enter the picture at midweek with tornado warnings and thunderstorms passing through on Wednesday but overall, it was another week of warm temperatures and moderate winds that produced some nice days for fishing. Temperatures reached the 70-degree mark on Monday and Tuesday with anglers out in force and basking in what felt more like late March than late February. Warm weather is expected to linger for a few more days too with an occasional storm hidden in the forecast. Crappie and bass fishermen are still on a winning streak courtesy of weather patterns that seem to indicate an early spring is in the making. Surface temperatures are above normal for this time of year with readings this week resting around the 50 to 52 degree range. Warm days and moderate nights are helping keep surface temps high. Lake levels have been relatively stable this week but may rise slightly by the weekend as some heavy rains passed through the region, escorting thunderstorms and straight line winds at midweek. Observed elevation at Kentucky Dam will be 355.2 as the weekend approaches. Upstream at New Johnsonville readings are slightly higher with elevation in the 355.5 range. Water color is in good shape across the reservoir. Most areas were clear at midweek but some bays may experience some stain from runoff by this weekend. The upper Big Sandy and portions of West Sandy had slight stain while the Paris Landing area was clear. Crappie have been hitting pretty good and the common denominator among the ranks of panfishermen is big numbers of small fish. Seems some boats were landing in excess of 100 fish at times but culling the lion’s share of the creel and taking home 20 to 25 keepers. A few boats reported reaching the 50-mark as to keepers. A few good size fish are showing up in the daily catch but it’s clear the strong year-classes are just shy of the 10-inch minimum length limit. Fisheries biologists in Kentucky and Tennessee agree it takes three years for a crappie to reach ten inches. The bulk of the fish showing up now are just shy of their third birthday having hatched out back in the spring of 2009. In early April and May of 2009 and 2010 present numbers and size of fish indicate they came from a decent spawn. Recruitment has been pretty good so the fish have survived predation and managed to survive and become the hunter instead of the hunted. By April and May, a lot of the crappie that are too short now may well grow to meet the minimum length limit. Meanwhile, anglers will continue to land some good numbers but likely have to measure and release several fish. Most agree that’s not all bad as there are still a few slabs mixed in at times too. I’ll share a few more tidbits of biology. Black crappie are likely to be shorter than white crappie from the same year class too. The black crappie are known for their short and stubby profile. Many anglers refer to them as “snub-nose” as they have a football-like profile. White crappie are often longer as their bottom jaw extends out. Perhaps the most conspicuous characteristic between the black and white is the pigmentation; blacks will have a freckle or spotted type pigment all over while the white crappie has vertical bars of pigment. Spine counts on the dorsal fin also distinguish one from the other. Blacks usually have seven or more while the white species has six or less. Popular depths have been 7 to 12 feet in the upper Big Sandy and West Sandy. Around the Paris Landing area there are a few fish using that midrange depth but several boats reported success from fishing main lake ledges in the 18 to 20 foot depth range. Jigs in the purple/chartreuse, red/chartreuse, and others shades and variations of combinations sporting light green have paid dividends. A few anglers were dunking minnows too but jigs seemed to be working best. Popular leadhead colors being used ranged from unpainted to red, black, and some florescent green and pink variations. Bass fishermen have been tossing suspending crankbaits in the crawfish and Tennessee shad colors. Some Rattle-Traps and other similar style crankbaits have worked too when fished around grave banks and deeper rock points. Jig and pig combos in brown/red, black/blue, and brown/chartreuse have worked along with Carolina rigged craws worked on deeper ledges and feeder ditches emptying into deeper water. The Alabama rigs continue to hold popularity as well with twister tail or sassy shad style grubs working on the multi-hook rigs. March has a good reputation for producing hefty stringers of bass here on Kentucky Lake. The fish will really put on the feed bag in the weeks ahead in their prespring patterns that prepare them for prespawn phases. Watch for some of the year’s heaviest stringers to be taken during the Ides of March. Most winning tournament stringers are likely to require weights in the 25-pound range!
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