Crappie Spawn Underway; Weather Triggers Early Start
Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 03/22/2012
Kentucky Lake crappie are responding to the extended spell of warm weather that has triggered an early start to spawning phases. It should come as no surprise to anglers this spring as a rather mild winter faded into spring but this week it has felt more like summer. Record high temperatures were set earlier in the week as the mercury climbed to 84 degrees on the first day of spring in some areas and very warm nights have lingered. All that has combined to influence surface temperatures that climbed into the 66 to 68 degree range across some of the Big Sandy basin at midweek. A lot of change and movement has taken place the last few days as male crappie have darkened dramatically since last week, a color phase influenced by hormonal changes that signals spring spawning time is here. Big females have moved up into midrange depths this week and some hefty stringers have been taken in depths of 5 to 8 feet. Their egg sacs are bloated and no doubt the fish are on the threshold of moving toward structure to broadcast their eggs. I found some nice slabs in shallow stakebeds at midweek that were void of big fish a few days prior. While big numbers of small fish continue to occupy beds in various depths it was clear that some of the big females had moved up at midweek and were about ready to begin the annual ritual. Traditionally, spawning time begins here in early April but this year’s biological clock has been ahead of schedule. A lot of anglers are worried they’ll miss the peak spawning phases this year as their trips were scheduled months in advance. While mid-April this year will likely have some late spawning taking place, odds are it will indeed be in the post-spawn phases for much of the area since the fish got an early start. Still, there will be plenty of decent fishing left as all the fish don’t spawn at the same time, a scenario that Mother Nature devised many moons ago to take care of her critters. Meanwhile, anglers all across Kentucky Lake have enjoyed one of their best late winter and early spring fishing seasons ever thanks to the magnificent weather. Thunderstorms and some heavy rain was entering he forecast at midweek but the inclement weather is expected to be out of the area by this weekend when normal temperatures with highs around the 70 degree mark will return. Surface temperatures started out the week in the 64 to 67 degree range, which is very much above average for this time of year. Water color has been good for fishing with a slight stain. Lake levels have been falling slowly this week and TVA projects a reading of 355.2 at both Kentucky Dam and New Johnsonville Steam Plant sector as the weekend approaches. If heavy rains hover over the TVA valley during the rash of thunderstorms, lake levels could rise several inches by early next week but no flooding was in the forecast. Anglers have had to battle high winds a few days and that curtailed some of the open water fishing but a lot of boats have been drifting multi-pole rigs and doing well. Long line presentations have been popular for slow trollers too while some of the drift boas are using wind socks to slow them down during the windy days. Pulling or trolling Road Runners in the 1/16 to 1/4 ounce size has worked well. Other techniques of vertical presentations of small jigs tipped with minnows or Berkley Power Bait has paid dividends as well, especially as more fish relate to structure as spawning time arrives. Popular color combinations have ranged from purple/chartreuse to white/red. Crappie have also been thumping live minnows when tipped on a jig. Still, a lot of crappie are suspended in the 8 to 14 foot zones in Big Sandy near Sulphur Well Island and the Elkhorn area while up Big Sandy around New Hope and Country Junction more fish have moved up to the shallows. Same goes for Swamp Creek where several boats reported success in the 5 foot depth range. In West Sandy around Britton Ford and toward Springville pumphouse a lot of fish were caught in the 7 to 12 foot depths but again, fish are really on the move. Look for more male crappie move up toward gravel banks this week and into shallow stumps and brush. The males usually move up quickly and occupy such areas before the females move up to spawn and that pattern is now underway. Several boats are casting curly tail jigs and Road Runners around submerged stakebeds and brushpiles while others are just working the rocky banks and finding a few fish. Bass are in prespawn patterns and relating to shallow pockets and feeder creeks where some big sows are hanging out and waiting for things to get just right before moving up on beds. A lot of fish are still relating to gravel banks and points, staging there in preparation for spawning phases. March is a crankbait paradise and that has been the hot ticket for catching fish lately as such lures as Rattle Traps, Rapala’s Shad Rap, Bandit and Strike King’s medium running series baits have been paying off well. Those rocky bluffs and points are popular right now but some fish are hanging out on shallow mud flats as well. The Alabama rig is producing fish on a consistent basis and some boats are tossing the rigs around ledges and submerged sandbars. Jig and craw combos are working too. Fishing is good and a variety of patterns and lure selections are working for both bass and crappie anglers. Spring has sprung on Kentucky Lake.
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