Anglers Battered After Cold, Windy Week
Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 04/25/2012
After a tough week on the water Kentucky Lake anglers are hoping cold fronts and gale winds are in the rearview mirror. Normal weather was already returning at midweek and the forecast looks promising for bass, crappie and bluegill fishermen who got their feelings hurt for the last week or so. A stubborn cold front followed last week’s cool snap and since then below average temperatures and brisk winds dominated the fishing scene until Wednesday’s warm up. Not only have temps been below average but lake levels are lagging behind schedule this week too as it appears TVA will not achieve its goal of summer pool by its target day of May 1. Surface temperatures fell back to 62 degrees by Tuesday morning after climbing up to 75 degrees about ten days ago. Although it has warmed up since last weekend’s duck weather descended, the fish have been sluggish to rebound. Especially slow has been the crappie bite as several small fish are hitting but the bigger fish really had a mood swing and dodged anglers’ hooks several days running. Crappie were already showing signs of a slow down last week as their post-spawn phase is usually sluggish but the severe cold front teamed up with gale force winds and the combination dealt a mean blow. At midweek surface temps were climbing back to 65 and will likely return to the 70 degree range this weekend, a step in the right direction for stressed out crappie, finicky bluegill and shellcracker which backed off this week, and stubborn bass that have evaded hooks as well. Lake levels are below TVA’s projections this week and that has thrown a curve to fishing patterns as well. Elevation is projected to be 356.5 at Kentucky Dam this weekend and only 356.2 at New Johnsonville. Normal summer pool is 359 but it’s highly unlikely TVA will make the mark by next Tuesday as the reservoir is about two feet below normal for late April. Water color remains clear across most of the reservoir as not much rain has fallen in the watershed. High winds have whipped up some stain in places but overall it’s clear throughout Big Sandy and along the Tennessee River bays. Anglers were thinking the bluegill and shellcracker spawn would be early this year as beautiful weather back in March and early April pointed in that direction but last week’s cold front put the brakes on some early spawning phases. The fish backed off this week but will likely rebound soon as surface temps rise and stimulate spawning activity. With low lake levels look for the bedding to take place in different locations as the fish are likely to be out and away from popular shoreline locations of times past. Crappie have diminished this week as the bigger fish have won the game of hide-and-go-seek. Seems the post-spawning slabs have backed away from structure as stakebeds and brushpiles that had been producing on a regular basis were almost void of big bites. It’s not all that unusual for the larger fish to suspend out away from flats and spawning spots as they ride out the stressful phase but most anglers have been puzzled by the drastic change. Good numbers of small fish are still showing up and hopefully some improvement will occur as warmer weather enters the picture and the slabs settle down and return to structure in the weeks ahead. Catfish were beginning to enter midrange depths as several dandies were challenging the lines of crappie anglers stalking the 9 to 13 foot range. Some hefty females were caught and they were bulging with eggs so they will continue to prowl and move up to spawning spots around rocky banks in the next week to ten days. Bass fishermen haven’t been immune to the slowdown either as both numbers and weights in local tournaments fell off this week. A variety of patterns and lure choices had been producing and will no doubt resume by this weekend but low lake levels are throwing some anglers off balance. Shallow shoreline activity is usually picking up about this time and those yellow flowers that dot backwater pockets and bays typically have some water around them, a visual pattern that appeals to fishermen tossing topwater, spinnerbaits and fluke-style jerk baits. At midweek most of those flower patches were on dry ground or too shallow to fish. Most boats are lying back off the banks and casting shallow running crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and Texas or Carolina rigged worms and craws. Some are throwing the Alabama rig and fan casting shallow bays and mud flats hoping to find some staging fish hanging out in la-la land. Other patterns have found bass still relating to drop-offs in the mouth of big bays or long sloping points with steeper banks that harbor deep water close by. Some success stories continue to come in from angles hopping a jig and craw combo on ledges far away from shallow shoreline venues. Seems the topwater bite subsided this week when surface temps plummeted but watch for a dramatic turnaround by this weekend. Numbers of big bass continue to be down, however, as there have not been as many 5-pound plus fish this spring compared to the last two or three years. Lake levels may be below average but it appears warm weather will return in the days ahead and pull surface temps back to normal ranges as the fish and fishermen recover from a week or ten days of bumps and bruises. Here’s hoping for a mellow month of May!
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