Prime Time for Bluegill; Low Lake Levels Puzzling
Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 05/10/2012
Kentucky Lake’s fishing scene has been a good one this week despite the lagging lake levels that continue to mystify all anglers. Prime time is here for panfishermen who love battling the bronze bombers as they hit the second week of active spawning phases. Bluegill have turned it up a notch this week as they fan their craters in the sandy substrates of Kentucky Lake. Hefty stringers of big bull bream are coming in daily as anglers work the shallow areas where the bulky males are protecting the nest and socking it to meal worms, crickets, red worms and other small larva type baits that invade their space. Each year the bluegill and shellcracker enter active spawning phases in late April and early May. The last few days really seemed to see an increase in activity but last weekend’s full moon also played a role in advancing the biological clock. Surface temperatures this week have danced around the 73 to 77 degree range. Some cool mornings made it feel like fall as a cool northwest breeze had surface temps rising slowly throughout the day. Water color remains clear across the entire reservoir. Low lake levels continue to dominate the conversation among the ranks of anglers and pleasure boaters. No one can recall TVA failing to reach summer pool elevation or being this far away from it during the first two weeks of May. Projected elevation going into the weekend will be 356 at Kentucky Dam. Upstream at New Johnsonville the elevation is resting around 355.7. Normal summer pool is 359 so the lake is about three feet below normal for this time of year. Despite abnormal elevation anglers are adapting to the different locations of bedding bluegill and finding them deeper than times past. Good numbers of fish being caught in 4 to 7 foot depths and the fish are fanning around shallow structure such as stumps and crappie beds. Shellcracker are showing up too but overall numbers are down as their whereabouts continue to challenge some anglers who normally beat the banks this time of year and find them in grassbeds and buck bushes. Still, some dandies are mingling near bedding bluegill that are several yards off shore in most cases. There should be another couple of weeks of great bluegill fishing but if you’re having trouble locating them hang in there; just make yourself fish a little deeper and back off the banks and cast around submerged structure. Bass patterns continue to hold up consistently for anglers working the drop-offs as though the summer season was here. Although surface temps are not as hot as summer months, the fish are already in that mode as they back off the banks and relate to main lake ledges or sloping points in the mouth of big bays. Tossing big deep diving crankbaits has been about the best thing going but also producing have been Texas and Carolina rigged worms, craws and lizards. Jig and craw combos have worked as have Alabama rigs with shad colored swim baits. For some anglers it has been tough to back away from the banks and fish deep water patterns this time of year but the grassbeds, buck bushes, and willows are high and dry as are river islands. Clear water color has been a factor as well. Crappie fishing has been fair this week and big numbers of fish are still showing up for anglers stalking midrange stakebeds and brushpiles in the 9 to 14 foot zone. There are a few shallow crappie lingering in submerged cover located in 5 to 9 foot areas but pretty scattered best describes it there. You can land a lot of fish that are still shy of the 10-inch minimum length limit but it’s fun catching them and there are indeed a few keepers mixed in. Crappie were hitting a variety of baits but unpainted leadheads and variations of white/red or purple/chartreuse jig skirts were working. Tipping jigs with minnows was paying dividends too or just plain minnow presentations were popular. Jigs tipped with Berkley crappie nibbles in white, pink, and chartreuse were also worthy of consideration. Catfish continue to hit well this week as they enter spawning territory and move about shallow flats in 5 o 12 foot depth zones. Both bluegill and crappie anglers are tying into several catfish that are hanging around the shallow structure. Those rocky roadbeds or bluffs and banks with rocky crevices should attract catfish the next week or so as they continue spawning. It appears anglers will have to continue altering their approach and change their way of thinking as low lake levels are likely to stay around for a spell due to a lack of rainfall in the TVA valley. Most species are adapting to the low lake levels and scores of fishermen are beginning to figure them out. From bass to bluegill, seems everything is different lately as to their whereabouts but those putting the pieces together are completing the puzzle and reaping the rewards with hefty catches.
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