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Archived Fishing Report

Bluegill Bite Still On; Bass on the Bars as Crappie Improve

Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 05/17/2012

Although still some 18 inches or so below normal summer pool level, Kentucky Lake actually had a rise in elevation this week after heavy rains to our south finally sent some runoff into the TVA valley.
Temperatures heated up at midweek but the bluegill bite has been hot for over two weeks as hefty stringers of big bull bream continue to dominate the fishing scene for sportfishermen across the reservoir.
Crappie action has improved this week too as increased numbers of bigger fish were showing up in the creel of anglers working structure in the 7 to 11 foot zones.
Overall bass activity has been good too as the lion’s share of big stringers continue to come from anglers beating the main lake sandbars with deep diving crankbaits.
Kentucky Lake’s fishing scene enjoyed nice weather and light winds have been pretty kind to anglers. There were a few mornings when a north wind had a nip in the air but stable May weather patterns have returned as temps are forecasted to be in the low to mid 80’s for the next several days.
Surface temps heated up to the 77 to 79 degree range at midweek after cooling down late last week. Water color remains clear.
Lake levels experienced a slight rise for a few days and debris was floating as grass and some shoreline driftwood indicated a sluggish increase in elevation was underway. However, the reservoir is still almost two feet below summer pool in the New Johnsonville area.
Projections for the approaching weekend indicate the elevation will be 357.3 at Kentucky Dam, which is the highest elevation thus far this spring. Upstream at New Johnsonville lake levels will be in the 357.1 range, which is up several inches from last week at this time but still well below the normal summer pool mark of 359.
Coolers full of big, rusty bluegill continue to come in from anglers tossing crickets and wax worms in the 3 to 6 foot zones. Bedding has been underway for over two weeks but in the last day or two more females have moved up and entered the bedding areas, a sign that peak activity may have occurred during the last week or ten days.
That’s not to say some good bluegill action doesn’t remain but the ideal scenario is finding the big males dominating the bedding areas, which has been the case since early May. Once the females start showing up in increased numbers there seems to be a slight decline in the percentage of big bulls in concentrated areas.
Anglers can expect to find plenty of good ones still lingering slightly offshore but may move up toward shallows if lake levels continue to rise in the next few days.
Shellcracker continue to win the hide-and-go-seek game this spring as a few good ones are being caught but numbers have not been abundant. Overall it has been difficult to find concentrations of shellcracker for most panfishermen this spring.
Just exactly where the illusive olive drab redear sunfish hide has been a mystery for even some veteran anglers this spring. No doubt the lake levels have been a factor but the pattern has been puzzling while the big bream have helped fill the void most days.
From the bass department comes continued success for boaters banging the sandbars with big deep diving crankbaits. Most all of the recent tournament wins have come from anglers concentrating their efforts on ledge fishing and the shad colored variations have been the bait of choice.
Although some trophy bass have been taken in a few recent events that eclipsed the 8-pound mark, the common denominator among the ranks has been lots of fish caught but struggles in locating bigger fish. Some pretty good schools have been located where numbers were abundant but most of the fish were in the 2 to 3 pound range or smaller.
Carolina and Alabama rigs have produced well lately and several boats are tossing big Texas rigged worms in hopes of fooling some big fish but the worm and jig bite has lived in the shadow of the crankbait bite lately. Although no reports of aquatic vegetation have come in from the Paris Landing area north, some Eurasian watermilfoil has been reported south of the New Johnsonville sector.
With clear water and low lake levels the recipe is right for the return of aquatic vegetation this spring and summer. Anglers could see a surge in grassbeds in the weeks ahead.
Crappie showed improvement this week as some cloudy days seemed to stimulate the bite. Structure in the 7 to 11 foot zones gave up some good fish as anglers vertical fished jigs tipped with minnows for the highest level of success.
There are a few scattered crappie lingering in stakebeds and brushpiles in 5 to 7 foot zones but will continue to move toward midrange depths as the surface temps increase the next week or so.
While some boats pulling long lines with jigs were struggling, others fishing structure in a slow, methodical manner were doing well. Popular colors have ranged from purple/chartreuse to blue/clear, and some red/white and black/chartreuse variations.
Catfish were biting for anglers fishing nightcrawlers around shallow flats and sugmerged structures in the 4 to 8 foot zones. Low lake levels have influenced the fish to spawn out away from some shallow rock shorelines this spring as the traditional areas have just been too shallow.
Kentucky Lake’s fishing scene had another good report card this week as high marks were documented for bass, bluegill, crappie and catfish. Despite the continuation of low lake levels catch rates have been good for anglers who have adapted to different depths and learned to play the game where the rules have changed this spring for practically all species.

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Photo by Cliff Grizzard

Karson takes advantage of the last few minutes of daylight by paddleboarding on Kentucky Lake.