Above Average Temps/Below Average Lake Levels Greet Anglers
Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 07/04/2012
Above average temperatures and below average lake levels continue to greet anglers who have battled adverse conditions for quite a spell. Kentucky Lake’s summer fishing scene has held up pretty good for bass fishermen this week despite lingering heat and low lake levels. Decent stringers were still being caught by anglers working drop-offs and fish were still relating to the abundance of grassbeds where baitfish were hiding. Drought conditions continue to influence the region as low flows throughout the Tennessee River watershed due to a lack of rain will keep the reservoir’s elevation below TVA’s normal curve for lake levels. In normal years Kentucky Lake would have seen a slow increase in elevation throughout April and climbed to a summer pool mark of 359 by early May. Traditional summer pool level would have been maintained until early July when the slow winter drawdown begins but this year things have been quite different. Presently, lake levels are in the 357.4 range at Kentucky Dam, a reading that has been holding its own for several weeks. Upstream at New Johnsonville Steam Plant sector the elevation will be 357.2 as the weekend approaches. TVA has been pulling some water through the system but it’s discharging about the same amount as the inflow; thus, lake levels have been stable for quite some time. Surface temperatures this week peaked at 90 degrees, a reflection of the three-digit days last weekend and earlier this week where warm nights hung around too. Early morning readings were starting out around 87 but crossing the threshold by midday. Water color remains clear. Thanks to some light breezes it hasn’t been all bad out there. Anglers are still hoping for some cloud cover and rain to drench a thirsty fishery but as long as the wind stays up the temperatures have been bearable, although short boat rides sure are enticing at times. Bass continue to relate to the increasing grassbed areas where baitfish are hanging around as the aquatic carpets provide both cover and shade. The bite has been decent in the early morning hours and late afternoon but slowed during midday once the bright sun beams. While a few fish have been taken on assorted topwater jerk baits, along with spinnerbaits and buzzbaits, the lure of choice has been Texas rigged worms fished on the parameters where grass has deeper water close by. Some of the submerged grass growing on points protruding into deeper water are attracting fish that move up in lowlight and chase shad for brief periods. Thick carpets of grass are also appealing to a few anglers tossing weedless surface lures such as rats, frogs, and floating fluke style presentations in pockets of open water surrounded by grass. Deeper ledges are still producing fish too as big Texas rigged worms seem to have the most appeal but jig and craw combos, deep diving crankbaits and Carolina rigged worms and Zoom’s brush hog have also worked at times. Worms in the 10 to 12-inch length have been popular when fished with a ½ to 5/8-ounce slip sinker. Colors of choice have ranged from plum, blue-fleck, and black/blue to pumpkin-pepper, cotton candy, and fire/ice. Zoom, Culprit, and Berkley’s big power bait series have been a few popular producers. Some anglers are still working the deep sides of ledges with spoons and heavy jigs to flush out some bigger fish from the 18 to 25 foot depths. However, there are still decent numbers relating to the top sides of the sandbars at times or lingering near the drop-off itself when wind is present. Schools of shad were roaming the top side of main lake ledges and bass were hot on their trail at times as the 9 to 12 foot zones were worthy of consideration when tossing both worms and crankbaits. However, not many of us want to toss that huge crankbait for extended periods in this type of weather. Crappie activity seemed to diminish this week as the increased surface temperatures combined with a high pressure system delivering bright skies did not work in favor of anglers stalking summer crappie. While some cloud cover and fresh water into the system would likely help the sluggish bite, not much relief is in sight as to changes in weather patterns. A few fish were taken this week in the 18 to 25 foot depth range as they backed out of midrange depths and occupied structure near the main river channel. Jigs tipped with minnows and just live minnows presented in a vertical presentation were producing if fished slowly and methodically around the deep cover. A few fish were hanging around the midrange stakebeds in 12 to 14 foot depths but numbers declined there since last week. The high skies and clear water seemed to have pulled fish toward deeper venues this week, not to mention rising surface temps. Bites were light as the fish were not aggressive and displaying a reluctant mood to feed, a likely result of the rising surface temperatures. No night fishing reports have come in but it’s likely some fish could be taken beneath the lights if anglers set up shop over some main lake ledges where schools of shad could be lured to the boat’s locale. Mayfly hatches have been somewhat scarce the last two weeks but usually show up in the early to mid-July time frame. There have been some bluegill hanging out around the deeper ledges, along with some hefty catfish that have jumped on jigs and minnow rigs dunked by crappie anglers. Seems the catfish are relating more to the midrange depths instead of moving out to the edge of the main river channel as is normally the case when hot weather descends. A lack of current has likely been a factor for many summer catfishermen who are usually seen working the edge of the river channel and drifting with the flow. Everyone is hoping for some rain. Keep your rods crossed.
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