Crappie Spawn Looming; Sunny Days Advance Timetable
Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 04/04/2013
Warm sunny days are in the forecast and anglers better get ready. A long stretch of dismal weather is about to lose its grip and the biological clock will begin ticking fast the next week to ten days here on Kentucky Lake. Crappie anglers are anxiously awaiting the warm-up that is long overdue. It appears nice weather will arrive this weekend with the extended forecast showing temperatures climbing into the 70’s on Saturday and hanging around for several consecutive days. Last week’s forecast never materialized as cold, dreary days chased away a brief warming trend, leaving anglers shivering in their shoes. It was yet another week of nasty weather with annoying northeast winds that continued to push the early phases of crappie spawning back. Added to the cold and windy weather was a somewhat surprising jump in lake levels that further scattered fish this week. Kentucky Lake’s elevation was at 357.2 at midweek, which is almost three feet above the norm for the first few days of April. Lake levels were forecast to be in the 357.2 range this weekend but TVA will likely begin pulling water soon and draw the lake back down to its normal curve. That depends on rainfall this week. Water color has been good for fishing with a slight stain across much of the reservoir. Surface temperatures started the week out around 50 degrees but have been sluggish to warm as cold weather just hasn’t let go. At midweek surface temps were edging up to 52 but falling back down at night. Tuesday afternoon skies over me turned to sleet as it was a far cry from spring weather but that’s how things have been for several weeks running. Watch for a dramatic increase in surface temps this weekend and early next week as the warm sunny days will really trigger movement from crappie once the water warms into the mid to upper 50’s. While most crappie fishermen have struggled to put consistent patterns together lately, a few decent stringers have been taken by boats using long-line and spider rigging techniques. It’s not surprising that crappie have been riding out the cold weather and below average surface temps by suspending out over deeper water. Most of the fish have been reluctant to move toward structure, opting for a suspended staging pattern as they wait on warmer conditions to trigger their spawning phases. The lion’s share of fish last week and this week came from 14 to 17 foot depths as they suspended out over deeper water or near the edge of the old river channels and sloughs. Popular producers were curly tail grubs, Road Runner style jigs, and some tube skirts and minnow tubes pulled slowly through the suspending fish. Other styles of presentations such as vertical jigging around stakebeds and brushpiles or bottom-bouncing minnow rigs along deep drop-offs were less productive. Normally those patterns are producing this time of year but March and early April have been anything but normal this time around. Other signs of a late spring spawn have been the lack of dark male crappie showing up in the creel of anglers. The males begin to darken due to hormonal changes as spawning time approaches but that has been slow in coming due to the cold weather. That will change this week as the fish make a blitz toward cover as they prepare for spawning. Crappie prefer a surface temperature range of 62 to 66 with some stability in weather as cold fronts can alter the early phases of the annual ritual. Anglers should see significant improvement this weekend and throughout next week as the extended forecast of warm weather will really put fish on the move. Odds are the mood of the fish and the fishermen will improve with each passing day. Peak spawning phases are shaping up to happen by the end of next week and linger on past mid-April. From the bass department comes another week of decent stringers taken by anglers braving the cold, windy weather. Hefty stringers were taken in tournaments again this week as anglers adapted to the rising lake levels and dingy water from rain and runoff. Successful patterns have ranged from tossing Alabama rigs over deep ledges to crankbaits, jig and pig combos, and Carolina rigged craws on sloping gravel points. Cold surface temps have kept some of the bigger out away from shorelines but watch for a lot of fish to move up in the next few days as shallow water will warm fast. Shallow gravel banks and points should begin holding fish as will roadbeds and rip-rap rock levees. Tossing some suspending jerk baits will remain appealing as will spinnerbaits rolled slowly once the water warms. Both bass and crappie will make their transitions from winter to spring venues this next week. The fish have been slow to move up this year but the extended spell of cold weather kept surface temps colder than normal and schools of baitfish have stayed deep. Soon the gray hillsides of Kentucky Lake will parade colors of budding treetops. The calendar said spring arrived two weeks ago but the trees and the fish have shown otherwise. It appears the time is at hand to shed the overcoats and put on the sunscreen. Some of us were wondering if it would ever get here!
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