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Lake Levels, Wind and Weather Keep Anglers Off Balance

Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 04/25/2013

Changing lake levels mixed with unstable weather for another unusual week of fishing conditions for Kentucky Lake anglers. Despite the roller coaster ride anglers have landed some pretty good stringers of spawning crappie as bass are on the threshold of moving up and fanning their beds in shallow grass and bushes.
    
I know it sounds like a broken record but the spring saga continues; usually late April offers some stability in weather patterns but that has not been the case this year as fishermen battled gale force winds this week and drastic changes in temperatures. It appears a nice warming trend will arrive late this weekend as temps are forecast to reach the mid to upper 70s by Monday, bringing a welcomed change to the fishing scene.
    
Crappie were biting good this week for a few anglers working stakebeds and brushpiles in depths of 5 to 13 feet with vertical methods but also productive were the long-line presentations by boaters trolling and drifting Road Runner style jigs over midrange depths.
    
At times crappie moved up to structure and were spawning but there are already a few fish in the post-spawn phases that were out over deep water and somewhat suspended. Boats trolling and drifting jigs and minnows were picking up few fish using these techniques.
    
A few scattered reports came in from anglers casting curly tail grubs and jigs under slip-bobbers around shallow structure but that technique has been hit and miss.
    
Dark male crappie were sporting their handsome purple colors in full force and occupied shallow structure in the 4 to 10 foot zones. A few pale white females were taken in shallow areas too but most appeared to favor deeper water as they began moving out after spawning.
    
The cool snaps have played havoc with the peak spawning phases the last two weeks. There have been some good days but it has been difficult for anglers to establish a consistent pattern of depth and location. Given the variables of changing lake levels and weather it comes as no surprise.
   
Surface temperatures this week actually lost ground a few days when bone chilling northwest winds chased away the warm spell. The water last week was hovering around the 66 to 70 degree range in some places but fell back to 62 to 65 at midweek.
    
Lake levels have jumped around too. After falling several inches last week the reservoir began rising again at midweek and is expected to be in the 360 range at Kentucky Dam by Sunday. That reading is a foot above the normal summer pool mark of 359. Upstream at New Johnsonville the elevation will be in the 359.8 range by this weekend.
    
Just how high the lake levels will go is on the minds of anglers who have been watching the flooding scenario to our north along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. TVA has not been able to discharge large volumes of water this week and that has contributed to rising lake stages here.
    
As to the status of the crappie spawn it appears most of the fish have done their thing and are now in the post-spawn phase. Most of the females are thin but usually Mother Nature spreads out the spawn over the period of a few weeks.
    
In normal springs seasons crappie stair-step their way toward shallow venues as waters warm with a peak period of 5 to 7 days sandwiched in there somewhere. This year it has been difficult to track as fish were thrown off several times when cold fronts coincided with changing lake levels to alter the normal transition.
    
Bluegill and redear sunfish, referred to locally as shellcracker, have been victims of the cold conditions too as last year at this time early bedding phases were well underway. Cooler surface temps have delayed bedding action but a full moon this weekend will see action improve.
    
With next weeks warm-up watch for action to really heat up in the bluegill and shellcracker department. Water levels are up some two feet from last year at this time so traditional bedding areas should be productive whereas last year anglers were thrown off guard when the panfish bedded in deeper water.
    
Bass were already moving up to bedding areas this week as a few big females have been seen fanning in shallow grassbeds and around buck bushes. Those yellow flowers in the backwater pockets of bays are holding a lot of fish and are quite appealing to the big sows now moving up to spawn.
    
Rising lake levels will see ample water back around buck bushes and willow trees next week so tossing Texas rigged lizards and floating fluke style worms will be popular choices as will some spinnerbaits and buzzbaits. Topwater action should see a dramtic increase in popularity too as water will likely reach the upper 60s and low 70s by early next week, triggering more aggressive behavior from those buck bass protecting their zones.
    
Flipping and pitching jig and pig combos, craws and such should work well too. Once lake levels exceed summer pool most of the good shoreline cover is inundated with plenty of water for bedding bass.
    
Hopefully some stable weather will linger next week and improve fishing conditions. Lake levels will continue to change depending on the crest of the Mississippi River so that is another variable remaining for fishermen.
    
While it hasnt been too bad for bass and crappie anglers this week most are wondering when normalcy will return. Enough of dogwood winter; its high time spring stayed around for more than just a casual visit.

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Sunset
Photo by Nancy Smith

There are few things more beautiful than a Kentucky Lake sunset. The best place to view a sunset is from the western shore of Land Between The Lakes.