Bluegill, Bass, Catfish Action Holds Up Despite High Lake Levels
Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 05/09/2013
Despite the duration of high lake levels Kentucky Lake anglers have adapted well to abnormal conditions this week and landed some hefty stringers of bass, bluegill and catfish. The spring saga continues, however, as fluctuation in lake stages continues to challenge fishermen yearning for the return of normalcy. Since last week TVA’s attempt to draw the reservoir back down toward normal summer pool elevation hit a speed bump when heavy rains drenched the region for the second time in two weeks. Lake levels were falling pretty fast late last week but the influx of water from upstream has seen the reservoir actually rise a few inches since midweek. Projections going into the weekend show quite a wall of water coming down the Tennessee River as Kentucky Dam will have a reading of 363.1 while upstream at New Johnsonville elevation will be some 18 inches higher at 364.6. TVA will continue to revise its projection of lake levels on a daily basis but watch for a rapid drawdown to occur soon. There is a lot of current in the main channel as TVA continues to flush a large volume of water from Pickwick Dam through Kentucky Dam in the days ahead. Water color is actually pretty good across the reservoir and quite clear back in the bigger bays. Surface temperature the last few days was rising slowly after some sunshine brought it up into the 67 to 71 degree range. Bass action has held up well despite the crazy see-saw changes in lake levels with a variety of patterns paying dividends. Last week when falling lake levels took over fish were pulling out and occupying the parameters of buck bush shorelines, roadbeds, and secondary drop-offs. The post-spawn pattern was clearly underway as fish began to move toward some ledges near spawning territory and keen anglers picked up on it by working Carolina rigged craws, jig and pig combos and tossing some big deep diving crankbaits. Some drop-offs on the main lake but near primary spawning areas were holding good numbers of bass that were staging on points and submerged humps where current was pushing baitfish their direction. Backing off the banks is tough to do when visible, flooded habitat looks fishy but some schools of post-spawn fish were doing just that this week and that pattern will likely improve in the days ahead. At the same time anglers were flipping and pitching jig and pig combos, Texas rigged craws and lizards, and slow rolling big gold willow leaf spinnerbaits around buck bushes and finding fish too. With high lake levels come abundant shorelines full of structure yet many boaters were backing off and attempting to work the original shorelines that harbored an abundance of submerged grassbeds and buck brush. By midweek a slight rise in lake levels saw the shallow bite improve as it appears a few fish returned to visible stickups where even some topwater baits were working. Right now both the shallow water styles and some deep water ledges are producing. Some of the shallow fish will fall back near deeper areas next week once a rapid decent in lake elevation begins. Bluegill action has held up well this week as some hefty stringers have been taken around buck bushes and deeper gravel flats and points. The bluegill have been a bit deeper than normal due to the high lake levels and that has confused some anglers who experienced difficulty in finding good numbers near traditional bedding areas. No doubt the fish have been thrown off a bit too as they’ve been moving around and not really fanning spawning beds in their usual manner. Still, big numbers have been taken by anglers tossing crickets and wax worms beneath slip bobbers in 5 to 7 foot depths. The number of shellcracker taken this past week diminished for most anglers who have been somewhat mystified by the hide-and-seek game being played out by these magnificent panfish. Last week some good ones were showing up from buck bush venues but this week the fish vanished and dodged hooks even when bluegill were biting. Catfish are still on the prowl and hitting good. More fish moved up to rocky banks this week as they enter active spawning phases. Some good ones are still surprising bluegill fishermen at times and really testing the tackle as they move up into buckbush shoreline areas during these high water periods. Watch for good fishing to hold up around the rock bluffs for another week to ten days if not longer. Crappie fishermen have struggled again this week, falling victim to several hurdles in the form of high water that coincided with the post-spawn phase. Some scattered crappie have been taken lately around shoreline cover and submerged buck bushes but the fish are there only because of the high water as most have spawned. It has been difficult to put a successful pattern together as the crappie are roaming and not relating too good to deep structure out in the main lake or midrange stakebeds and brushpiles. Activity will likely improve once normal lake levels return but until that happens crappie anglers will continue to endure what has been an unstable spring in more ways than one. While some anglers are faring well, most would like to see the reservoir back to normal elevation with fish returning to their usual locales. Hopefully floods are in the rearview mirror and better days are fast approaching.
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