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Archived Fishing Report

Lake Levels Falling; Is Kentucky Lake's Fishing Scene Headed Back to Normal?

Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 05/16/2013

Lake levels are falling fast as TVA really pulled the plug this week and anglers are trying to adapt to the rapidly changing reservoir. Anglers are altering their game on a daily basis but some dandy catches continue to roll in for bass, catfish, and bluegill fishermen this week.
Most of us cant remember when normal lake stages were part of the fishing picture as it has been a very unusual spring with an extended spell of very high water that has altered fishing patterns for just about every species.
Rising temperatures and falling lake levels best describe this weeks fishing scene but bedding bluegill and shellcracker have kept panfishermen busy as have a few scattered crappie that began to show some interest too.
Hefty stringers of bass continue to come in with a variety of patterns producing again this week. Catfish are in the spawning mode and testing the tackle of anglers working rocky bluffs and shallow buck bushes.
Surface temperatures this week have been in the 69 to 72 degree range. Expect temps to warm another degree or two this weekend as warm weather is in the forecast.
Water color has been dingy on the Tennessee River and inside many pockets off the main lake as the drastic drawdown has really been pulling water from upstream. In the Big Sandy area the water color is quite clear.
Elevation is changing daily as TVA has been dropping the lake six to 10 inches a day. Projections going into the weekend show an elevation of 361.9 at Kentucky Dam and 361.6 at New Johnsonville. Those readings are down about three feet from earlier in the week. 
Anglers can expect a lot of current to continue in the main channel until TVA achieves summer pool status of 359, which could occur by the middle of next week.
How as the rapid drawdown affected the overall fishing scene? Despite the changes taking place anglers have kept up with the bedding bluegill that have backed out of many shoreline buck bushes and trees and chosen to fan beds in open water gravel bars and mudflats near shoreline habitat.
A few more shellcracker were showing up in the creel of anglers this week and there have been a few dandies eclipsing the one-pound mark. Watch for action to hold up well for another week or two as the fish transition back to normal bedding areas now that lake levels are going back down toward normal ranges.
Crickets have been the bait of choice for bluegill with redworms and meal worms working well on shellcracker.
Bass anglers continue to reap dividends from outside buck bushes and willow trees where tossing a blue/chartreuse colored skirt with a gold willow leaf has worked well. Pitching a jig and pig combo, lizard, and Texas rigged worm has worked too.
While the shallow structure has been holding a lot of bass look for the fish to really pull out to the outside cover the next few day as falling lake stages will see fish occupy spots near deeper feeder creeks or on steeper banks where deep water is close by.
Throwing topwater jerk baits has worked lately too has have a few buzzbaits. Those shallow grassbeds are about to return to the menu.
A deeper pattern continues to pay off too as some anglers are finding big deep diving crankbaits working well on secondary ledges, especially those that are near spawning spots where fish have fallen back toward deeper venues in their post-spawn phase.
Other popular choices have been Carolina rigged lizards and worms along with jig and pig combos and Texas rigged worms. Some fish were schooling near island rims and ledges out near the main channel where current was an influencing factor as to their whereabouts.
Crappie showed some signs of improvement this week and should get back to a more structure oriented pattern once lake levels settle down. There were still a few scattered fish lingering around buck bushes this week but watch for those fish to leave most of the stickups and fall back to midrange depth zones of 10 to 14 foot depths in the days ahead.
Although many crappie are still a little stressed from the spawning ritual numbers will improve quickly as they begin to congregate around deep structure such as brushpiles and stakebeds by early next week.
Catfish have been biting good this week, especially for those anglers working rocky bluffs or rip-rap banks. The fish are searching for those submerged crevices to broadcast their eggs and some big females are territorial right now and wiling to test your tackle should you enter the danger zone with night crawlers, chicken livers or various commercial concoctions. 
All anglers have had to endure another week of changing conditions as high winds a few days added insult to injury but it appears Kentucky Lake is headed back to normal elevation. While some anglers have been intimidated by all the high water these last few weeks others have solved the puzzle and managed to pattern the bass, bluegill and catfish on a pretty consistent basis.
It will be nice to see the lake with a normal face for a change once stability returns. Hang in there for a few more days as things are rapidly improving.

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Honker Lake
Photo by Jennifer Dunnaway

In June these beautiful lily pads are in full bloom at Honker Lake in Land Between The Lakes. Honker Lake is a great place for wildlife viewing and hiking.