Spawning Time Nears; Crappie Knocking At The Door
Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 04/02/2015
Kentucky Lake crappie are on the threshold of spawning after several days of warm weather advanced the biological clock. Surface temperatures were climbing at midweek, courtesy of beautiful weather that really had anglers out in force. Each year the early phases of spawning kick in once surface temperatures reach the 62 to 66 degree range and stay there a few days. That should happen next week but not before another wicked weekend forecast from the weatherman who apparently isn’t a fisherman. What is it about these weekend weather patterns anyway? The last few weeks has seen some nice weather on weekdays only to have a cold front arrive on Fridays that sent the mercury plunging. It appears a repeat performance is underway. Rain and thunderstorms across the region preceded another cool snap as temps on Saturday are expected to top out around 60, which is down about 15 to 20 degrees from earlier in the week. Another annoying northwest wind whipped up some whitecaps, sending anglers to bays and the leeward side of bluffs in an effort to dodge the breeze. The changing conditions will put the brakes on for a few days but temps are forecast to climb quickly by early next. Crappie should rebound fast and make a blitz toward shallow to midrange spawning territory. Lake levels are now rising slowly. TVA traditionally begins its reservoir filling curve on April 1 each year with a target date of May 1 for summer pool, which is 359. Elevation this weekend will be in the 355.6 range at Kentucky Dam and New Johnsonville, which is up a few inches from last weekend. Water color has cleared across most of the reservoir. Surface temperatures were climbing fast last week, only to take a nose dive when a cold front rolled in as the weekend approached. Warm weather returned to start the week off with above average temperatures---temps at midweek climbed to 80 degrees---and surface temps were creeping back up toward the 58 to 59 degree range in the main lake area and up to 61 to 63 degrees in shallow bays and creeks. Watch for increased activity in the 5 to 10 foot depth zones early next week. And, fish should really relate better to structure in the days ahead. The last two to three weeks have produced mixed results for crappie anglers. Those trolling long line style and pulling Road Runner and curly tail type jigs have done well. Some nice catches were taken in the New Hope and Country Junction sector, along with West Sandy’s Britton Ford and Springville pumphouse area. Techniques such as spider rigging have done well too, along with some vertical presentations over submerged stakebeds and brushpiles in the West Sandy and upper Big Sandy areas. If you’ve been part of the crappie armada trolling in the upper Big Sandy then you’re likely of the opinion that fishing has been pretty good. However, take that portion of Kentucky Lake out of the equation and most anglers have experienced tough times as fish have been scarce. From portions of Kentucky’s Blood River down into Tennessee in such popular creeks as Cypress, Panther, Standing Rock, Leatherwood, White Oak and further south to Birdsong some experienced anglers with several decades under their belt have struggled to find and catch fish. Seems the lion’s share of crappie have staged in the upper Big Sandy and West Sandy the last few weeks. Legions of anglers have flocked to these areas and found suspended crappie holding in depths of 12 to 14 feet during the cold spells but moving up to 7 to 10 feet in the last few days. There are a few boats working deep main lake ledges in the mouth of Big Sandy near Paris Landing but action has been inconsistent and numbers of fish have been below average. At midweek some improvement was underway as a few more fish were starting to show up in stakebeds and brushpiles located in the 7 to 12 foot depth range. Male crappie were showing more color change this week and taking on a darker appearance, which signals active spawning phases are close at hand. A few boats are beating the banks with curly tail jigs and small grubs as they cast gravel points and rock banks. Some are using live minnows under slip bobbers as well. It has been an unusual spring for most crappie anglers outside of the upper Big Sandy and West Sandy area. Fish have been slow to transition toward traditional prespawn areas. And, they have not displayed their usual structure oriented mood, choosing to ride it out in a suspended mode until spawning temps arrive. Usually fish stair-step their way toward prespawn areas, moving in phases from deep venues to midrange depths and then up to spawning spots when ideal conditions arrive. Their routes this year have varied dramatically but things are improving. Fish are on the move. Anglers will have to dig out the coveralls and raingear for a day or two but short sleeves will be back in style by early next week. Dogwoods are blooming and you know what that means! From the bass department comes word of pretty good stringers again this week. Crankbaits on gravel continue to produce. Shad variations and crawfish colors have been best. Jig and craw combos are still a popular choice as well, not to mention suspending crankbaits. Some fish have been taken in shallow areas this week as rising lake levels have brought fish up to shallow structure. Warmer surface temps are bringing bass up to shallow pockets too where crappie beds are attracting them. At the same time some boats are still clinging to ledges, especially if a long point or bar joins the main shoreline. Bass are staging there and ready to move up toward presapwn areas. Spinnerbaits have produced around visible cover. Rattle Trap style lures have worked well along bars, muds banks and in the back of small pockets. Yet another cold front is passing through, throwing a curve to anglers for a day or two after several back to back days of ideal weather. Stability is not in the cards for spring fishing but crappie are ready for the next warm spell and their parade should begin next week.
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