Surface Temps and Lake Levels Rise; Shallow Bite Improves
Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 03/09/2016
Surface temperatures have been rising this week thanks to unusually warm weather that seems set on hanging around. Rising lake levels are likely the next few days too in the aftermath of heavy rains that drenched an already saturated region. Earlier this week low lake levels entered the conversation of anglers and all lake dwellers as TVA really pulled the plug, a likely move to create more storage capacity ahead of the rainy forecast. Low lake stages didn’t hang around too long as a lot of runoff entered the reservoir and rainy days were expected to linger through the weekend. Some areas to our west were dealing with flooding conditions. Meanwhile, dingy water from the abundant runoff has entered the picture up Big Sandy and throughout the backs of most feeder creeks. The main lake areas are still in pretty good shape as to overall water color, although just how much water enters the watershed these next few days remains to be seen. Several days eclipsed the 70 degree mark this week and that suited anglers just fine. Unfortunately old man wind has dictated the whereabouts of anglers. Whitecaps have been the norm most mornings. Surface temps are in the 53 to 55 degree range but may warm another degree or two by this week or early next week if sunshine returns. After resting at low ebb for several days Kentucky Lake began rising slowly Wednesday night. The elevation at Kentucky Dam was 354 at midweek but will continue a slow climb for several days as the fresh water comes in. Upstream in the New Johnsonville area lake stages were in the 354.2 range. Rising lake levels will coincide with warm weather the next few days and that should send more bass and crappie toward shallow venues each passing day. Shad schools will to new food sources in shallow water, bringing crappie and bass with them. Crappie will begin to transition toward shallow flats and move into the mouth of larger bays as their prespawn phases pull them out of deep water winter hideouts. Movement was already underway to some degree at midweek as a few fish were taken in 8 to 12 foot zones around Paris Landing. Up Big Sandy and into West Sandy crappie fishermen were using long line and spider rig techniques to find a few fish. Those using vertical presentation of jigs dunked down into manmade fish attractors were also accounting for a few fish as were a few boats casting grubs around submerged structure. Some shallow crappie were taken up Big Sandy where depths of 4 to 6 feet gave up a few scattered fish at times. Watch for that shallow bite to improve in the days ahead. Male crappie haven’t shown any signs of hormonal changes just yet but the next week to ten days will see them start tinting toward darker color. That phase is nearing. Dingy water could work in favor of the shallow pattern as it warms quicker but anglers are hoping rising lake levels don’t bring in too much muddy water that can both scatter fish and reduce the strike zone. Some crappie were still relating to main lake ledges where depths of 17 to 19 feet were holding on to a lot of small fish with some keepers mixed in at times. Stair-stepping a path toward spawning territory triggered by the recent warm weather, crappie are in the process of working their way up using creek channels and submerged sloughs. These underway ditches and irregular depth channels serve as highways for meandering crappie this time of year. As surface temps reach the upper 50’s and low 60’s, the fish will take on a more structure oriented mood. Until then, boaters drifting and trolling the open waters of Kentucky Lake will encounter crappie at various depths and not necessarily relating to stakebeds, stumps or brushpiles. That’s why the long lining, trolling and various multipole presentations produce dividends this time of year. If the warm weather keeps hanging around it could indeed advance the biological clock of both bass and crappie but remember it’s March; the month of many faces is still in charge of wind and weather patterns. Don’t bury your coveralls too deep in the closet just yet! Bass fishermen are still tossing crankbaits and Alabama rigs on a regular basis. The gravel banks, sloping mud and rocky points are giving up fish. Shad and crawfish colors had been working well but so have black/chartreuse and chrome variations. With the dingy water now entering the picture the shallow pattern should continue to improve but anglers will have to adjust their color choices, especially in muddy areas. Those loud florescent colored crankbaits should be appealing this week. Rattle Traps, Red Eye Shad and similar style lure choices should be popular. Alabama rigs armed with pearl and similar shad imitations have been appealing as anglers tossed them on ledges and around open flats where anglers just tried to cover a lot of water in search of scattered fish roaming after shad schools. A few hefty prespawn females are being taken that tip the scales in excess of 8 pounds. March is a great time to encounter some of the year’s largest fish as they put on the feedbag. It’s that time of year when fish are on the move, reacting to changes in lake levels and surface temperatures. Successful stringers are taken by those willing to adapt and make the right changes of lure presentation and depth choices. Spring officially arrives March 20th. Unofficially spring weather is already here!
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