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Archived Fishing Report

Dingy Water Dominates Fishing Scene; Surface Temps Rising

Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 03/16/2016

Kentucky Lake’s fishing scene had a dose of summer, sandwiched between some winter and spring weather this week. March Madness is alive and well in the great outdoors.
Muddy water entered the picture recently in the aftermath of last week’s heavy rains and that has thrown a curve to fishermen in some areas. The upper Big Sandy basin is muddy as is most of West Sandy. Eagle Creek near Paris Landing is sporting a chocolate milk color that is stubborn to dissipate.
Murky water chased a lot of crappie anglers out of their favorite haunts this week. The New Hope and Country Junction sectors along with the lion’s share of West Sandy toward Britton Ford and Springville pumphouse were too muddy for most.
Warm weather arrived and took command the last several days and that really stimulated fishing pox among the ranks. Tuesday saw the mercury climb to 87 degrees and broke the all-time record high for the region!
Surface temperatures have responded to the rapid warm-up but the muddy water across much of the reservoir has proved to be a high hurdle for the panfish army.
Bass fishermen have tolerated the muddy water much better as they’ve been able to run around the lake and target some bays on the east side where stained water presented more favorable conditions.
Although dingy water will remain in some areas for several more days, things are improving. The lake has settled down some and slow falling lake levels have pulled much of the murky water out of bays where feeder creeks had deposited their overflow of red dirt runoff.
Surface temps on Wednesday climbed to the 62 degree range in some spots. The water actually eclipsed the 60 degree threshold on Tuesday when an unusually warm day descended courtesy of a strong southerly breeze that whipped the lake up with whitecaps.
Lake levels haven’t fluctuated too much despite last week’s flooding across the region. TVA had drawn the reservoir down to winter pool ahead of the wet forecast and had ample storage capacity.
Projected lake levels going into the weekend show an elevation of 355.4 for the Kentucky Dam area. Upstream around New Johnsonville lake levels will be in the 355.3 range. The lake rose a few inches last weekend but crested and began falling slowly the last several days.
Crappie are in their typical prespawn phase and attempting to transition toward shallow areas this week. The dingy water will likely help the shallow bite as not only does muddy water warm quicker but it filters sunlight, a scenario that will cause crappie to move up even more in search of spawning territory.
A few more fish were taken at midweek in depths of 7 to 9 feet when compared to last week at this time. No doubt the rising surface temps are influencing the migration of crappie from deep drop-offs to shallow flats and back into bays.
It’s quite likely some male crappie could begin to blitz toward shorelines within the next week.
While it’s true active spawning phases for crappie on Kentucky Lake kick in when the water warms into the 62 to 66 degree range, it takes more than just a day or two to kick start the annual ritual. A cool spell in the forecast for this weekend will bring the honeymoon with early spring weather to a temporary halt.
Odds are surface temps will backslide a few degrees this weekend but likely rebound by the middle of next week when mild weather creeps back in and gains lost ground. Watch for significant movement from crappie toward spawning territory between now and the latter part of next week.
Meanwhile, crappie anglers have been shuffling through their jig boxes this week in search of some loud, florescent leadheads and bodies to address the muddy water scenario. Orange, charteuse, red and pink leadheads have been popular choices.
Skirt selections have run the gamut too. What might seem like weird color combinations have sometimes appealed. 
Most fishermen have experimented with their color selections lately in hopes of finding the right combination that appealed to finicky crappie whose strike zone has been reduced due to lower visibility. Although a lot of crappie fishermen prefer live minnows, it seems the various colors allowed by the arsenal of jig boxes have been more productive lately than have live bait presentations.
Several boats have been long lining and trolling spider rigs out over main lake flats in hopes of finding those staging crappie which have yet to move up. However, their battlefields have been reduced due to the water color in many sectors and action for that style of fishing hasn’t been very effective this week.
March is a month when things can change quickly as to fishing patterns. No doubt a lot of movement is now underway.
Bass fishermen continue to toss those loud colored crankbaits around gravel banks, points and sloping sandbars where fish are staging. Warmer surface temperatures have influenced the bass this week too as more fish are headed shallow.
A few good largemouth in the 7-pound plus range were taken again this week as anglers found good stained water in places and put together patterns of crankbaits and Alabama rigs that paid dividends. Kentucky Lake always seems to produce bass from both shallow and deep water at the same time.
There are boats targeting ledges and searching out shad schools. Casting swim baits and deep running crankbaits and some suspending jerk baits have worked at times.
Most of the bays along the east side of the reservoir did not muddy up as bad as western bays or upper portions of the Big Sandy. The eastern areas have more gravel fed creeks than does the western side.
Prespawn females are putting on the feed bag and sporting hefty bellies that add weight. There should be some big fish taken these next two weeks.
Jig and pig combos on gravel have worked too and shallow wood structures should harbor some good fish as well so better keep that spinnerbait rod handy.
The muddy water is fading back to a good stain for fishing each passing day. Spring officially arrives on Sunday. Trees are blooming and birds are whistling. All signs point toward food fishing days ahead!

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In Flight
Photo by John Mitchell

Gliding gracefully over the water, this heron keeps a stealthy eye out for his next meal. Herons are one of the more common species of birds that can be seen at Kentucky Lake.