Low Lake Levels; High Winds Greet Anglers
Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 03/23/2016
The first week of spring roared in like a lion with a toothache. Gale force winds have dictated where fishermen could go this week on Kentucky Lake. It has been a tough one. Low lake levels are also part of the picture as TVA has pulled the reservoir down to its low ebb of winter pool. The present elevation requires boaters to use caution and pay close attention to channel markers. This is not the time of year to take those shortcuts over shallow flats in the middle of the lake. Shallow sandbars and submerged stumps await those careless boaters should they make such mistakes. This will be the last week of low water as TVA’s curve for reservoir filling begins each year on April 1. The schedule---under normal conditions---sees lake levels rise slowly throughout the month with a target date of May 1 for normal summer pool. From its current elevation of 354 the reservoir will rise some five feet to a reading of 359 barring any heavy rains throughout April. Meanwhile, surface temps this week lost ground due to last weekend’s cold front and blustery north winds. White caps were abundant even in the backs of bays as high winds have hung around almost every day for over a week. The only changes have been in the direction; north for a couple days then switching to the west but finishing up the week with southerly gusts. Last week warm weather saw surface temps climb to the 61 to 62 degree range for a day or two but readings this week dropped back to the 55 degree range. Waters could warm a degree or two throughout the weekend and perhaps return to the 60-degree threshold next week. Lake levels at midweek were sleeping in the 354 range at Kentucky Dam with similar readings upstream at New Johnsonville. Water color has improved since last week. Most of the muddy water has moved out with a decent stain remaining throughout Big Sandy and West Sandy. The main Tennessee River channel has a slight stain around the Paris Landing sector but overall the reservoir’s color is in pretty good shape for both bass and crappie anglers. Crappie anglers got a little taste of shallow activity last week but last weekend’s chilly weather seemed to back the fish off a bit in the Big Sandy and Paris Landing area. Upstream around New Johnsonville and further south anglers have reported some shallow male crappie already moving up to very shallow structure. Seems the shallow bite there turned on for a few days last week. Anglers south of New Johnsonville landed some dark male crappie from very shallow areas. Anglers working the Big Sandy basin have had high hurdles lately with both the wind and muddy water. The water color improved all week but falling lake levels in the aftermath of the cold front seemed to diminish the shallow bite for most. Watch for the biological clock of crappie to advance quickly the next week to ten days if normal spring weather returns. Some anglers were casting jigs toward shallow shorelines and stickups but fish were scattered and just beginning to move up. Others have been slow trolling multi-pole rigs over shallow flats in the backs of bays hoping to encounter staging crappie in their prespawn phase. Unforgiving winds have kept most boaters off the main lake areas. Long lining and vertical fishing techniques have been victims of the wind as have pretty much all techniques and depth ranges. Catch rates have been below average this week across the entire Big Sandy basin. If sunny days return surface temps could rebound soon and restart the transition of male crappie toward spawning territory. This is the time of year when things happen quickly. Watch for more fish to blitz toward shallow to midrange structure next week. Depths of 4 to 8 feet should see improvement but all midrange depth zones should experience some improvement once the crappie respond to warmer water. Most anglers are overdue to a few good catches. Light winds and warm days would be a welcomed change and it appears some of that is in the forecast. Decent stringers of bass have been taken lately by anglers beating the gravel banks with crankbaits and some spinnerbaits. Alabama rigs have been popular as well, along with some suspending jerk baits and jig and craw combos. Rocky points, gravel banks, roadbeds and even some mud sandbars have been holding bass. Boaters have been playing the wind and working the areas where waves are stirring up sediments and blowing in forage. Shad have been active some days and working out away from shorelines. However, low lake levels are exposing a lot of crappie beds and stumps so tossing shallow running crankbaits and spinnerbaits have worked well lately. Bass fishermen have tolerated the wind but like the crappie anglers across Kentucky Lake, they’re ready to see the gusts subside. Spring has sprung but the season’s first full week pretty much beat up on all anglers venturing out and challenging the open water of the big pond. March has lived up once again to its mean month reputation.
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