Crappie Spawn Nears; Annual Ritual About To Begin
Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 03/31/2016
Early April traditionally signals spawning time for Kentucky Lake’s most popular panfish. It appears the timetable is about on schedule as crappie will likely begin the first phases of spawning next week across the region. With longer days of warm sunlight and surface temperatures creeping back into the low 60’s all signs point to active spawning phases. Anglers have been anxious to get the show on the road for several weeks now. Seems fishermen are always hoping to speed up the biological clock once mid-March arrives and teases everyone with a warm day here and there. Dogwoods and redbuds have been blooming and for a lot of old timers that’s a clear sign but sometimes unusually warm weather arrives early and sort of tricks the trees into premature start on spring. March faded away Thursday and not a bit too soon for most anglers who have ridden the weather roller coaster now for several weeks. A typical week this year has seen one warm day and light winds with the rest somewhat unruly. High winds and fluctuating temperatures have confused both the fish and fishermen. Hopefully April will bring more stability. March has a reputation for wind and it sure lived up to it this year! Not only are surface temperatures climbing but so have lake levels this week. Just last week everyone was talking about how low the lake had gotten once TVA pulled the plug and dropped the reservoir below normal winter pool for a few days. Lake levels began rising earlier this week even before TVA’s normal timetable for reservoir filling arrived. Traditionally TVA begins filling on April 1, allowing the reservoir to rise slowly throughout April and achieve normal summer pool by May 1. Normal summer pool elevation is 359. Projections for the weekend indicate lake levels in the Kentucky Dam area will be 355.9. Upstream at New Johnsonville the forecast is for 355.5 range. The current level is more than a foot above last week’s readings at this time. Water color is good across most of the reservoir. A slight stain is present in the upper Big Sandy basin but still a good color for fishing and much improved over the last week to ten days. Surface temperatures have been on a see-saw chart the last week or so due to cold nights and stubborn north winds that delivered chilly weather. One day sunscreen; the next day overcoats and coveralls! Last week surface temps jumped to the 61 degree range in the Paris Landing area for a day or two but lost ground when a cold front stole a few degrees and pulled readings back to the 55 to 57 degree range. At midweek things had warmed a bit and climbed back to the 60 degree range in the Paris Landing sector while the upper Big Sandy warmed even more. Shallow water around the New Hope and Country Junction area had crossed the 63 degree mark a week or so ago but didn’t stay there long enough to jump start spawning. Next week should open the gate and kick spawning phases into high gear once the reservoir returns to the low to mid 60’s and stays there for several consecutive days. Rising lake levels are likely to send more crappie migrating back to the upper Big Sandy basin as well. Anglers overall have battled high winds this past week and catch rates have been somewhat below average, although the Saturday prior to Easter and the Monday following delivered some rare sunny days accompanied by light winds. Action improved on those days as the bite improved in midrange depths. A few boats long lining and spider rigging south of the power lines in Big Sandy landed some decent stringers last weekend and earlier this week. Those vertical fishing jigs over stakebeds and brushpiles also saw improvement. Depths of 8 to 12 feet were producing best but fish are moving up each day. Since midweek more crappie have stair-stepped their way toward spawning areas and some are being taken in less than 5 feet in a few areas. Fish are definitely on the move toward spawning zones. Popular jig colors have ranged from black/chartreuse to chartreuse with red glitter and cotton candy. As water color has cleared several anglers have transitioned back to some dull color at times compared to a few weeks ago when muddy water dominated. Watch for more shallow action this week along gravel banks and shallow stakebeds where casting jig or jig and minnows fish beneath slip bobbers will begin to produce. Crappie have been somewhat scattered and suspended this past week but anglers should see a blitz toward spawning structure this week. That biological clock is ticking! Bass fishing has held up pretty good with the typical crankbait pattern still producing. Those gravel banks and rocky points have been giving up fish. In addition to shad colored variations a lot of bass anglers are tossing big spinner baits, Alabama rigs and some jig and craw combos. A few boats continue to stalk some main lake ledges and hope to find some schooling fish there but most are targeting the shallow bite lately and that should improve even more as lake levels rise and surface temps climb. Anglers are tipping their hat to April and waving goodbye to a mean March.
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