Warm Spell Jump Starts Crappie Spawn; Spring Has Sprung!
Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 04/13/2016
Better late than never. Warm sunny days finally moved in at midweek and heated up the chilly Kentucky Lake fishing scene. Crappie spawning phases are now underway as surface temperatures responded favorably and began climbing at midweek. The week started on a cold and windy note but several consecutive days of 70-degree plus temperatures have quickly turned things around. Surface temperatures by this weekend will be in the 64 to 66 degree range and will continue to warm each day. Crappie fishing this week got off to a nasty start due to northeast winds and below average temperatures but fish wasted no time in moving up Wednesday afternoon as conditions rebounded. Several nice male crappie made a blitz toward structure in 4 to 7 foot depths and continue to transition toward spawning territory in shallow areas with each passing day. When active spawning phases kick in male crappie display a beautiful darkening phase triggered by hormonal changes. This week more males were caught and their handsome purple appearance is clearly a signal peak time is at hand. Females are bloated with eggs and their bulging physique indicates they’re ready to broadcast their eggs along the roots of stumps or around submerged brushpiles, stakebeds and various other combinations of cover both natural and manmade. A few 2-pound plus fish have been taken this week as those sows are weighing heavy with the bulky egg sac. Anglers can expect an upswing in fishing this weekend and well into next week. In fact, catch rates were improving at midweek once warmer weather pulled cool surface temps out of the cellar. The fish have been staging in midrange depths and waiting on the threshold to dart toward spawning habitat. No doubt slabs will make a run up Big Sandy, West Sandy and throughout the shallow flats across the Paris Landing region this weekend. Other areas of Kentucky Lake should also see improvement. The alarm on the crappie’s biological clock just sounded off! A variety of anglers have been testing the waters the last few weeks in hopes of finding staging schools of crappie out away from shoreline areas but overall the fish have eluded their hooks. In fact, most crappie anglers have reported one of the toughest springs ever as numbers have been well below average. Several boats have been long-lining Road Runner style jigs throughout the entire Big Sandy embayment but catch rates have been poor. Those slow trolling spider rigs or drift fishing live minnows haven’t done well either. The shallow water bite hasn’t materialized either as those casting jigs beneath slip bobbers or tossing curly tail grubs around sloping gravel banks have yet to find the crappie playing their game. It appears that’s in the process of changing as fish are on the move. Anglers vertical fishing jigs around submerged stakebeds saw improvement at midweek. Depths of 6 to 9 feet were producing whereas deeper beds were holding on to lots of small fish. Odds are fish will move up even more by this weekend. Things are about a week or ten days behind schedule as to the typical timetable on spawning’s start. A cold and windy spring has played havoc with crappie fishermen, not to mention weak year classes where low numbers of larger fish added another hurdle. Meanwhile, lake levels are about a foot above normal for mid-April. TVA’s curve for reservoir filling on Kentucky Lake usually has lake stages at winter pool’s low ebb during late March and lake levels start rising slowly once April arrives. The curve has May 1 as the target date for summer pool elevation, which is 359. This week’s readings at Kentucky Dam were already showing an elevation of 358.1 so the lake levels are ahead of schedule for some unknown reason. Surface temps started the week off at 57 degrees is many areas due to a series of cold fronts. The temps were actually losing ground at a time when they should have been gaining. However, sunny days now underway will see the water warm some 3 to 5 degrees from morning until afternoon at times. Water color has cleared across most of the reservoir the last few days and is in good shape. Bass fishermen have moved up to shallow shorelines this week and stalking the areas where those yellow flowers are exposed and submerged. Bass love to move up to the shallow grass and vegetation, especially when surface temps escalate during the day. Higher lake levels have pulled some bass toward shorelines that had been hanging out on ledges and deeper sloping gravel points last week. Tossing spinnerbaits, topwater jerk baits, floating fluke style worms and Texas rigged craws and worms has produced fish this week. There are still some boats working deeper venues with crankbaits, swim baits and Alabama rigs but the shallow bite has really come on fast as of late. Look for some prespawn bass to move up and occupy grassbeds soon, assuming lake levels don’t recede. Mild nights and warm days will really influence the fishing scene the next few days all across Kentucky Lake. A few days with scattered showers dot the forecast but no cold weather is in the picture. It appears spring has finally sprung!
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