Lake Levels Ahead of Schedule; Crappie Scattered, Bass Moving Up
Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 04/20/2016
Lake levels are ahead of schedule and will reach summer pool elevation this weekend, which is more than a week ahead of schedule. Anglers have been attempting to follow fish that are on the move and scattered due to the rising lake levels. Both bass and crappie anglers are adjusting their approach in an attempt to find roaming fish that have thrown them a curve to some degree. Surface temps responded to the warm weather this week and climbed into the 68 to 72 degree range. Water color has cleared across most of the reservoir. Lake levels will be 359 this weekend at Kentucky Dam. Upstream in the New Johnsonville sector the elevation will be in the 358.7 range. TVA says it is releasing minimum flows out of Kentucky Dam at this time in order to conserve water as it has been a dry spring in the upper portions of the watershed. Rising lake levels this week have contributed to scattered crappie patterns for most anglers. Spawning phases have been underway but it has not been a typical spring as a lot of shallow areas that normally attract fish have been unproductive. The last few days more crappie have moved up the Big Sandy and anglers were catching some in the 4 to 7 foot depth range above New Hope and the Country Junction sector. West Sandy had a few fish moving up as well. However, overall catches continue to be below Kentucky Lake standards. In the Paris Landing sector crappie have been stubborn to move toward shallow venues. A few big fish have been taken this week in 11 to 13 foot depths. Some slabs eclipsing the two pound mark have been taken from deep depths and the lion’s share of big females had not spawned at midweek. A trophy slab crappie taken by guide Shane Kendall at midweek tipped the scales at 3.1 pounds at Buchanan Boat Dock. The fish was caught in a 13-foot stake bed. Meanwhile, just why more male crappie haven’t moved up to shorelines and very shallow flats is somewhat of mystery as the fish have not followed traditional routes and deviated from normal stair-step transitions. Rising lake levels often cause fish to scattered and no doubt some crappie that usually stage in the power lines area of Big Sandy have moved up to the upper Big Sandy and West Sandy areas in the last few days. Still, anglers in those areas are not catching big numbers as the crappie saga continues. The absence of boats in the mouth of Big Sandy and up around the power lines near Mansard Island are telling the story. Normally an armada of crappie boats are drifting and trolling across the main lake flats but that has not been the case this year. Long lining style fishermen had a day or two of success at midweek but it was a short honeymoon. Some were pulling Road Runner style jigs over 11 to 13 foot depths and finding a few while most other style anglers were recording mediocre results. Boats vertical fishing jigs over stakebeds have landed some big fish at times but numbers have been down as to the overall catch rate. The story seems to be a lot of little fish and a few big fish at times but not many midrange size fish to fill the cooler. No doubt numbers of midrange keeper size fish are down all across the reservoir. More fish should move up this weekend and occupy structure in 4 to 7 foot depths but with the clear water now dominating some fish may deposit their eggs around deeper structure this spring. Those anglers casting jigs around shorelines have not fared well. Yet they are not alone in their dilemma this spring as all across the board times have been tough. Most agree the crappie numbers are just not out there and those mid-size fish classes are weak. Bass fishermen should see more fish moving up to shoreline grass and shallow bushes this weekend and early next week. Those abundant yellow flowers are attracting lots of bass already. Even river islands are holding some bass and more females are moving up and searching for fanning areas. No doubt some bass will be bedding in the days ahead. The bays and pockets off the main lake should really appeal to fish looking for spawning territory. Tossing various topwater jerk baits, Texas rigged craws and worms, spinnerbaits and buzzbaits should produce in the weeks ahead. With the warming surface temps will also come shellcracker and bluegill activity in the near future. Shellcreacker often begin their early bedding phases in late April if warm weather holds on.
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