Bluegill/Shellcracker Time Arrives; Catfish on the Prowl
Written by Steve McCadams | Originally published 04/27/2016
Kentucky Lake’s fishing scene experienced a pretty good week weatherwise as April hit the home stretch and May knocks at the door. A thunderstorm or two and a little wind at times upset the applecart but temperatures and lake levels have been in the normal range. Lake stages had actually been above normal the last week or two and climbed to summer pool ahead of schedule this spring. However, TVA dropped the reservoir a few inches the last few days as readings were 359 last weekend but fell to 358.5 at midweek. That may not sound like much of a decline to some but to others it’s the difference in shoreline habitat having enough water on it to attract bass and bedding bluegill or shellcracker to bushes and grassbeds. Often time fish will pull back off the bank a bit due to falling lake levels. Surface temperatures climbed into the 73 to 75 degree range this week and continue to rise, triggering the early phases of shellcracker and bluegill spawning phases. A few nice shellcracker, biologically known as red ear sunfish, were taken from shallow shorelines and buck bushes where submerged grass was present. May is peak spawning time so anglers can expect action to improve weekly as more fish head to spawning territory and begin fanning beds. The time for dusting off the light spinning tackle and cricket boxes is here! A few crappie were still coming in from a variety of anglers who were trolling crankbaits out over deeper flats in the 12 to 13 foot depth range or long lining Road Runner style jigs in similar depth ranges. Fish were scattered but those type anglers were still landing a few. Also accounting for a few crappie were vertical fishermen dangling jigs or jigs tipped with Berkley Power Bait or live minnows around deeper stakebeds and brushpiles. A few fish have been taken in 5 to 7 foot depths up Big Sandy around the Country Junction sector and in West Sandy. Deeper depths in the Paris Landing area are producing most of the fish with low numbers coming from shallow areas. The 13-foot depth range has been the most productive in the Paris Landing sector. Some anglers casting jigs caught a few fish the last week or so but shallow fish have been scattered as well. Spider riggers accounted for some fish at times as they meandered over main lake flats and in the backs of bays attempting to locate some late spawning slabs. Establishing a clear pattern has been somewhat challenging for most all type anglers lately. Most crappie fishermen have been somewhat dismayed these last few weeks as to when and where the peak of the spawning phases took place. Last weekend some decent size females that had not spawned were caught from 13 foot depth ranges, a scenario that was somewhat puzzling. Water color has been quite clear in many areas. That may have influenced crappie to spawn a bit deeper lately. Several anglers report difficulty in finding decent numbers of spawning fish in their traditional shallow areas this spring. It has indeed been unusual as both the fish and the weather have been a bit different at times compared to patterns of yesteryear. The lion’s share of crappie fishermen report below average numbers caught across the reservoir these last few weeks regardless of what technique used or location. There have been a few success stories but far below what Kentucky Lake normally produces. Catfish are on the prowl and moving up to shallow rocky bluffs and banks this week. Several nice stringers have been taken around shorelines and rip-rap areas as the fish move up in preparation for spawning in those crevices. Expect good catfish action these next two weeks all along Kentucky Lake’s rocky banks. Places like the old Danville railroad levee on the Tennessee River east of Big Sandy and the east side of the Ned McWherter Bridge at Paris Landing are other good spots to consider. Bass fishermen had a slow down this week as a lot of anglers beating the banks were having a challenging time finding decent numbers of keeper size fish. A lot of fish are in their prespawn phases but some of the larger females may well have been on the bed lately and avoiding lures cast their way. Some anglers continue to fish out away from shorelines and work secondary points and sandbars with Alabama rigs, crankbaits and jig and craw combos, swim baits and more but the bulk of bass anglers are hitting the shallow areas. The shoreline cover has looked quite appealing lately with the abundance of yellow flowers exposed and submerged. Lake levels dropped a few inches this week and that likely diminished the shallow bite pattern a bit but it could resume in the days ahead if lake levels rebound.
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