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Steve McCadams' Fishing Report

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Steve McCadams

Steve McCadams
(731) 642-0360
Website - Email

Bluegill/Shellcracker Keep Anglers Humble

For May 22, 2019

Report for Kentucky Lake from Paris Landing to New Johnsonville

Kentucky Lake’s fishing scene has pretty good this week for catfishermen who continue to land decent stringers from rocky banks and also throughout the secondary bays where spawning continues.

Those stalking bluegill and redear sunfish, commonly known as shellcracker, have been playing the game of hide and seek at times with these popular panfish. Although May is peak time for spawning, the degree of success can vary from week to week or day to day, depending on a lot of variables, namely lake levels, surface temperature and weather patterns.

Known to be a relatively stable month in terms of weather and lake levels, May can have its moments. Uninvited cool snaps or fluctuation in lake levels paid a visit for short intervals these last few weeks and when that happened it threw a curve to both the fish and the fishermen.

Bluegill and redear are sensitive to changes in surface temp, barometric pressure and lake levels. A northeast wind can bring a quick change too, ending the honeymoon of fast action and aggressive spawning phases.

While the forecast going into the Memorial Day weekend is expected to see summer like weather with air temps predicted to be around 90 degrees, anglers have faced inconsistent action this week as to bedding bluegill.

There have been a few decent stringers taken but most anglers are finding fish a bit more scattered than normal. More than a few fishermen have stalked familiar bedding areas only to find no fish there or very few fanning beds.

Just why some tried and true spots that held fish for years quit attracting them continues to be somewhat of a mystery.

No doubt the lack of aquatic vegetation in some areas changed the habitat of flats and pockets off the main lake that once had appeal. However, the bluegill seemed to have vacated the premises and did so without leaving a forwarding address!

The search has been on by many anglers this week as they stalked the shallow shorelines and flats where fish were residing last week and the first two weeks of May. For some reason a lot of beds are just not holding fish the last few days.

Lake levels have been falling this week as TVA pulled the reservoir down to 358.6, which is several inches below normal summer pool of 359. That may not sound like much but veteran bluegill and shellcracker anglers know it can disrupt bedding and cause fish to relocate.

Most shellcracker fishermen like ample water around buck bushes and weed beds. The last few days of falling lake stages have altered their game. Finicky shellcracker and bluegill have a way of playing games with fishermen when such things happen; sometimes they don’t follow the rules!

It’s not unusual for shellcracker to begin backing off by the third week of May. Although a few will still be taken, their peak spawning phases occur a bit earlier than do bluegill.

Not all fishermen have lost the trail of bluegill this week as some lucky fishermen managed to find active beds in 2 to 4 foot zones. They scored decent numbers in some spots but also reported a lot of trial and error before locating buried treasure.

With the use of side scan sonar units anglers are canvassing bays and pockets looking for submerged craters. Several anglers reported finding such spots but the fish were not there fanning and protecting the bedding areas.

A full moon last weekend should have stimulated activity across the reservoir and for some anglers it did but by Monday high skies and a northeast wind seemed to curtail activity a bit.

Surface temps are lingering around the 75 to 77 degree range so perhaps the powerful panfish will rebound a bit in the days ahead once lake levels settle down amid summer like conditions.

A few scattered crappie have been taken by boaters using long line or spider rig techniques. Depths of 4 to 10 feet have accounted for some suspended fish as such techniques allow boaters to cover a lot of water and expose their buffet of baits to the post-spawn crappie roaming but not relating to submerged structure.

Bass fishing continues to produce challenging scenarios to most anglers, many of which are turning their backs to the banks and targeting post spawn fish that have pulled out to humps and ledges.

The summer pattern of tossing big crankbaits, swim baits, Carolina rigged worms and lizards and Texas rigged worms has been producing. As surface temps continue to heat up these patterns will grow in popularity.

Still giving up a few fish have been some shallow shorelines where weed patches are holding on to a few bass. Topwater lures such as buzzbaits and floating worms have worked well at times as have spinnerbaits.

Seems a lot of anglers---regardless of their favorite species---have been humbled by finicky fish amid a stubborn spring.

Not to worry; things can rebound quickly and even the most finicky fish can turn on at the blink of an eye once light southwest winds, cloudy days and perhaps some light rain enter the picture!

Steve McCadams
Professional Guide
Fishing/Duck Hunting
655 Anderson Drive
Paris, TN 38242
(731) 642-0360

A member of the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Legends of the Outdoors, Steve McCadams is a professional guide and outdoor writer from Paris, Tenn. 

Beaver Dam Outlook
Photo by Melodie Cunningham

The view from the top of this beaver dam shows a Kentucky Lake inlet in late spring. An inlet like this one is habitat to a variety of exciting wildlife and plants just waiting to be explored!