Crappie Bite Improves on Kentucky Lake As Fall Approaches
For September 18, 2019Report for Kentucky Lake from Paris Landing to New Johnsonville
Crappie fishing has improved for Kentucky Lake anglers lately and it seems to have put a little pep in the step for fishermen anxious to get this fall fishing scene going. Autumn officially arrives next Monday on the calendar.
Despite some above average temperatures since September arrived crappie have moved up a bit and occupying structure in midrange depths of 9 to 14 feet. Several nice stringers were taken lately and most fishermen feel there’s a better fall fishing season ahead.
It appears somewhat cooler days are in the forecast too as the last two weeks have seen above average temps setting records and topping out in the mid to upper 90’s. By this weekend highs will remain in the 80’s and stay that way according to the weatherman’s long range forecast.
Surface temps this week were in the 82 to 83 degree range. Watch for cooler nights and somewhat mild days ahead to pull that down into the 70’s by next week.
Lake levels continue to fall slowly and readings this week at Kentucky Dam and upstream around the New Johnsonville area have dropped to the 355.3 range at times. That’s the lowest lake level since back in late March.
A lack of rain across the TVA valley these last few weeks hasn’t delivered runoff into the Tennessee River system. Water color remains clear across the reservoir.
Lower lake levels are normal for fall fishing and anglers can usually adapt and alter their fishing locations. However, all boaters are urged to use caution this time of year and pay close attention to channel markers. Avoid the temptation to take those shortcuts across main lake sandbars and flats.
Meanwhile, the crappie bite has stimulated interest among the ranks of fishermen who logged a lot of unproductive days earlier this spring and summer. Experiencing the improvement has been a welcomed change.
Each year crappie transition from their deep summer venues and follow their forage base toward midrange to shallow areas as surface temps cool. Already underway has been that migration toward midrange depths in main lake flats and back into large bays as the fish follow schools of shad.
Most successful anglers have been relying on live minnows or jigs tipped with minnows. A few anglers reported using only jigs at times and catching fish too.
Techniques have ranged from vertical fishing down around submerged stakebeds and brushpiles to stalking main lake ledges. Some boats have resorted to slow trolling Road Runner style jigs in long-line style presentations while others trolled crankbaits.
As of late the vertical style of bait presentations have paid the most dividends. The fish have acclimated toward structure lately and that pattern should hold up well for the next few weeks.
Not many crappie have moved up to shallow structure just yet but that will change once surface temps cool and rainy, cloudy days descend. You know it’s dry when even fishermen are yearning for rain!
Earlier this year around late May and early June there were positive signs of shad fry roaming the shorelines and weedbeds. It appeared a good spawn took place and by early summer huge schools of shad fry---which anglers often refer to as pin minnows--- could be seen swimming around boat docks, treelaps and even out in the main lake areas.
Anglers haven’t seen a good hatch like that in the last 3 years so there is reason among the ranks for optimism. Bass, crappie and all anglers benefit from a good forage base and it appears that’s already helping the early fall crappie bite as fish are quite healthy.
Fall crappie fishing is often overlooked and underrated by most anglers. The season has several attributes, namely stable weather and water levels plus light winds. Another plus is light fishing pressure as you can fight fish without having to fight the crowd!
From the bass arena comes reports of fair fishing by those tossing swim baits, crankbaits and suspending jerk baits on main lake ledges. That summer pattern is still producing and some anglers are still fishing Texas rigged worms and jig and craw combos out there the same way they did during the mid-summer.
Last weekend’s Bass Fishing League (BFL) on Kentucky/Barkley Lakes was won by Bill Schroeder of Paducah, KY who fished brush piles in 12-foot depths with a 9/16-ounce green-pumpkin jig with a Zoom Salty Pro Chunk. His two-day total of 22-pounds, 12-ounces earned him a check for $6,122.
However, a lot of experienced bass fishermen have struggled lately to put consistent patterns together. The shallow bite has been quite sluggish and likely a victim of high surface temperatures.
Soon bass should begin to move up toward gravel banks and take on a more aggressive attitude.
Catfish continue to show up in decent numbers for some boaters working the main river bank channel. Depths of 25 to 35 feet have given up a few big catfish lately for anglers using cut bait, nightcrawlers and chicken liver.
Not all the catfish are deep as several crappie fishermen are tying into them on a pretty regular basis when fishing midrange brushpiles and stakebeds. Depths of 12 feet have given up several catfish!
As fall finally arrives Kentucky Lake’s fishing scene should experience a cool down with surface temps falling into the upper 70’s by next week when a chill in the night air comes into play.
It appears this long hot spell that has lingered far too long will finally begin to loosen its grip. Putting on that long sleeve shirt is long overdue!
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.