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Steve McCadams' Fishing Report

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Steve McCadams

Steve McCadams
(731) 642-0360
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Spring Crappie Run Slows to a Walk; Anglers Mystified!

For April 20, 2018

Report for Kentucky Lake from Paris Landing to New Johnsonville

It’s past mid-April and crappie anglers on Kentucky Lake are somewhat mystified at the lack of cooperation they’ve gotten this year from both the weatherman and the fish themselves.

Things haven’t been normal by any stretch of the imagination. Below average surface temperatures and weird weather have thrown the biological clock of crappie off. Most anglers agree it needs a reset.

The weather finally improved on Tuesday for the fishing scene but the fish have been sluggish to get going. Overall, the crappie bite on Kentucky Lake continues to be below average and nowhere near the lake’s reputation.

Catch rates continue to be low for anglers up and down the reservoir. Most are hoping this week’s warm up will enhance the bite and perhaps stimulate crappie to head toward shallows and start their overdue spring spawning phase.

Surface temperatures have been sluggish to climb out of the mid 50’s all spring. At midweek temps were barely reaching the 60-degree mark up Big Sandy and West Sandy, which normally warm quicker that other areas of the reservoir.

On Monday surface temps had lost ground and dropped back to 54 degree in some bays to start the week. Cold fronts from last weekend were still influencing things.

On Tuesday the water slowly warmed to the 58 degree range in the Paris Landing sector. By this weekend the water should be in the 62 to 64 degree range, a reading that would normally be recorded in early April.

Lake levels have been rising this week and are about two feet above normal for this time of year. A lot of floating debris was visible and messing with the lines of anglers as they attempted to long line, spider rig or just plain vertical fish over midrange depth beds.

Elevation at midweek, while still rising, was in the 359.5 range in the New Johnsonville area. Downstream at Kentucky Dam TVA was projecting 359.2 by the end of the week. Normal summer pool is 359 feet above sea level and normally shouldn’t be showing up until May 1.

TVA has the reservoir already above summer pool some two weeks early. Rising lake levels often scatter fish and that seems to be the case for both bass and crappie anglers thus far this week.

Water color is pretty good across the reservoir with a slight stain in the main lake and bays.

As far as the crappie spawn goes anglers have yet to see the fish make a blitz toward structure like they usually do. Not many dark male crappie are showing up in the creel, although some boats in West Sandy reported catching a few suspended fish recently. The scenario could improve by this weekend as waters warm and lake levels crest.

Still, a variety of boats using a variety of techniques in all depth ranges are reporting tough luck. The keeper size fish just haven’t been showing up in decent numbers.

More than a few veteran crappie fishermen are removing their hats and scratching their heads in disbelief. Truth is, they’re somewhat flabbergasted by it all.

A few boats dragging long line techniques using curly tail grubs or Road Runner style jigs have landed a few fish that seemed to be suspended out over deep water venues in the main lake. However, they report fish very scattered and no concentration of suspended fish staging out there like they have in times past.

Spider rig techniques have also struggled to mount a successful battle plan as have anglers vertical fishing live minnows and jigs over manmade fish attractors in shallow to midrange depths. It’s past time for fish to be moving up in bays and occupying some shallow shorelines.

Other techniques such as trolling crankbaits and covering a lot of water have paid dividends at times back in some of the bays where fish were scattered and staging.

Another red flag continues to present itself as anglers are voicing concern over thin crappie. Even what few big fish have been taken seem to show a poor condition at times as though they were competing for a below average forage base, namely threadfin shad.

Not all the fish poor as to their physiology but there are enough of them that anglers are somewhat concerned.

And so it is that the strange spring fishing continues for crappie anglers who are wondering what’s up? Perhaps this weekend and throughout next week will see a rebound.

Meanwhile, bass anglers are heading toward shorelines this week as the rising water has inundated some shallow shoreline habitat. While a few boats are still slinging crankbaits toward gravel points and banks, many were tossing spinnerbaits, Texas rigged craws and lizards while itchy to add some topwater to their presentations.

Bass were moving up fast and following the water to shallow grass and some buck bushes that just received water earlier this week. No doubt anglers will be pitching and flipping jig and pig combos and similar bait presentations in the days ahead toward visible shoreline cover.

The bass bite has held up much better than has the crappie bite for Kentucky Lake anglers this spring. 

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. 

Photo by Melodie Cunningham

This majestic elk eyes the camera cautiously. To see bulls with fully developed racks, visit the Elk and Bison Prairie in the fall!