Winter or Spring? Weather Plays Tricks on Minds of Anglers
For February 23, 2017Report for Kentucky Lake from Paris Landing to New Johnsonville
Buttercups have been in bloom for weeks. Bradford pear and saucer magnolia are budding out loud with their beautiful displays of white and pink. Bugs are buzzing.
What’s up with this weather?
Although a cool snap is entering the picture by this weekend the weatherman says it will make a short stop, bringing a brief hiatus to the unseasonably warm weather that has dominated the winter fishing scene for several weeks running.
Is it winter or spring? Are the fish ahead of schedule and confused? Will spawning phases start early this year?
Those are just a few of the questions on the minds of anglers these days who are somewhat in awe of the unusual weather. No one can recall a February quite like the one underway.
Surface temperatures this week on Kentucky Lake climbed into the 56 to 58 degree range at midweek! That’s practically unheard of in mid-February.
Before February got here it was warm back in December and January too. It’s fair to say more anglers have taken to the water this winter than ever before. Both bass and crappie fishermen have had things going their way for quite a spell.
Lake levels this week fell slowly and have flirted with the winter pool mark or even a few inches below at times. TVA projected an elevation this weekend of 354.6 at Kentucky Dam. Upstream at New Johnsonville the reservoir is expected to be in the 354.1 range.
Water color remains clear across most of the reservoir. A slight stain was present in a few bays but overall it’s clear out there.
Crappie anglers continues to score decent numbers as those light winds and warm days have been just what the doctor ordered. Although not everyone is landing a limit there have been some pretty good stringers taken with depths varying depending on what area of the reservoir anglers are targeting.
In the Paris Landing sector most of the big stringers have come from deep water. Those fishing jigs in 20 to 25 foot depths have chalked up the most consistent catches lately.
Yet there’s no doubt fish are on the move and responding to the warmer surface temps. A transition during the day toward shallow zones is not unusual.
Popular jigs colors have ranged from white/chartreuse to orange/chartreuse and electric chicken. Some are tipping jigs with minnows and having positive results as well.
Seems there’s always more than one pattern working here on the big pond as not all fish are deep. Some boats are vertical fishing jigs over manmade fish attractors in midrange depths and catching enough to keep it interesting. Depths of 6 to 10 feet have given up a few.
Most boats were targeting main lake ledges this week in the open waters of Big Sandy but a few hung around inside large bays and picked up some scattered fish.
Elsewhere on the reservoir anglers were finding shallow crappie around midrange structure using such methods as casting techniques and slip bobbers to slow spider rig style presentations and single pole vertical offerings. Most of the boats fishing deep water in the main lake were slow trolling spider rigs but some long-lining of twister tail grubs and Road Runner spinners were catching fish too.
All crappie anglers are reminded the new daily creel limit of twenty (20) fish kicks in on March 1 in Tennessee. The Kentucky portion of the reservoir has been under the twenty daily creel limit for several years. And, the 10-inch minimum length limit remains in place.
Bass fishermen have been finding some big fish this week taking a liking to their shad and crawfish colored variation crankbaits.
Most have been working gravel banks, sloping rock points, shallow roadbeds and boat docks or piers. Shallow running crankbaits have worked well as have some suspending jerk baits, swim baits, jig and pig combos and even spinnerbaits fished in a slow roll retrieve.
Rattle Trap style baits have paid dividends too in assorted colors.
A few boats are putting the shoreline to their backs and working some main lake ledges. Some were falling back near main river areas in hopes of finding some smallmouth but no doubt the warmer surface temperatures have fish moving up throughout the course of the day.
The shallow bite for bass fishermen may take a brief detour with the approaching cold front but watch for that to resume early next week as temps are forecast to rebound toward 70 degrees by Tuesday.
Both bass and crappie anglers are wondering what the fish will do if warm weather continues to dominate. No doubt their biological clock has advanced.
It has been weird to see spring conditions at a time when ice and snow could easily be calling the shots. No complaints, however, from the realm of anglers with fishing fever.
Just how long the parade will last is anyone’s guess. Enjoy the music until the band stops playing!
A member of the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, Steve McCadams is a professional guide on Kentucky Lake entering his 40th year on the water.
- Download & Print the full PDF version of Steve McCadams' Fishing Report
- Access Steve's Archived Fishing Reports From 2010 to Date