Apr 19, 2024

Fishing Report

 By Steve McCadams, Professional Guide/Outdoor Writer (stevemc@charter.net)

LAKE LEVELS, WIND AND STORMS ADDING UP TO STUBBORN SPRING

Anglers have juggled a variety of unstable conditions this past week in their quest to find spawning crappie and bass. Some redear sunfish (shellcracker) and bluegill have entered the picture too as surface temps rise. Last weekend Kentucky Lake reached the summer pool mark of 359 at Kentucky Dam---some two weeks early---for a day or two only to fall back a few inches. As of this update the reservoir was resting around the 358.6 elevation.

Watercolor is clear across most of the reservoir. High winds are still a thorn in the side of fishermen. Water levels are always of concern to anglers and all lake users for that matter but especially during peak spawning phases of crappie. Once surface temperatures reach the 62-to-66-degree range it signals the active spawning range of crappie and bass aren’t far behind.

Normal summer pool level isn’t supposed to arrive here until May 1 according to TVA’s annual curve, but lake levels have not followed the usual stair-step climb this spring. TVA’s curve starts reservoir filling on April 1 where lake levels are normally at the low ebb of winter pool (354). From there is reservoir is supposed to climb slowly until it reaches its target of summer pool on or around May 1.

This spring the lake has fluctuated and jumped around a bit as it has been above normal since early April. That throws off fishing patterns to some degree. Some folks like higher water early; others prefer TVA stick to its normal projections, slowly bringing up the lake on a gradual basis. Rainfall across the region sometimes falls in drastic amounts and upsets the apple cart, swelling Kentucky Lake ahead of normal. When that happens rising waters send a lot of floating debris about the lake, a scenario which scatters fish and the fishermen trying to find them.

Such as been the case this week. Some bass and crappie anglers were hoping to see the lake stay high at summer pool and inundate shoreline buck bushes, weed beds and all sorts of habitat. They love fishing visible stickups. Since last week more crappie have moved up and while a few anglers found some crappie attempting to spawn in shallow areas there were scores of fishermen finding the bite challenging. The fish have been scattered and roaming.

No sooner had the reservoir reached the summer pool mark last weekend TVA began pulling the water back down toward its curve. The agency is creating more storage capacity pulling the lake down a bit here in mid-April as heavy rains could occur at any time. Meanwhile, the fishing scene has continued to evolve each week. Some crappie moved up to shallow flats in the upper Big Sandy and West Sandy last week and were taken in 2-to-4-foot depths at times. Down toward the Paris Landing sector most boats were targeting somewhat deeper depths and finding fish in the 7-to-13-foot depth range.

Successful techniques ranged from vertical jig presentations over shallow stumps and manmade fish attractors such as stake beds and brush piles to spider rigs pushed slowly out over flats where scattered crappie were staging. The buffet bait presentation was working pretty good for some folks. Trolling curly tail grubs, Road Runners and some crankbaits has paid dividends too. Some fish have been suspended and not relating tight to structure at times, a byproduct of changing lake stages and stubborn spring weather.

Generally speaking, it has been tough for most anglers to witness a distinctive blitz by the crappie towards shallow structure. Usually, they stage and dart toward cover where they deposit their eggs. Several females were still holding eggs at midweek.

Entering the picture as of last week were some hefty bluegill and redear sunfish (shellcracker) tagging the jigs of crappie fishermen as they worked midrange to shallow crappie beds. Bluegill are not on the bed yet but headed in that direction. Shellcracker usually hit the banks prior to the bluegill’s arrival. Watch for activity to increase for both those species in the next few weeks. Peak bluegill spawning usually begins in early May, but the timetable can get pushed up if warmer surface temps (70-degree range) arrive early. Shellcracker are on the verge of their early spawning phase as some big females have been taken lately and they’re bloated with eggs.

Bass anglers are banging away at the banks and finding the bite decent around shoreline grass. Still not quite enough water on the buck bushes just yet but bass are up around shallow pockets and grass enjoying the warmer surface temps in their prespawn phase. Tossing a Texas rigged craw or lizard has been productive as have floating fluke style worms. Some topwater jerk baits have worked too as have spinnerbaits and buzz baits.

There are some boaters backing off the banks and fishing secondary humps and ledges with Carolina and Texas rigged worms, swim baits and deep diving crankbaits too. Kentucky Lake always has a variety of patterns and depths producing at the same time. As surface temps heat up more shallow shoreline fishing will enter the equation, especially for bass, bluegill and redear sunfish.

Best start mending the terminal tackle and light spinning rigs. Those powerful panfish are about to hit active spawning phases and the catfish are on the prowl too. Soon rocky banks will attract catfish to spawning spots so that’s fast approaching.

Apr 15, 2024

Fishing Report

 By Steve McCadams, Professional Guide/Outdoor Writer (stevemc@charter.net)

CRAZY SPRING CONTINUES…UNSTABLE CONDITIONS FOR ANGLERS

Stability has not been in the cards for fishermen this spring. Anglers have battled the weather roller coaster for weeks now and this past week was no exception. One day warm and sunny and the bite was on for crappie: then several back-to-back days of wind, rain and some thunderstorms. Fishermen are wondering if an extended stretch of nice weather and light winds will ever get here and stay here!

Lake levels have fluctuated the last couple of weeks and have been above TVA’s normal curve as to management of the reservoir. The last week or so it was a bit high with a reading of 358 elevation at Kentucky Dam but fell several inches down to the 357.4 range for a day or two only to start another climb right back up in the aftermath of heavy rains at midweek. Surface temperature have been in the 63-degree range. That will rise in sunny days ahead. Watercolor is clear. The rising lake has again been inundated with floating debris. Lot of sticks and logs floating off the shorelines, so boaters need to be aware of floating objects.

The spawn has been underway this week, but it has been a bit tricky for anglers as to the specific whereabouts of slabs. Fish have been scattered. That’s not unusual when lake levels are yo-yoing, and weather patterns are weird. Some hefty crappie eclipsing the 2-pound range have been taken with a few knocking on the 3-pound threshold. At midweek big females were still sporting eggs but active spawning phases should occur in the next few days. 

Looks like sunny days and rising temperatures are in the forecast at least until midweek. Daytime highs will be in the upper 70’s and low 80’s! The crappie bite has been fair for those vertical fishing jigs over manmade fish attractors in the 7-to-13-foot depth range. Most boaters indicate it is taking several stops to accumulate a limit. Other techniques such as long lining jigs and some crankbaits has worked too. Spider rig techniques are paying dividends as well as anglers slowly push jig and minnow poles over midrange depths with some moving to the upper ends of bays trying the 4-to-6-foot depths.

With rising lake levels anglers are having to move about. Many are asking if the shoreline buck bushes and willow trees will be the place to try in the days ahead if the reservoir jumps to summer pool ahead of schedule? That could very well happen. Anglers are keeping a close eye on lake levels.

Bass fishermen have scored some success while stalking the weedy shorelines lately. Those patches of yellow flowers are holding fish and are always a great location in early spring. Tossing Texas rigged craws, lizards, worms and floating fluke style worms are quite popular right now. Spinnerbaits are working too as are some buzz baits and jerk baits as the topwater bite is underway in the clear water. Bottom line is that anglers are waking up to a different lake every few days when the elevation changes. Watch for a lot of transition in fish activity the next few days as more fish follow the rise and head toward shallow shorelines.

Bluegill and shellcracker have already been biting too. Shellcracker will hit the shallow weeds and begin early spawning phases before the bluegill. Peak time isn’t here yet but it’s drawing closer as surface temps rise.

Crappie anglers fishing shallow to midrange depths lately have encountered several bluegill and shellcracker (redear sunfish) nipping at their jigs. Some big female shellcracker weighing in the 1 ½-pound range have been taken lately!

It has been a strange spring. Things happen fast once the surface temps reach the mid 60’s. Hang in there as sooner or later the weather, lake levels and fish will begin playing by the rules!

Apr 8, 2024

Monthly Meeting

The monthly meeting of the Paris Landing Tourism League (PLTL) will be held Tuesday, April 9th, at 6 pm at the Senior Center inside the Paris Landing Emergency Complex.


Hope to see you there!

Mar 22, 2024

3-20-24 Fishing Report

 By Steve McCadams, Professional Guide/Outdoor Writer (stevemc@charter.net)

CRAPPIE SPAWNING PHASES ADVANCE...BASS ON GRAVEL BANKS

Spring on Kentucky Lake is a special time of year in more ways than one. It signals the arrival of the annual spawning phase of the area’s most popular panfish. Crappie are on the doorstep of active spawning phases. What’s needed now is a long stretch of mild warm weather with some light winds to accommodate anglers. Once surface temperatures reach the 62-to-66-degree range crappie will spawn here on shallow flats and back in some of the larger bays, which warm a bit quicker than main lake areas.

Several nice stringers continue to be caught by anglers using a variety of techniques as the fish stair-step their way up toward spawning territory. A lot of credit is going to anglers long lining Road Runner style jigs around the 12-to-14-foot depths. A few boats are trolling crankbaits out over midrange depths in main lake areas lately too. Others are casting jigs and doing quite well while a few boats are vertical fishing jig and minnow rigs over manmade fish attractors such as stake beds and brush piles.

When spring officially arrived back on March 19th the first few days of the new season delivered frigid temps reminiscent of winter mornings. However, it didn’t take long for normal weather to rebound but then again, what’s normal for March? Fishermen have battled unruly winds lately with an occasional shower or two. That’s vintage March. Some days cold and some warm; some windy and some calm. One never knows. Yet the lake has given up some hefty stringers throughout March and the fish are on the move and moving up daily.

Surface temperatures continue to gradually climb toward the low to mid 60’s. Not there yet but headed there fast.  Male crappie have already moved up ahead of the females toward somewhat shallow areas. A clear indication the spawn is nearing are the color phases of male crappie. They’re already showing hormonal changes with their darkening purple and black appearance.

Each passing day will see more crappie move up to the 5-to-10-foot depth range, although all the fish don’t leave deeper venues at the same time. Even when the peak of spawn is underway there’s always a few fishermen dragging some out of deep water. Meanwhile, lake levels have been rising this past week. The lake rose to levels of 356.8 range in the aftermath of heavy rains across the region. That’s about two feet or so above the normal level for the third week of March.

Odds are lake levels will fall a bit these next few days. Normally from the low ebb of winter pool range of the 354 level TVA begins a slow but gradual rise of the reservoir beginning April 1 each year. The normal curve sees the lake rise to summer pool level of 359 on or around May 1 each spring. Sometimes if the lake is a bit above the low ebb in late March (like it is now) TVA will hold that water. Other times they release it in order to create more storage capacity in the event heavy rains should occur. It’s sort of a guessing game for fishermen this time of year. Most don’t like to see lake levels falling as the crappie spawn nears. Anglers prefer to see a slow gradual rise. Fishermen just don’t like drastic changes that sometimes occur overnight during early unpredictable spring weather.

Both cold fronts and heavy rains can upset the timetable. Such changes can upset the applecart of both the fish and fishermen. Fishing patterns can literally change overnight. Dramatic drops in surface temperatures in a short time result in negative mood swings of crappie on the verge of dropping their eggs. Sometimes the fish back off and put the brakes on, backing away from shallow spawning habitat and suspending out deeper as they ride out cold fronts. Other times quick rising lake levels scatter the fish, making it tough for anglers to establish a pattern as to depth and location when fish are roaming. Lots of variables. It’s all part of the spring fishing scene.

Right now, fish should continue on their path toward spawning spots. While a lot of fish have been taken lately by anglers slow trolling out over midrange depths where fish are staging, a blitz toward structure should continue to occur the next week or two. Although some anglers have taken decent numbers as they vertical fished jigs over stake beds and brush piles there are several reports coming in from anglers observing fish on their Livescope sonar units that are roaming. Those anglers have been catching decent numbers as they cast jigs toward fish, they see on their sonar units.

Meanwhile, it’s high time some bank fishermen started picking up crappie around gravel and rocky banks. Shorelines give up a lot of crappie at times when fish are searching for habitat.

Bass fishermen are reporting more fish moving up on rocky points and shallow pea gravel shorelines. They too are in prespawn phase, and some hefty females bloated with eggs have been caught recently by anglers tossing crankbaits. March is a crankbait month here as so many gravel and big chunk rock banks appeal to prespawn bass. Stickups are holding some bass too and shallow exposed crappie beds are holding bass as a few reports from anglers tossing spinnerbaits, jig and craw combos and even Texas rigged craws and lizards have produced. Patterns are changing daily as fish are on the move and surface temps warm.

Mar 20, 2024

Let's Go Fishing

Kentucky Lake 3/14/24 

By Steve McCadams, Professional Guide/Outdoor Writer (stevemc@charter.net)

SPRING HAS ALMOST SPRUNG ON KENTUCKY LAKE

Time to turn the page. Spring officially arrive Tuesday despite chilly temps that sort of want to hang around. Best not trade in the coveralls on a screen door just yet; March is still in charge. Sometimes she’s an unpredictable month; known for her Ides that blow the treetops sideways with a howl while also blowing the cap off your head.

Fishermen can’t complain much as the last few weeks have delivered a dose of early spring weather. Trees are screaming spring with all their budding displays and until the last few days it has been short sleeve shirt temps. It’s fair to say the weather roller coaster has a few more thrills left. Sometimes even early April can deliver surprises.

Kentucky Lake’s late winter and early spring fishing scene has been mostly kind to bass and crappie anglers. For weeks now fishermen have been out in force, often picking their days and soaking up warm sunny conditions when tolerable winds allowed pleasant outings. Crappie fishermen are logging some nice stringers and they already had a nice start before spring arrived on the calendar.

Surface temps this week have climbed to the 57-degree range. Actually, there was a day or two when readings were higher than that back in shallow bays. A couple of recent cool snaps sort of put the brakes on the rapid warm up that was underway. Lake levels are up slightly from last week and were dancing around the 354.8 range at Kentucky Dam this week. Watercolor remains clear across the reservoir.

TVA’s curve for reservoir management has Kentucky Lake staying at the low ebb of winter pool—around the 354-elevation range---until April 1 when filling begins. The curve allows the reservoir to slowly rise to summer pool elevation of 359 on or around May 1 each year. All the lake level predictions are always subject to heavy rainfall so there are several variables in the equation each spring. Right now, things are pretty much on schedule.

Most of the nice stringers of crappie are coming from midrange depths of 9 to 13 feet but there are other depths giving up fish too. As surface temps warm more movement takes place as both crappie and bass are on the threshold of migrating toward spawning spots.

Once surface temps warm into the 62-to-66-degree range active spawning phases for crappie kick in. Some bass are known to start around that range too of not earlier. Smallmouth have a reputation of spawning sooner than largemouth. Bottom line is Kentucky Lake’s fishing scene, while still in prespawn phases, is about to kick into high gear.

Each spring male crappie move into shallow areas somewhat ahead of the females and while on the magic march their pigmentation begins to turn darker. Due to hormonal changes male crappie take on that beautiful purple or dark shade as active spawning phase arrives, which for us on Kentucky Lake has traditionally been the first two weeks of April. Weather conditions can alter the timetable.

In times past I’ve seen active spawning phases for bass and crappie kick in the last week of March. That’s somewhat unusual but an extended spell of warm weather delivers rising surface temperatures which accelerate the biological clock. Then there are times when fish have moved up shallow and right on the doorstep of spawning only to have drastic cold fronts descend and upset the apple cart. Fishermen really grit their teeth when that happens, often threatening to take the weather forecasters off their Christmas list! 

Both overnight cold fronts and flooding conditions greatly alter the fishing scene when they show up uninvited to the party. Rapidly rising lake stages tend to scatter fish, making it tough for anglers to establish a pattern. Cold fronts are detrimental too. Quick changes in surface temperatures confuse spawning crappie. Often times egg laden females will back off the banks away from spawning habitat and suspend, opting to ride things out instead of dropping their eggs under adverse conditions. Stability of weather accompanied by a slow or gradual rise in lake levels has proven to be the best combination for spawning and fishing here on the big pond.

Meanwhile, dandy stringers are being taken as fish continue to move up and stage in midrange depths. Once surface temps reach the spawning range of 62 to 66 degree the fish will make a blitz toward spawning structure. Just how shallow crappie and bass venture toward shorelines has a lot to do watercolor (turbidity) too. Dingy or stained water seems to warm a bit faster, and it lures the fish to shallower depths for spawning.

A few old timers on Kentucky Lake recall fond memories of fishing the buck bushes and other shoreline habitat when muddy waters brought the fish right up on the shorelines to spawn. Dingy water filtered out sunlight, so the fish headed to shallow areas to find their comfort zones. While some of that still occurs at times here, the lion’s share of crappie nowadays choose to spawn out away from shorelines in the 5 to 10-foot depth range. Manmade fish attractors such as stake beds and brush piles or natural stump fields can fulfill most of that need.

In future articles I’ll talk more about specifics and how the reservoir has changed over the years. Meanwhile, already producing are a variety of techniques as fish continue to stair-step their way toward spawning zones. This week success stories have come in from boats long lining Road Runners and twister tail grubs out over main lake ledges and flat in 10-to-14-foot depths.

Those slow-moving spider rig style presentations are producing too. Anglers experiment with color combinations and push a buffet of baits out over suspended crappie staging in la-la land filling coolers in the process. Vertical presentations of tube and hair jigs always work great as anglers locate structure on their sophisticated sonar units and cherry pick the fish relating tight to cover.

Not to be forgotten are the light tackle guys who sometimes back off and cast jigs or minnows toward shallow venues or out over submerged structure. They too scored hefty stringers at times. Kentucky Lake has always offered a variety of depths and patterns that pay dividends at the same time. That’s one of the many reasons we’ve got a great fishing lake!!!