Mar 22, 2024

3-20-24 Fishing Report

 By Steve McCadams, Professional Guide/Outdoor Writer (


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.

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