May 31, 2024

Fishing Report

 By Steve McCadams, Professional Guide/Outdoor Writer (


May’s saga with changing lake levels continues. Elevation across the reservoir jumped almost three feet recently---TVA had initially projected a crest of 362.9 at Kentucky Dam last Wednesday but on Thursday revised it and the reservoir was falling ---in the aftermath of severe storms that dumped heavy rains across an already wet TVA valley. Normal summer pool level is 359 so the lake is high but crested at midweek and is now falling fast. TVA was pulling more than 90,000 cubic feet per second through Kentucky Dam on Thursday.

Water color is muddy to dingy in many areas but not too bad to fish in most of the larger bays. It will begin to clear quickly as declining lake levels will pull most of the muddy and dingy water out of bays off the flats. Clearing is already underway, but the main Tennessee River channel will likely remain dingy for a few more days.

Surface temperatures are in the 76 to 79 degree range and will rise in the days ahead.

Rising lake levels stimulated the catfish bite as they moved up to shallow areas following the water that inundates new feeding opportunities. Backwater bays and pockets saw a lot of fish taken around shallow shoreline structure and rocky bank areas. Some boats were scoring good stringers while jug fishing the backwater bays.

Since the decent has already started watch for a lot of current in the main Tennessee River channel for the next several days, which should stimulate the catfish bite out there on the channel banks. When TVA begins pushing a lot of water through Kentucky Dam in an effort to pull the reservoir back down to normal summer pool the catfish bite will really turn on.

Bottom bumping presentations along the main river bank should produce excellent catfishing opportunities. From night crawlers to big minnows and all sorts of commercial concoctions, look for the catfish to be in high gear as long as the current keeps flowing. Some catfish were taken back in bays and pockets and along rocky banks in relatively shallow water too where feeder creeks brought runoff info the main lake.

A few bluegill are still biting and several boats continue to target them by casting crickets, wax worms and red wigglers. Many were relating to bushes and grassbeds this week.

A few mayfly hatches are beginning to show up along Kentucky Lake shorelines. Watch for some massive hatches these next few weeks along river islands and main lake shorelines.

Post spawn crappie will regain their footing now that high waters are receding. Depths of 11 to 15 feet had been producing with some fish even deeper on main lake ledges at times. June can be a good month for crappie and the bite will likely resume by next week.

Bass fishermen were beginning to back off the banks and fish the ledge bite before high water entered the picture but watch for that pattern to resume next week once the lake falls back to summer pool levels. However, there are a lot of schools of small shad fry showing up along river islands and back in bays where the pin minnows gang up around structure such as buck bushes, logs, treelaps and grassbeds.

It’s a great time to toss a spinnerbait, buzzbait, shallow running crankbaits and a Texas rigged worm around shallow structure once schools of baitfish are located. There’s always a few bass chasing shallow bait fish. At the same time the main lake ledge bite will improve for those tossing big crankbaits, Texas rigged worms, jig and pig, Carolina rigs and swimbaits.

It has been a strange late spring fishing pattern as anglers tried to outguess the fish during drastically changing lake levels. Anglers have to be asking themselves if stability will every return to the fishing scene? It will indeed if the storms and floods ever stop interfering.

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