Each fall Kentucky Lake slowly eases down in elevation, exposing mud flats, sandbars, rock points, and roadbeds. The appearance is dramatically different from the view of a late spring morning when shorelines are inundated with water and bushes, trees, and weed beds are full of life.
Yet low lake levels are nothing unusual here during the fall and winter seasons. Itís all part of a yearly schedule by TVA to create more storage capacity for the largest reservoir in the Tennessee River system.
Known as winter drawdown, Kentucky Lake fluctuates five feet between its normal summer pool elevation peak around May 1 and its minimum winter pool mark around November 1. In terms of sea level readings, supper pool here is 359 feet above sea level and winter poolís low ebb has a reading of 354.
A variety of lake users often comment about the low water this time of year. Some recreational users who have cabins, boat docks, ramps, piers and such in the upper ends of bays or creeks donít like low water. It decreases access and many spots are left high and dry.
Some commercial boat docks also fall victim to low water, as access to deeper water is a challenge. Over the years, siltation has also entered the picture as a lot of backwater bays and flats what once had feeder creeks or ditches have now become too shallow for boat traffic during the late phases of winter drawdown.
Taking shortcuts across the big open water areas is also dangerous for boaters and anglers this time of year. Just because youíre a long way from shore doesnít necessarily mean deep water here on Kentucky Lake.
Many folks have made that mistake over the years and have damaged lower units and stripped propellers as a result. Itís important to pay close attention to channel markers this time of year, especially when navigating the secondary channels off the main river.
Lower lake levels expose a lot of shallow stumps and rock points which often appeal to bass anglers. Fall fishing is different and thereís a lot of structure exposed for fishermen to toss a lure around but many also commit to memory those shallow spots that might pay dividends during high water too.
Fishing patterns are different in low water too. Although the fish are not spawning, many crappie and bass still make a move toward shallow areas where the shad attract them and cool water is comfortable.
Kentucky Lake is a different reservoir in every season. The appearance changes with the lake levels and the overall approach to recreational use or fishing changes with it.
Itís a complex system that some folks donít always understand. TVA anticipates flooding and runoff so the reservoir is drawn down to absorb huge amounts of water that might enter the system on short notice.
In a huge river system that flows north into the Ohio River and ultimately the Mighty Mississippi, Kentucky Lake is part of a network where tributaries and reservoirs spill their contents into a big lake right here on our doorstep.
So those low lake levels come and go every year as part of TVAís reservoir management strategy. There will always be changes as rains come and go but fall and winter months mean low lake stages on Kentucky Lake.
Although a lot of lake users complain about the lack of water during
the fall and winter seasons, the water seems to always return during the
height of the recreational period when warm weather returns and the
enthusiasm levels of anglers and boaters reaches its peak.
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