Brought to you by: Fishtale Lodge
April 5th 2009
KENTUCKY LAKE CRAPPIE SPAWN ABOUT TO BEGIN...RISING LAKE
LEVELS CONTINUE...SPAWNING PHASES PUSHED BACK AS COLD FRONT ARRIVES
By Steve McCadams
Been waiting for the Kentucky Lake crappie spawn to
begin? If so, your wait is about over as the fish are moving up fast as
waters warm, setting off the alarm on the biological clock of the areaís
most popular panfish.
However, a cold snap will arrive later today and cool things down for
the next 48 hours, which will likely push the beginning of the spawn
back a few days. That's not all bad right now, giving the high lake
levels that should crest soon and begin falling slowly by Monday or
Tuesday. The weatherman indicates a warm up will return on Wednesday and
get things back on track as to normal weather.
Hefty stringers have been taken this week by a variety of methods from
anglers testing the waters of the famous Big Sandy portion of Kentucky
Lake. Every year about this time anglers flock to this area in search of
pole benders and it appears the area is living up to its reputation thus
far this spring.
Surface temps have been dancing around the 59 to 62 degree range this
week. Spawning usually occurs once the water reaches the 62 to 66 degree
range and it appears that will happen early next week barring any
drastic cold fronts.
Male crappie have been migrating toward shallow areas this week and
showing their darkening phase which signals spawning time is close at
hand. Several fish have been taken in 4 to 8 foot depths and some have
been caught in shallow shoreline stickups.
Lake levels have been changing as anglers have battled a roller coaster
ride of elevation that shot up fast early this week to the summer pool
mark of 359 in this area. That summer pool reading is about four feet
above normal for this time of year and isnít supposed to occur until May
1 but heavy rains to our south have apparently influenced the present
What will TVA do with the water levels as the crappie spawn begins?
Thatís the topic of discussion among the ranks of crappie fishermen who
always worry about the fish heading shallow and spawning only to have
the water jerked out from under them, a situation that can diminish the
success of the spawn.
Water levels continue to rise and TVA continues to revise its
projections on the agency's three day forecast. Presently, the elevation
at Kentucky Dam is 359.7. Upstream at New Johnsonville the reservoir is
359.6. The lake is scheduled to fall slowly beginning Monday.
Present lake stages are about 3 1/2 feet above normal for this time of
year. Hopefully, lake levels will begin falling soon as that could help
bring crappie back to a more structure oriented pattern and pull water
out of very shallow shorelines where fish might move up to spawn. If the
fish move up to shallow structure and spawn only to face a rapid
drawdown in lake levels then it could greatly diminish the success of
It appears an approaching cold front---though never welcomed by anglers
in spring---could work in favor of pushing the spawn back a few days.
Surface temps will cool some in the next two days with a warm up slated
Crappie are still holding out off the banks at the present time and will
likely ride out the cold snap in slightly deeper water as they stage and
wait for stable surface temps to return and cross the threshold of the
62-66 degree range with consistency. That has not happened yet.
Crappie have been hitting good on those warm sunny days but the changing
lake levels have scattered fish that appear to be roaming and suspended
in some areas. However, yesterday and today I saw an improvement in
midrange (8 to 14 feet) stakebeds as slabs were holding to the structure
more than they were early in the week.
Things are changing fast, however, as every day the fish move closer
toward active spawning phases. Despite the high lake levels some good
stringers have been taken this week up Big Sandy where anglers fishing
the New Hope and Country Junction area have scored.
West Sandy has given up a lot of fish too, along with the Elkhorn sector
and flats south of the power lines. Fishing showed signs of improvement
in the Paris Landing sector at midweek.
A variety of techniques in a variety of depths continues to produce.
This week Iíve seen coolers full of fish come in from anglers working
the main lake ledges in 18 to 24 foot depths while others were casting
jigs toward shallow structure and having success at the same time.
Two different depth extremes have produced as have two drastically
different methods. And, those midrange depths of 11 to 16 feet have been
holding a lot of fish as anglers troll spider rigs and pull long line
techniques up Big Sandy to chalk up consistent coolers full of fish.
Popular lures have been Road Runners and curly tail jigs by those slow
trolling. Drifters have used tube skirted jigs and live minnows as have
anglers vertical fishing over manmade fish attractors. I found fish
favoring a jig tipped with a minnow the last few days.
Color choices have ranged from white/red, pink/chartreuse combinations
to lime green leadheads with clear sparkle skirts. In dingy water loud
colors have produced best while the clear water areas seem to favor dull
colors or white.
Water color up Big Sandy is stained while most of West Sandy is clear.
The mouth of Big Sandy at Paris Landing is also clear.
Watch for crappie to really move up to shallow zones in the days ahead.
Even with falling lake levels the fish will likely move up to that 5 to
10 foot zone as the urge to spawn draws the fish toward shallow flats
and manmade structure.
While some anglers were hoping lake levels would remain high for
shoreline buck bush fishing and even some wading around stickups, odds
are receding waters will not allow that to happen until later this month
unless heavy rains reenter the picture.
Bass fishermen are still finding a lot of fish, although it appears some
of the big fish have backed off. Still, plenty of good size largemouth
are running the rocky banks and entered very shallow areas this week in
response to the warm days and rising lake levels that inundated dead
grass, logs, and even some bushes.
Those yellow flowers are showing up in shallow water venues and that
seems to really attract the bass that are entering prespawn phases.
Working the shallow grass with floating worms, jerk baits, spinnerbaits,
and lizards or imitation crawfish has worked well.
As current enters the picture watch for those points along the main lake
to hold bass. Also, deeper ditches and feeder creeks with steeper banks
will likely appeal to bass that pull back and ride out the falling lake
levels with a deeper water refuge nearby.
Both bass and crappie anglers are encountering rapid changes in weather
and lake levels as they attempt to pattern fish that are on the move.
Welcome to the unstable spring fishing conditions that always seem
challenge keep fishermen humble.
For The Lake Barkley Report
Also check out our past:
Kentucky Lake Fishing Reports
Steve McCadams is one of the nation's best known Crappie Fishermen
and a full time resident of Paris, Tennessee. Steve is also a
professional hunting and fishing guide here in the Paris Landing area.