SPAWNING TIME NEARS…CRAPPIE KNOCKING AT THE DOOR
Kentucky Lake crappie are on the threshold of spawning after several
days of warm weather advanced the biological clock. Surface temperatures
were climbing at midweek, courtesy of beautiful weather that really had
anglers out in force.
Each year the early phases of spawning kick in once surface temperatures
reach the 62 to 66 degree range and stay there a few days. That should
happen next week but not before another wicked weekend forecast from the
weatherman who apparently isn’t a fisherman.
What is it about these weekend weather patterns anyway? The last few
weeks has seen some nice weather on weekdays only to have a cold front
arrive on Fridays that sent the mercury plunging. It appears a repeat
performance is underway.
Rain and thunderstorms across the region preceded another cool snap as
temps on Saturday are expected to top out around 60, which is down about
15 to 20 degrees from earlier in the week. Another annoying northwest
wind whipped up some whitecaps, sending anglers to bays and the leeward
side of bluffs in an effort to dodge the breeze.
The changing conditions will put the brakes on for a few days but temps
are forecast to climb quickly by early next. Crappie should rebound fast
and make a blitz toward shallow to midrange spawning territory by early
Lake levels are now rising slowly. TVA traditionally begins its
reservoir filling curve on April 1 each year with a target date of May 1
for summer pool, which is 359.
Elevation this weekend will be in the 355.6 range at Kentucky Dam and
New Johnsonville, which is up a few inches from last weekend. Water
color has cleared across most of the reservoir.
Surface temperatures were climbing fast last week, only to take a nose
dive when a cold front rolled in as the weekend approached. Warm weather
returned to start the week off with above average temperatures---temps
at midweek climbed to 80 degrees---and surface temps were creeping back
up toward the 58 to 59 degree range in the main lake area and up to 61
to 63 degrees in shallow bays and creeks.
Watch for increased activity in the 5 to 10 foot depth zones early next
week. And, fish should really relate better to structure in the days
The last two to three weeks have produced mixed results for crappie
anglers. Those trolling long line style and pulling Road Runner and
curly tail type jigs have done well. Some nice catches were taken in the
New Hope and Country Junction sector, along with West Sandy’s Britton
Ford and Springville pumphouse area.
Techniques such as spider rigging have done well too, along with some
vertical presentations over submerged stakebeds and brushpiles in the
West Sandy and upper Big Sandy areas.
If you’ve been part of the crappie armada trolling in the upper Big
Sandy then you’re likely of the opinion that fishing has been pretty
good. However, take that portion of Kentucky Lake out of the equation
and most anglers have experienced tough times as fish have been scarce.
From portions of Kentucky’s Blood River down into Tennessee in such
popular creeks as Cypress, Panther, Standing Rock, Leatherwood, White
Oak and further south to Birdsong some experienced anglers with several
decades under their belt have struggled to find and catch fish.
Seems the lion’s share of crappie have staged in the upper Big Sandy and
West Sandy the last few weeks. Legions of anglers have flocked to these
areas and found suspended crappie holding in depths of 12 to 14 feet
during the cold spells but moving up to 7 to 10 feet in the last few
There are a few boats working deep main lake ledges in the mouth of Big
Sandy near Paris Landing but action has been inconsistent and numbers of
fish have been below average. At midweek some improvement was underway
as a few more fish were starting to show up in stakebeds and brushpiles
located in the 7 to 12 foot depth range.
Male crappie were showing more color change this week and taking on a
darker appearance, which signals active spawning phases are close at
A few boats are beating the banks with curly tail jigs and small grubs
as they cast gravel points and rock banks. Some are using live minnows
under slip bobbers as well.
It has been an unusual spring for most crappie anglers outside of the
upper Big Sandy and West Sandy area. Fish have been slow to transition
toward traditional prespawn areas. And, they have not displayed their
usual structure oriented mood, choosing to ride it out in a suspended
mode until spawning temps arrive.
Usually fish stair-step their way toward prespawn areas, moving in
phases from deep venues to midrange depths and then up to spawning spots
when ideal conditions arrive. Their routes this year have varied
dramatically but things are improving.
Fish are on the move. Anglers will have to dig out the coveralls and
raingear for a day or two but short sleeves will be back in style by
early next week. Dogwoods are blooming and you know what that means!
From the bass department comes word of pretty good stringers again this
week. Crankbaits on gravel continue to produce. Shad variations and
crawfish colors have been best. Jig and craw combos are still a popular
choice as well, not to mention suspending crankbaits.
Some fish have been taken in shallow areas this week as rising lake
levels have brought fish up to shallow structure. Warmer surface temps
are bringing bass up to shallow pockets too where crappie beds are
At the same time some boats are still clinging to ledges, especially if
a long point or bar joins the main shoreline. Bass are staging there and
ready to move up toward presapwn areas.
Spinnerbaits have produced around visible cover. Rattle Trap style lures
have worked well along bars, muds banks and in the back of small
Yet another cold front is passing through, throwing a curve to anglers
for a day or two after several back to back days of ideal weather.
Stability is not in the cards for spring fishing but crappie are ready
for the next warm spell and their parade should begin next week.
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.