ANGLERS RECOVER FROM COLD FRONTÖBETTER DAYS AHEAD.
Dominating the conversation lately among the ranks of fishermen on
Kentucky Lake has been the annoying cold front. It was a mean one!
Since late last week anglers have donned overcoats, coveralls and rain
suits as they battled the elements. Mid-May weather wasnít supposed to
be like this but bone chilling northwest winds blew in a dramatic
weather change that saw daily highs some 8 to 10 degrees below normal
for five to six days back to back.
Surface temperatures had a significant drop too. Readings at midweek
were in the 66 to 68 degree range, which is also well below average for
this time of year.
The good news is a warming trend is now in progress and the mercury is
projected to climb back into the mid 70ís this weekend and perhaps reach
the 80-degree mark early next week. A rapid rebound is indeed underway.
Water levels have been normal this week but thatís about the only
normalcy fishermen faced. Projections for the weekend show the reservoir
will stay at summer pool range of 359 at both Kentucky Dam and New
Johnsonville area barring any drastic rainfall.
Most of the reservoir is sporting a good color for fishing. A little
stain is present in some areas due to wind or small feeder creek runoff.
Just about all type anglers experienced a negative impact from the
unusual weather change this past week. The popular panfish species of
redear and bluegill had a mood swing. Redear, commonly referred to as
shellcracker, really backed off their bite and spawning phases that were
in high gear last week pretty much hit the brakes.
Bluegill action slowed some too but didnít shut down like the
shellcracker. Some good stringers were still taken most days but anglers
had to fish a bit harder to entice finicky fish to bite. Strikes were
sluggish as the bluegill backed off the banks a bit and occupied
slightly deeper venues.
Since the cold front descended late last week bluegill seemed to drop
back off shallow fanning beds and resided in 4 to 7 foot depths at
times. Anglers had to slow their presentation as stubborn males that
normally display an aggressive behavior were timid and reluctant to bite
at times. Fish wouldnít even take a bobber under most mornings.
With the arrival of the first full moon of May, which occurs on
Saturday, watch for spawning phases to resume for both bluegill and
shellcracker. The warming trend will no doubt have a positive influence.
A lot of the big female shellcracker were spawning prior to the cold
frontís arrival but odds are a few will get back into the swing of
things by this weekend and early next week.
Both these species are sensitive to quick surface temperatures changes.
Itís not unusual to see dramatic changes in their mood when cold fronts
pay uninvited visits and linger several days, which is what happened
late last week and most of this week.
Catfish have been hitting good lately as their spawning phases continue.
Good numbers were taken despite the cold frontís impact this week.
Shallow pockets off the main lake areas are attracting a lot of catfish
that are on the move and searching for rocky or gravel type bottoms in
which to deposit their eggs. Shoreline anglers are catching them around
rip-rap banks but a lot of bluegill and shellcracker fishermen continue
to ty into some dandies on a daily basis while casting light tackle.
Bass action slowed this week as the fish were a bit turned off by the
cold spell too. Still, anglers are targeting post-spawn fish that have
backed off the banks a bit and relating to secondary structure or
Tossing big deep diving crankbaits and swimbaits has paid dividends
lately as have some big Texas rigged worms, jig and craw combos and
Not all the fish have left shallow shoreline habitat. Some decent bass
were still residing in weedbeds around island rims. A few fish were
responding to topwater presentations or suspending jerk baits.
Some boats were pitching and flipping shallow bushes and blowdowns while
others were tossing spinnerbaits around visible cover.
With warmer weather on the way and rising surface temperatures, the
ledge bite should improve next week across the reservoir.
Crappie anglers continue to find a few scattered post-spawn fish in
midrange depths. While low numbers of shallow crappie have been taken in
7 to 8 foot depths, most successful anglers were working the 13 foot
depth range with either vertical presentations of jigs and minnows
around stakebeds or slow trolling crankbaits for suspended fish out in
the main lake area.
In the wake of mean cold front that wore out its welcome, Kentucky
Lakeís fishing scene is rapidly returning to stability where warm days
dominate and light winds are the norm. Time to shed the jackets and get
the sunscreen back out.
May is usually a mild, predictable month for fishermen but it has been a
weird spring! Can I get an Amen on that?
SHELLCRACKER/BLUEGILL BEDDING TIME NEARS
Transition time is at hand for Kentucky Lake anglers as spawning time
nears for two popular panfish that really pack a punch.
Bass are still biting and a few crappie are coming in too but itís these
rusty bull bluegill that are getting the attention of anglers all across
the reservoir, not to mention the olive drab giants commonly referred to
Biologically speaking the shellcracker are known as red ear sunfish.
Bream is the common term used throughout the south when referring to
bluegill. Whatever name you choose the common denominator among the
ranks of these powerful panfish is a feisty attitude with a never ending
Theyíre fun to catch and good to eat.
Every year when April fades to May sees the early spawning phases of
shellcracker kick in. Generally speaking, shellcracker begin a week or
ten days prior to bluegill. Surface temperature plays a big role as to
the biological clock. So does length of day.
May sees peak spawning time kick in for both these popular species here
on Kentucky Lake and it appears the timetable is about on schedule
despite a most unusual spring. Warm days lately have boosted surface
temperatures up into the 72 to 76 degree range.
A few hefty shellcracker were taken this week across the reservoir where
anglers are working the shallow buck bushes and grassbeds in the backs
of bays and small pockets off the main lake area. Lake levels have been
ahead of schedule the last week or two and already resting at the summer
Summer pool elevation puts water around the shallow shoreline habitat
and that provides enough cover to attract shellcracker who love to spawn
around shallow shorelines where a combination of grass and bushes exist.
Sometimes they occupy a submerged log or take advantage of a blown down
tree that fell out into the lake.
Bluegill often mix and mingle in the same areas yet bluegill are more
opportunists and will fan their craters in open gravel or a mud bottom.
They may choose an area around bushes and grass too but the shellcracker
have a reputation of being a bit more finicky.
Shellcracker are illusive and downright timid at times. They spook
easily in clear water and wonít tolerate a lot of excess noise and
Although there are similarities between the two, shellcracker can be
peculiar as to their bait choices. They sometimes take a cricket when
competing with bluegill in the same area but often times their bait of
choice is a red worm, wax or meal worm or small larva style bait.
Presentations differ at times too. Bluegill will smack just about any
similar bait cast their direction or depth range whereas shellcracker
usually prefer a bait on or near the bottom. Perhaps itís their normal
feeding habits of sucking freshwater mussel type morsels off the lake
Often times boaters experience higher catch rates when laying back off
the banks or spots and casting with ultra-light or light spinning
tackle. Anchoring the boat away from the bedding areas works best,
although some illusive fishermen use small aluminum boats and quietly
scull along the parameters with long telescopic poles for pinpoint bait
Sometimes shellcracker and bluegill occupy a spot thatís not easy to
reach. Casting into a very small pocket with a little wind present is a
recipe for disaster. Snags and bushes love to test your tackle long
before the fish get a chance to.
Thatís why keeping ample amounts of terminal tackle on hand is pretty
much mandatory. Expect to tie on a few hooks and rerig several times
during the course of a day. It just comes with the territory.
Keeping a pair of long nose pliers in your arsenal is a must as well.
Youíll need them to extract swallowed hooks or crimp split-shot sinkers
when rigging tackle. And a hand towel should be on the list too.
Bobbers are popular for regulating depth, especially for bluegill. They
are excellent indicators of light strikes too, not to mention the thrill
of seeing it disappear at the blink of an eye.
Yet some shellcracker enthusiasts choose to crawl their small bait
presentations along the bottom without bobbers or even fish a bait on
telescopic poles utilizing a tightline technique. Others might use a
bobber but still set the bait deep and on the bottom after establishing
that perfect balance without too much excess line dragging.
When fishing very shallow water veteran anglers opt for natural cork
type bobbers as colorful plastic or foam ones can scare finicky fish as
they enter the area and disrupt the placid paradise. Sometimes you canít
be too coy in shallows while other times, when wind is present or deeper
depths are paying dividends, you can get away with just about anything
racket or carelessness.
Active bedding areas can be quite forgiving. The fish are determined to
occupy and protect the beds. Spawning dominates their whole attitude so
the fish sometimes let their guard down.
As May enters the fishing scene along Kentucky Lake comes peak time for
these two popular panfish that are sure to bring a smile.
Their fight to the finish attitude brings out the kid in all of us as
poles bend, bobbers disappear and for a few short hours we revisit
youth, returning to the shady creek banks of life where the only worry
was whether the bait would hold out and who would clean the fish?
Make plans to partake of this great fishing phase and introduce someone
else to the sport while youíre at it! Itís a great entry level time.
Odds are if you hit the recall button youíll remember your first fishing
trip and fond memory came courtesy of some bluegill or shellcracker
Would I be right on that?
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.