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Steve McCadams' Fishing Report

Kentucky Lake Fishing Scene Changing; Lake Levels and Temps On Rise

Published on March 27, 2020

Rapid changes are taking place on Kentucky and Barkley Lakes as lake levels rise dramatically in the aftermath of heavy rains that drenched the region the last week or so.

Anglers are waking up to a new lake each day. TVA is revising its projection in elevation on a daily basis and the reservoir is expected to reach summer pool level (359) by this weekend. The rapid rise is up about four feet from last week at this time.

Rising surface temperatures are also changing and reflecting the rapid warm up now underway. Late March is living up to its reputation as an unstable month; sometimes it’s cold fronts and dropping surface temps while other times it’s rising lake levels and above normal daytime highs.

Both bass and crappie anglers are attempting to establish patterns. That can be tough when fish are roaming and on the move. Such is the case at present.

Bass anglers are anxious to move up to shorelines and toss spinnerbaits, Texas rigged craws and lizards, floating fluke style worms and flip a jig and pig around newly inundated buck bushes and willow trees. By this weekend the elevation will be up enough to do just that.

Right now the rapidly rising lake level is a game changer. Habitat that was high and dry just last week will now become attractive to bass on the move that follow the rise and search out spawning territory.

Some aquatic vegetation such as the popular yellow flowers, commonly referred to as water willow, will lure fish to their locale. Anglers might even find some topwater jerk baits worthy of consideration in their spring arsenal.

It may take a few days for bass to really blitz toward shallow shoreline habitat but by early next week anglers should see significant improvement. Some larger fish may hold off the bank and occupy secondary shorelines that are slightly submerged.

Current is still a big factor as well. TVA is pushing a large volume of water through the dams but the inflow is exceeding discharge rates.

Water color is stained in the upper end of bays but clearing half way out toward main lake areas. Overall the water color is in pretty good shape for anglers.

Surface temps started the week out around 55 degrees but have already climbed to the 58 and 59 degree range. No doubt water temps will cross the 60-degree threshold by this weekend if not sooner.

With rising lake levels comes caution for both pleasure boaters and high speed bass boats. There’s a lot of floating debris present throughout the main channel and all main lake areas. Small logs and various sticks washed off shorelines present obstacles so be cautious out there!

Crappie anglers continue to try putting the pieces of the spring pattern puzzle together. Like the bass, crappie are on the move. Most anglers are reporting scattered fish that appear to be roaming with the rising lake stages.

Those using longline and spider rigging presentations are finding a few fish playing their game. By slow trolling they’re coving a lot of water, which seems to be the ticket at present.

Popular depth ranges have been 8 to 13 feet but watch for some fish to move up in the coming days. However, to show how scattered the crappie are some boats are picking up a few slabs roaming deeper ledges in the 20 foot depth range; they just can’t find any schooling activity and put up many numbers for the cooler.

Some boats have logged long hours and managed to catch a limit or two but the average angler out there is still struggling to formulate consistent and productive patterns or find the magic depth range.

Crappie are in prespawn phase and suspended at present. The fish are overdue to blitz toward spawning structure, which means anglers vertical fishing jigs or minnows over manmade cover in shallow to midrange depths should see improvement soon.

Casting jigs beneath slip bobbers will soon appeal for those anglers who like to cast the banks or submerged structure as the male crappie move up. Watch for that pattern to develop quickly next week.

Active spawning takes place once surface temps reach the 62 to 66 degree range and stays there.

Right now a variety of depth ranges and patterns are producing a few crappie. The warmer weather is really triggering fishing pox.

Meanwhile, you can still adhere to all health and safety recommendations while soaking up some sun and connecting with nature. Spring days on the lake are great cures for whatever ails you!

Steve McCadams' Bio

Steve has been fishing professionally for over 40 years on Kentucky Lake. He is a member of the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Hame and Legends of the Outdoors. Steve also guides for ducks during the season.

With his residence in Paris, Tenn., Steve's report covers Paris Landing to New Johnsonville.

Steve McCadams

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