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Steve McCadams' Fishing Report

Changing Lake Levels Alter Fishing Scene

Published on January 12, 2022

Kentucky Lake’s weather across the region plus drastic changes in lake levels have thrown a curve to most winter fishermen this week.

Anglers have had a lot thrown at them by the weatherman as of late. Some days had snow; others had rain. A few sunny days but cool breezes most of the time.

Added to that has been significat fluctuation of water levels that really through a curve to winter fishermen. Most anglers can tolerate a little change in lake stages but when it jumps almost four feet in a short period and then---after a one day crest---starts falling fast it sort of upsets the applecart, so to speak.

A few days earlier this week during the peak of the rise boaters venturing out saw a lot of floating debris. That’s a byproduct of dramatic increases in lake levels and it can be downright dangerous at times too.

Swift current has been present in the main Tennessee River channel this past week as a result. And, at present TVA has really pulled the plug, pushing a large volume of water down the river and through Kentucky Dam.

River stages along the Mississippi and Ohio had been a bit high too so that curtailed discharge rates for a week or so out of both the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers.

At midweek the elevation around the Kentucky Dam sector was changing daily. It started off the week up around 358.7 range but had fallen to 358.1 on Wednesday. It was projected to fall several inches each day as the weekend approached and likely be below 357 by this weekend if not lower.

Surface temperatures have been in the 38 to 40 degree range. Watercolor was changing too as dinging color had been present in major bays but was clearing rapidly as falling lake stages pulled dingy water out of bays and into the main river channel.

Anglers targeting the big bays of Kentucky Lake in an attempt to dodge both wind and current should see things starting to improve.

Crappie anglers had a tough week with all the changes going on but watch for the winter bite to resume by early next week once lake levels stabilize. Odds are fish will opt to relate to deeper depths as the falling lake stages often pull them to deeper comfort zones.

Some fishermen were already stalking deep venues last week before the changes got underway, finding some scattered crappie related to structure in 20 to 25 feet and even deeper in some spots. The deep sides of ledges and humps seem to appeal to crappie lately as they rode out the colder weather in deep depths in pursuit of their forage base, namely threadfin shad.

A few success stories came in last week from anglers presenting hair jigs to fish in extremely deep water after attempts testing midrange depths failed to pay dividends.

There are always a few fishermen using live minnows and at times they work well. They often tip a jig with a live minnow as well. Others prefer jigs and often use them in either a plastic body tube style grub or perhaps small solid body presentations.

It’s not unusual to find cold weather crappie finicky at times as to their choice of size and color combination. Presentation plays a big role too. Sometimes they want it still and held vertically right smack dab in front of their face before enticing a strike.

Other times a little movement seems to attract attention. Casting with a slow retrieve or perhaps just slightly dragging the bait over and around submerged structure can entice a bite from stubborn fish.

From bottom bumping double hook rigs to just vertical presentation dunked deep into structure, it’s a trial and error approach.

Just ask the anglers who’ve learned to master the Livescope sonar monitoring. They thrive on watching their screen, observing not only depth and structure but behavior of crappie once located.

There are times the fish will follow a bait but just not bite it. Other times altering the presentation or changing color combinations can unlock the code.

Truth is, they just won’t bite sometimes! That’s humbling for the Livescope legion of anglers who sort of pull their hair out at times when they can find and see the fish but just not able to find the right combination of enticement.

Meanwhile, by next week watch for the local fishing scene to return to more normal lake levels and conditions barring any more snowstorms and floods across the TVA valley.

Watch for the winter bite on crappie to improve soon once that happens.


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
stevemc@charter.net
731-642-0360
www.SteveMcCadams.com

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