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April 7, 2011
SPAWNING TIME FOR SLABS…ANNUAL RITUAL AT HAND
Alarms are about to sound off on the biological clocks of Kentucky Lake
crappie. The annual ritual is at hand, triggered by a warm up this week
that influenced surface temperatures toward the magical range that
stimulates movement toward shallows.
Spawning will likely begin this weekend as male crappie have moved
toward shallow cover in search of housekeeping spots that will lure egg
laden females in the days ahead. For the first time this year surface
temps will cross the 60-degree threshold by this weekend.
Active spawning phases have been sluggish in coming this spring as
stubborn cold fronts and changing lake levels have combined to push back
the timetable. Despite gale winds and cool conditions earlier this week
warmer days are expected to dominate into next week, sending a clear
signal to meandering crappie that structure is calling.
Surface temps this week have climbed from 53 to 59 degrees and will warm
even more as the weekend approaches. Water color has been stained in
upper ends of bays throughout Big Sandy after Monday’s severe
thunderstorms dumped heavy rain across the region. Main lake areas are
sporting a good color for fishing.
Lake levels continue their spring roller coaster ride as TVA really
pulled the plug last week but elevation was changing daily in the
aftermath of torrential rains and the reservoir is now on the rise.
Elevation at Kentucky Dam is expected to be in the 358 range as the
weekend approaches. Reading upstream at New Johnsonville will be 358.5.
Presently, lake levels are up a couple of feet from last week at this
time and are above TVA’s normal curve. Current is present in the main
Tennessee River channel as the agency is spilling water through Kentucky
Dam in an attempt to bring the reservoir back down to normal elevation,
which should be in the 356-plus range for this time of year.
Crappie anglers have battled high winds again this week and that has
diminished catch rates, not to mention below average temperatures that
had a negative impact. However, action was improving at midweek as fish
responded favorably to rising surface temps and rising lake levels that
influenced movement toward shallow spawning territory.
Look for more fish to enter the 4 to 10 foot zone this weekend as darker
male crappie were on the prowl toward some gravel points enroute to
structure. The bigger females were staging off shorelines and had not
moved up to shallow structure at midweek but will likely do so this
weekend and throughout next week as they seek cover to broadcast their
Unlike their gamefish cousins such as bass and bluegill that fan out
craters in the shallow sediments and pea gravel substrates, crappie
become structure oriented at spawning time. Females broadcast eggs along
the roots of stumps, bushes, and various manmade fish attractors such as
brushpiles and stakebeds.
Popular techniques have been vertical fishing jigs down in submerged
structure this week but watch for increased activity for those anglers
casting jigs or slow trolling, drifting, and spider rigging or long line
Main lake flats with depths of 10 to 14 feet will likely attract a lot
of crappie the next week to ten days as fish stage and move up to spawn.
Some big females in the 1 ˝ to 2-pound range were being caught in
midrange depths but they are no doubt on the move.
It has been a very unusual spring thus far for Kentucky Lake crappie
anglers but it appears things are about to improve.
Good bass fishing reports continue to come in as hefty stringers are
required to win tournaments. It is taking a 5-fish limit tipping the
scales in the 23 to 25 pound range to win most events.
With lake levels rising after a drawdown last week, bass will continue
to move up to shallow shorelines in their prespawn phases. Watch for
those big rock points and gravel banks to hold good fish as they move up
toward shallow pockets and feeder ditches where any dead grass or
structure is located.
Shallow running crankbaits continue to produce and shad colored Rattle
Traps, along with various chartreuse combinations of deep runners have
been working well. Some suspending jerk baits and spinnerbaits will
enter the picture next week too as waters warms and fish get more
Some Carolina rigged lizards and swim baits have also worked lately for
those anglers backing off the banks and playing the current on main lake
sandbars. Expect a lot of male buck bass to blitz toward shallows in the
days ahead where Texas rigged craws and worms will be popular choices.
Dingy water is present in upper ends of bays from runoff earlier this
week and wind has really whipped up some shoreline sediments in places
so you can find about any color water you want right now.
Females are heavy with eggs so some nice fish are being caught off
gravel bank patterns. Current will continue for quite some time along
the main river channel and around island rims, rip-rap, and bridge piers
but keep an eye on those shallow mud flats to warm up quickly as the
backs of bays will heat up as sunny days continue.
Some catfish were hitting around bridge piers as current was washing
baitfish into eddies where a few stripers and white bass were sharing
spots with bottom dwelling cats.
Both bass and crappie are on the move in response to warmer weather and
rising lake levels that will increase action in shallow water this next
week. Has spring finally sprung? That appears to be the case.
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.