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    Kentucky Lake anglers have enjoyed good fishing as the half way point of May approaches. Mild weather and stable lake levels have been kind to fishermen, although a few windy days have slipped in the door and rocked the boat at times.

    Surface temperatures this week edged up the scale as some warm days took over. Wednesday tied a record high of 90 degrees in the Paris Landing area. Surface temps at midweek were in the 72 to 75 degree range. Water color has been clear across most of the reservoir.

    Stable lake levels are the norm throughout May, which is another attribute for this time of year. Projections for the weekend indicate a slight rise is underway due to some heavy rains at midweek across the TVA valley.

    Kentucky Dam will see lake elevation in the 359.5 this weekend, which is up a few inches from earlier in the week but nothing too drastic. Upstream in the New Johnsonville sector the elevation is projected to be at normal summer pool of 359. Those projections could change if storms continue to dump rain south of our area.

    The slight rise in elevation should benefit shallow shoreline bass anglers this week who thrive on pitching and flipping buck bushes and willow trees on river islands and backs of bays. Just a few inches of extra water will inundate shallow cover that was a bit too shallow earlier in the week.

    Several bass have been taken around shallow structure these last few days by anglers tossing topwater, spinnerbaits and Texas rigged craws and worms.

    A few boats are backing off the banks, however, and targeting post-spawn bass that have backed off from shallow spawning territory the last week or so.

    Secondary flats and ledges are attracting several bass lately as surface temps warm and the spawning phases have passed. However, on Kentucky Lake there always seems to be multiple patterns working. Seems thereís always a few anglers finding shallow fish at the same time other fishermen focus on deep techniques with crankbaits, swimbaits, Texas rigged worms or jig and pig combos hopped around midrange ledges.

    For bluegill and shellcracker fishermen it has been a great week. Hefty stringers have been taken in 2 to 5 foot depths. Most of the better grade of fish are favoring slightly deeper depths and somewhat off the shoreline itself.

    Slightly higher lake levels these next few days could see more bluegill and shellcracker return to shallow bushes and grass. Crickets and redworms have been working well for anglers using slip bobbers or casting their bait and dragging it across bedding areas without floats.

    Known to be finicky at times, shellcracker have been holding out away from shorelines this week and often mixing or residing near active bluegill beds. There have been a few trophy shellcracker taken this week that exceeded the one pound mark.

    Anglers can expect the bite to hold up well these next two to three weeks. The first full moon of May arrives May 21 and that should signal peak spawning phases. For a lot of anglers these last two weeks have been quite good, despite a day or two when cold weather interrupted the active bite.

    Catfish are hitting good as the abundance of gravel and rocky points or bluffs have paid dividends. Nice stringers have shown up all week from anglers working shallow areas where fish are spawning.

    Females are bulging with eggs and moving up to spawn in shallow bays. Bluegill and shellcracker fishermen are tying into catfish on a regular basis too. Those catfish love to prowl around shallow bluegill beds, often feeding on the eggs or perhaps the newly hatched fry.

    Crappie fishermen backing off the banks are finding a few scattered fish as the post-spawn phases is in full force. Not many big stringers have been taken but a few good size fish are still showing up.

    Itís not unusual for post-spawn crappie to suspend out in main lake areas this time of year. The most successful anglers as of late have been trolling crankbaits or pulling some long line jig presentations around the 12 to 14 foot depth range.

   A few shallow crappie have been taken by anglers stalking stakebeds with vertical methods or casting jigs. Those type anglers are having to make a lot of stops to accumulate a decent stringer, however.

    Itís not unusual for post-spawn crappie to scatter and suspend, ignoring structure for a few weeks until they get over the stress of the spawning ritual. Later this month crappie will begin to take on a structure oriented mode more so than they are at this time.

    May is a productive month for Kentucky Lake anglers. Some species are at peak spawn phases while others are on the back side and making a slow transition.

    Nice weather awaits you whatever your favorite species might be. This time of year sure beats those gale north winds and cold fronts that dominated the fishing scene back in March and early April!


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 as shellcracker.

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 appetite.

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 pool mark.

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 disturbance.

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 bottom.

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 presentations.

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 somewhere.

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.

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