ANGLERS ENJOYING NICE MAY FISHING CONDITIONS
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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!
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.