Kentucky Lake’s fall fishing scene had another fantastic week of pleasant weather that delivered nice fishing conditions across the reservoir. Some feel an outing this time of year is worth the price of admission whether the fish bite or not.
Meanwhile, the other side of that coin has avid autumn anglers out and about hoping to put something in the livewell or coolers. For scores of catfishermen things have really gone their way too. Hefty stringers of various size channel cats have been coming in on a regular basis.
A slow current continues as the TVA continues to pull water daily through Kentucky Dam but at just about the right discharge rate to stimulate activity and allow anglers to work the edge or the main Tennessee River channel banks or fish around bridge piers.
That slow current also continues to stimulate movement of shad and it appears there are more schools of baitfish out there this fall than was the case last year at this time. Catch rates for experienced catfish anglers have been excellent.
Most credit their catches to using nightcrawlers or chicken livers in 35- to 45-foot depth ranges. A few mornings, some nasty north winds limited their choices and disturbed the normal placid fall waters but the intrusion has been short as light winds returned by midday once a little front passed through.
Lake conditions are staying relatively stable, which is the norm for fall fishing. Elevation is projected to be 354.9 feet as the weekend approaches. Lake levels this week have stayed stable, as have overall weather conditions.
As the weekend approaches, a cold front will sneak in and put a real chill in the air for a few days, according to the weatherman. Time to dig those coveralls back out if only for a few days. The season’s first frost may well be on its way.
Surface temperatures this week were starting the mornings off at 66-67 degrees and warming to 70 by midday. We had some above average temps at midweek when highs reached the upper 70s but jacket time has returned.
Water color remains clear across the reservoir. Heavy rains forecast last week in the aftermath of Hurricane Delta never reached northwest Tennessee and western Kentucky so anglers on the local fishing scene dodged a bullet.
Some cloudy days last weekend stimulated the crappie bite to some degree as it showed improvement for a few days. This week’s bright and sunny days have been fair with fish biting but still somewhat finicky at times and scattered as to their whereabouts.
Most of the decent stringers are coming from anglers vertical fishing live minnows or jigs tipped with minnows. Depths of 9-13 feet have been productive but most anglers are having to make several stops to accumulate numbers.
When fished around manmade fish attractors such as stakebeds and brushpiles, jigs in the blue/chartreuse, black/chartreuse, clear blue with sparkle, and black/red/gray hair jigs have been appealing. Some anglers are using just a jighead with no skirt and tipping it with a minnow for best results.
All crappie anglers this time of year can expect to encounter schools of annoying yellow bass congregating in the midrange depths. They love to reside around the deep crappie beds and will rob your bait or eat up a jig but give you a quick thrill with their powerful punch and sprint once hooked.
Sometimes you can find the crappie mixed in there with them if you can tolerate the short strikes from these feisty little yellow bass that have the demeanor of a school of piranha with a fresh smell of blood.
Some boats have been slow trolling jigs and crankbaits at times out over main lake sandbars but the most consistent catches have come from anglers using vertical presentations as the crappie seemed to want a slow presentation with the bait placed right on their nose.
Strikes have been light at times from reluctant fish that are holding tight in the submerged structures. In the Paris Landing area, the fish are holding in midrange depths but up Big Sandy and West Sandy a few anglers have found crappie moving into 6- to 8-foot depths at times.
Those cloudy skies and light winds help filter out bright sunlight and those conditions have produced best for boaters working midrange structure in clear water where the crappie can be spooky.
Bass anglers are finding a few decent fall bass playing their game but still struggling to put together a consistent pattern that produces decent numbers from week to week.
With low lake levels now the norm, shallow sandbars and abundant gravel banks and sloping points are popular locations as bass move up to chase shad.
Some topwater activity has been observed in the early morning and late afternoon hours as fish move up after shad that respond to the lowlight midge hatches along gravel banks. The tiny insects hatch just before dark or near daylight and the parade is short but it’s a nice hour for fall bass anglers using jerk baits and buzz baits.
Midday activity is still underway at times and flocks of gulls will help you locate schools of shad that move up over shallow areas. There you’ll encounter some schools of tiny yellow bass and a few decent white bass with some largemouth or smallmouth in there at times chasing the baitfish.
Tossing Rattle Traps and swim baits or even rooster tales can put you in the driver’s seat.
There’s always a few boats targeting the ledge bite and tossing shad colored crankbaits, jig and craw combos and Texas rigged worms in the green pumpkin-pepper color variation. They, too, have found a few big fish still lingering on the ledges at times.
Great fall conditions await you. Best hit the lake and partake of what nature has to offer both in fishing and scenery.
STEVE McCADAMS is The Post-Intelligencer’s outdoors writer. His email address is email@example.com.