After a long stretch of above normal elevation, Kentucky Lake has finally returned to normal summer pool levels. For some two weeks or more, the reservoir jumped up out of proportion, cresting last week around the 362.7 feet mark, which was almost 4 feet above normal summer elevation of 359.
The TVA pulled the plug last week and now both Kentucky and Barkley reservoirs are back down near their normal summer pool range.
Still feeling the effects of flooding along the Mississippi River, both reservoirs swelled to high elevations prior to the Fourth of July recreational week and that inundated several boat ramps, fishing piers, marinas and some campgrounds along Kentucky Lake.
Lake levels stayed high for a long spell and the abnormal lake stages had a negative impact on anglers as well as recreationalists.
Meanwhile, although lake levels have been falling, temperatures have been rising. The heat is now dictating conditions to anglers who have pretty much pitched in the towel lately at midday. Activity has diminished for just about all anglers with the exception of a few hitting the lake in the wee hours of the morning or perhaps short outings in the later afternoon.
Surface temperatures are staying around the 87- to 88-degree range at midday. Water color is mostly clear across the reservoir.
Lake levels are projected to stabilize this week and stay around the 359 range, which is normal summer pool elevation.
Falling lake levels recently put current in the main river channel area and that helped bass fishermen and those targeting catfish as well.
Some decent coolers of catfish have been taken lately from boaters targeting the edges of the main river channel and also around the bridge piers near Paris Landing. When current is present, catfish love to reside on the downcurrent sides of the piers where shad congregate in submerged eddies to avoid swimming against the current.
Drop-offs along the main river channel banks also lure catfish who find their own spots to dodge the current and take advantage of locations harboring baitfish. Depths of 30 to 35 feet have been producing lately.
Summer catfishermen often target any irregular humps or lips along the submerged main river channel banks. Those down-current sides where feeder creeks empty into the main channel or perhaps a steep ledge delivering a comfort zone to catfish lying in a hiding spot where the current delivers morsels of baitfish are worthy of consideration.
Productive baits have been nightcrawlers, cut shad, chicken livers and some large minnows. Any anglers planning to keep fish during the hot summer months best put their catch on ice immediately to preserve both the texture and flavor. Livewells won’t preserve your catch this time of year.
BACKING OFF THE BANKS
Bass fishermen backed off the banks in the aftermath of falling lake levels late last week. Although a few schools of pin minnows are still hanging around outside weedbeds on island rims, boat houses and docks and any treelaps along shorelines that have deep water nearby, most of the decent stringers are now coming from main lake ledges.
A few exceptions have come from some shorelines where mayfly hatches occurred. The natural buffet pulls bluegill and all species of fish to shallow feeding zones and often some decent bass can be taken there.
While the bigger stringers may be coming from deep water venues, not all the bass head deep.
Anglers can expect mayfly hatches to continue off and on for several more weeks.
Although there’s always a few fish shallow on Kentucky Lake when baitfish are present, the better grade of fish are now relating to humps and deeper ledges back off the shorelines and out in the main lake areas.
That deep pattern should hold up throughout the summer as anglers have gone back to tossing huge deep diving crankbaits, Carolina rigged worms and craws, swim baits, big Texas rigged worm rigs, jig and craws combos and some spoons.
Crappie action has been slow as of late. Hot weather has been a factor, no doubt, and some anglers are already turning to night fishing techniques where the use of floating lights enters the equation.
Some boaters choose to beat the heat by fishing at night this time of year. Anchoring out on main lake ledges can sometimes draw baitfish to your locale and sooner or later the crappie will follow.
The abundance of a sudden food source, namely a summer mayfly hatch, is good for the fish but tough on fishermen. Anglers are competing with Mother Nature’s buffet for a few days when that happens.
Although some slow current recently helped as to the main lake bite during daylight hours, crappie have been lethargic at times and likely gorging themselves on mayfly larva. Often times the fish will switch over from a steady pursuit of threadfin shad to mayfly larva for a few days when hatches occur.
Some boats have been trolling crankbaits along main lake drop-offs and searching a variety of depths but dividends have been slow in coming.
Others using bottom bumping rigs and stalking deep sides of main lake ledges while working submerged brushpiles in the 25-foot depth range haven’t been bragging, either. The method is often productive when using live shiner minnows this time of year.
It’s that time of year when the heat and humidity call the shots. Rise and shine early and you can get in a few hours before the sun sends you fishing for cooler spots and iced tea drinking contests.
STEVE McCADAMS is The Post-Intelligencer’s outdoors writer. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.