Late-fall fishermen and duck hunters sometimes ride in the same boat. Both seem to play the weather this time of year and, as most anglers and waterfowlers know, it’s the weather that often calls the shots.
From the Kentucky Lake fishing scene this week comes the tale of two seasons back to back. Starting off the week was a touch of spring weather, or nice fall conditions you might say.
Then a cold blast entered the picture, with dramatic temperature changes that had snow flurries forecast last Tuesday.
It’s fair to say outdoorsmen experienced a touch of spring, fall and winter this week!
For most of the region, the forecast for snow flurries never materialized, but a drastic drop in temperature did and, by midweek, the region woke up to below-freezing temperatures and thick frost.
Since then, it put most anglers on the back burner, as staying indoors seemed to have more appeal than fighting cold north winds out on the open water.
Last week and up until Tuesday of this week, a few crappie anglers were testing the waters of Kentucky Lake and finding fish residing on deep sides of main lake ledges.
Depths of 18-22 feet were giving up a few crappie that seemed to prefer the deep structure again this week.
A few decent stringers were taken in the Paris Landing area and in the mouth of Big Sandy.
The better catches came from anglers slowly pushing spider rig-style techniques or using one pole presentations armed with minnows or jigs.
Although not many anglers were landing 20-fish limits, they were finding enough fish to keep it interesting and productive.
Most reported live minnows producing best, but others who fished only jigs were catching decent numbers, too.
Lake levels have been falling the last week or so as TVA has been pushing a large volume of water through Kentucky Dam recently as the reservoir had been almost two feet above normal winter pool.
However, this week elevation around the dam had fallen back to 354.7. Upstream around New Johnsonville, lake levels were similar with readings in the 354.8 range. Water color remains clear across most of the reservoir.
Surface temperatures have been staying around the 49-51 degree range during the mild weather, but will fall a few degrees daily in the aftermath of cold weather that will linger through the weekend.
Still not much going on in the bass arena, but a few boats have been venturing out on calm days. Some decent-sized smallmouth have been taken on occasions, but numbers are low.
Late fall and winter fishing — winter officially arrives on Dec. 21 — can be productive, especially for crappie anglers who watch the weather forecasts closely.
If your schedule permits you to pick the calm days and avoid the windy ones, this time of the year can be productive.
Meanwhile, duck hunters across the region continue to play the weather game, too. The lion’s share of waterfowlers across most of West Kentucky and Tennessee have struggled since season opened.
There are always exceptions but most hunters are not seeing big numbers of ducks thus far in the region.
Several public hunting areas along Kentucky Lake have gotten off to a slow start, such as the Camden Bottoms, Big Sandy, Gin Creek and West Sandy.
Recent estimates observed from aerial surveys along Kentucky Lake on the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge indicated duck numbers are still below the 5-, 10- and 25-year averages for this time of year.
A small percentage of blinds have experienced some decent days, but overall it has been a sluggish start. To the west, activity has been somewhat better, as areas bordering the Mississippi River are holding more ducks and thus the hunting has been better.
The mighty Mississippi River has been up, and that put a lot of water out in lowland areas, which is usually good for the ducks, but bad for the hunters.
When the ducks have thousands of acres of shallow water scattered out over several states, then they scatter, too.
If you’re fortunate to have a private farm or hunt club in the vicinity of the big river, then the season has been pretty good.
Otherwise, it has been a stubborn season for the rest of the waterfowling community, which suffered a poor season last year.
STEVE McCADAMS is The Post-Intelligencer’s outdoors writer. His email address is email@example.com.