Catfishermen are topping the list of successful anglers on Kentucky Lake as the dog days of summer dictate fishing conditions.
Kentucky Lake’s fishing scene is best enjoyed this time of the year by those anglers who rise and shine early, getting the boat out on the water before sunrise and logging a few hours of fishing before the midday heat takes over and calls the shots.
Late July fishing conditions are pretty much holding up to a time tested reputation of heat and humidity. For those of us who are natives of southern summers it comes as no surprise.
It appears temperatures for the next week or so will top out in the low to mid-90s most days. Wise are the anglers who start their fishing trips in the early morning hours while taking along plenty of sunscreen and cold beverages or perhaps a good insulated water jug iced down to the max.
For those who are prepared there’s some decent fishing to be had despite the summer heat wave now visiting the region.
Meanwhile, lake levels have fallen several inches since last week as the TVA follows its normal curve for winter drawdown. At midweek, elevation had dropped down to the 358.2-feet range in the Kentucky Dam sector, which is several inches below last weekend’s reading.
Upstream around the New Johnsonville area, lake levels are slightly higher as readings were in the 358.5 range at midweek. That indicates current is present in the main Tennessee River channel, which should work in favor of catfishermen and bass anglers targeting main lake ledges.
Water color remains clear across the reservoir. Surface temperatures are starting out the morning in the 83- to 84-degree range and warming to 87 by midday.
Decent stringers of catfish continue to show up in the creel of anglers targeting the main Tennessee River channel banks. Depths of 35 to 45 feet have given up pretty good numbers lately.
Anglers are drifting along with the current and monitoring their sonar screens for signs of baitfish activity. Balls of shad can be seen on sonar screens and that’s what stimulates activity for catfish, some of which may be suspended and not necessarily hugging the bottom.
Productive baits have been nightcrawlers, big minnows, chicken livers and assorted commercial stink bait concoctions.
Crappie fishermen are finding a few scattered fish mostly in the early morning hours or late afternoon as the bite seems to subside at midday when the direct sunlight curtails activity.
ATTACHED TO ATTRACTORS
A few fish are lingering around manmade fish attractors such as stakebeds and brushpiles in midrange depths of 12 to 15 feet. Angers are mostly using vertical presentations of jigs and minnows to entice sluggish fish that are relating to the structure.
There have been a few reports of some anglers casting twister tail grubs at times and landing some fish with that technique when working the midrange structures.
A few fish have been taken deeper lately as anglers have backed off to working the deep sides of main lake ledges while tightlining or bottom bumping double hook rigs with live minnows or jigs tipped with minnows.
Depths of 18 to 25 feet were giving up a few fish, although no schooling activity was reported.
Some boats are resorting to night fishing and tightlining minnows and small jigs beneath lights if they can draw the baitfish to their locale. Mayfly hatches can sometimes help the night bite as the fish turn on during a hatch.
Bass fishermen are mostly turning their talents to ledge fishing and concentrating on main lake venues. When the TVA is pulling current, it helps the ledge bite and that has been the case lately as power demands increase.
The moving water aids in the movement of baitfish. That’s why bass anglers love the current this time of year.
Tossing big deep diving crankbaits has been the norm for a lot of fishermen as they attempt to locate a few fish on the main lake ledges. Cranking allows the angler to cover a lot of water and perhaps find fish.
A close second as to techniques is the use of big Texas rigged worms. Lately green pumpkin-pepper has been a popular color choice but there’s a lot that will work. Summer bass love the big worms in the 9- to 10-inch length when fished out on the drops.
Up until this week, the shallow bite was still producing some fish as schools of pin minnows were occupying outer edges of weeds and some blowdowns along steep banks and river island rims. There are a few minnows still on treelaps but the shallow areas have diminished in productivity as lake levels have fallen.
Scattered mayfly hatches continue to go and come along the river island rims and shorelines. That’s attracted a few bluegill and bass to steep banks when flies are hatching.
Ledge fishermen are also tossing jig and craw combos, swimbaits and some big spoons at times as part of their summer arsenal.
Most fishermen are not finding schooling bass as it has been a lot of isolated fish. A few sightings of white bass in the jumps have been reported mostly on the north end of the lake.
Down around the Paris Landing area, very few reports of white bass busting the surface in feeding frenzies have been observed.
Night fishing will become more appealing to summer bass anglers as August approaches and the heat kicks things up a notch. Big spinnerbaits cast on long sloping gravel bars may soon be the ticket.
STEVE McCADAMS is The Post-Intelligencer’s outdoors writer. His email address is email@example.com.