BY STEVE McCADAMS
For most Kentucky Lake anglers, the first full week of summer was a bit challenging. That’s because unstable weather last weekend saw severe thunderstorms and some heavy rain at times sending anglers back to marinas and boat ramps for refuge.
Tornadoes were in the region and the gale winds damaged boat docks and marinas on the north end of the lake. Around the Paris Landing area most areas dodged the bullet but conditions did interfere with fishing plans.
The week started with gale winds lingering but settled down and by midweek summer temperatures took over with heat and humidity.
Unstable lake levels continue to enter the picture for anglers as well. The reservoir was rising again with the TVA projecting a level of 362.8 feet by this weekend, which is more than three feet above the normal summer pool elevation of 359.
That’s not good news for most anglers, but once again fishermen are having to adjust and adapt to what has been a most unusual June in terms of weather and lake levels.
Surface temperatures reflect the warmer days and nights. Readings are starting out around 79 to 80 degrees each morning and rising to the 83-degree range at midday.
Water color is relatively clear across most of the reservoir but some dingy to stained conditions were present along the main Tennessee River channel this week and in portions of Big Sandy as well in the aftermath of some heavy rains and runoff.
Bass fishermen will again be able to pound the shorelines as water levels returned to buck bushes and weedbeds that would normally be a bit too shallow to fish.
Several schools of pin minnows are now present around visible structure.
That should help the shallow bite, luring bass to the newly inundated structure where an abundant food source awaits them.
Tossing a spinnerbait and Texas rigged worm or craw should be productive for a week or so. Using buzzbaits and some floating worms or assorted jerk baits will likely appeal too.
For those preferring to stay on deep water summer patterns, the main lake ledges will likely hold on to fish who ride out the rising lake levels in their deep water hideouts.
Big Texas rigged worms, crankbaits, jig and pig combos and swim baits will remain in the summer bass anglers’ arsenal.
There hasn’t been much current present this week as rising lake levels took that out of the equation.
However, once the TVA pulls the plug — and that will happen soon — watch for a lot of current on the main river channel plus around the rims of river islands.
Current will push the baitfish up around weeds and bushes so that will help both shallow fishermen as well as ledge fishermen looking to find schools of bass hiding on the down current sides of main lake humps and sandbars.
Crappie anglers continue to find some scattered fish in the 12- to 15-feet depth range, which will now have another two or three feet of water on it because of lake stages swelling above the norm.
Rising lake levels usually scatter crappie so until the reservoir crests and begins to fall it could be tough for early summer crappie anglers attempting to establish a depth pattern.
Some fish were taken this week by anglers using live minnows or jigs tipped with both minnows and Berkley power bait.
Deep stakebeds and brushpiles were harboring small numbers of fish in the Paris Landing sector. Anglers were having to make a lot of stops to accumulate double digit numbers of keeper size fish.
A few boats were trolling crankbaits or pulling long line twister tails and Roadrunner style jigs but bites were scarce. Some boaters using spider rigs were finding a few suspended fish playing their game as they worked deeper water. Small mayfly hatches were still occurring in the aftermath of thunderstorms this week.
A few bluegill were moving up to steep banks where overhanging trees and bushes were delivering flies their way.
Catfish had been hitting pretty good as boaters were moving out to the main river channel last week and working the edge of the channel in depths of 30 feet. However, rising lake levels will see catfish move up fast and occupy bays and backwater areas until lake levels recede.
Some pontoons and boats were having success as they fished jugs drifted out over open bays. Nightcrawlers were the bait of choice.
And so it is that Kentucky Lake anglers continue to ride a roller coaster. This week it’s lake levels that are changing fast.
June isn’t known as a month with changing lake levels but seems the early summer is already reflecting the unusual spring conditions anglers endured back in April and May.
WILDLIFE COMMISSION UPDATE
Adjustments have been made for the August handheld duck blind drawings and an update on a fisheries research cooperative effort was given among the agenda items at the June meeting of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission which concluded Friday.
At the commission’s May meeting, it requested Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency staff review the handheld duck blind drawing process for consistency and ways to reduce the likelihood of buying/selling of blind sites.
At the Aug. 3 blind drawings, a two-stage process will be used. Parties will be formed after the first drawing. The second drawing will be for blind locations for those selected in the first drawing.
Mark Rogers, leader of the Tennessee Cooperative Fisheries Research Unit, provided an overview of the cooperative agreement between the TWRA, U.S. Geological Service (USGS), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville. The cooperative leverages USGS and TTU resources to address TWRA’s research needs. Recent and ongoing projects include monitoring the movement and abundance of Asian carp, an evaluation of Florida largemouth bass in Chickamauga Lake, and assessing the contribution of stocked rainbow trout fingerlings in the Clinch River. The commission amended a proclamation to reflect calendar date changes only for the South Cherokee Wildlife Management Area bear and deer gun hunts. An overview of the TWRA quota hunts program was given.
TWRA currently has nine drawings a year. The TWRA Licensing Division and Brandt, the agency’s license vendor, have worked to provide customers and agency personnel with a more user-friendly application process for quota hunts. The commission approved a rule amendment in regard to the governing shooting-operation of private wildlife preserves.
This amendment allows big game wildlife preserves to acquire in-state CWD susceptible species once the animals are enrolled in a chronic wasting disease (CWD) monitoring program with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.
This removes the current mandatory enrollment, minimum of five years, and prior to a preserve taking possession of the animals.
Also, the amendment requires the TDA to be responsible for all mandatory CWD testing on preserves and any escapes of non-indigenous mammals.