FISHING SCENE SLUGGISH FOR WINTER ANGLERS
Updated February 7th, 2018
By Steve McCadams
Kentucky Lake’s winter fishing scene this week delivered challenging conditions to anglers hoping to treat cabin fever with a few days out on the water full of warm sunshine and light breezes. It didn’t turn out that way, however.
Cold days with rain and winds out of the northeast didn’t exactly embrace winter fishing hopes of bass and crappie anglers. A few braved the elements at times but most opted to ride it out on shore and wait for better days ahead.
Temps this week struggled to get past the upper 30’s and low 40’s. Add a little rain and wind to that and it’s tough sledding out on the water where the wind chill usually robs another few degrees from the daily high.
Lake levels have been rising slightly this week in the aftermath of some rains. Elevation is projected to be 355.2 at Kentucky Dam this weekend and 354.7 in the New Johnsonville area.
Water color is relatively clear across most of the reservoir with some dingy water present in the upper Big Sandy and West Sandy basins.
Surface temperatures are similar to last week at this time, staying around the 40-degree mark. There haven’t been any warm sunny days lately to stimulate a warming trend.
Winter crappie have been biting, at least to some degree, for a few anglers willing to battle the inclimate weather. Depths of 18 to 22 feet have given up some fish for fishermen working the main lake drop-offs and targeting the deep sides of the ledges.
Most boats report landing several small fish with a few keepers mixed in now and then. Anglers are not catching limits of keeper size fish but finding enough to keep their enthusiasm level up enough to keep going when weather permits.
Some are tightlining jigs in the deep water with bottom bouncing rigs while others are using live minnows or even tipping jigs with minnows at times. Other are choosing to tip jigs with Berkley Power Bait in the white and chartreuse color to enhance the bite.
Popular color choices have ranged from blue/chartreuse to pink/chartreuse or red/chartreuse. Most are using painted leadheads too such as red, pink, chartreuse or white.
Boats working the midrange depths where stakebeds and brushpiles are located haven’t fared as well as those targeting deep water venues. No doubt the fish will move up a bit once warmer surface temperatures arrive but until that happens the deeper bite is likely to be the most productive.
When surface temperatures remain in the upper 30’s or low 40’s it keeps most of the bait fish deep as they find their comfort zone there to avoid quick cold fronts that cause sudden temperature inversions in shallow water. They often go into shock when that happens, causing massive die-offs in the aftermath of quick descending cold fronts.
Meanwhile, winter crappie anglers continue to voice concern over lack of shad being seen and the physiology of a lot of the fish being caught that are sporting very thin profiles. More than a few fishermen feel the forage base isn’t what it needs to be given the number of thin fish showing up!
Bass anglers have voiced concern too over several fish taken last year and this winter that were lacking that bulky profile. Often the bass will put on a bulging belly during times of abundant forage.
Bass anglers haven’t had much weather in their favor either these last few weeks. Some boats have been out and working crankbaits around gravel banks and tossing jig and pig style lures and slowly retrieving Rattle Traps around boat docks.
Another pattern for cold weather bass anglers is paralleling rock bluffs using suspending jerk baits. When fished slowly the suspending jerk bait can be effective on sluggish fish as anglers rely on their sidescan units to help find scattered or suspended fish out away from shallow shorelines.
With a cold and dreary week of weather now behind, Kentucky Lake anglers are unanimous in their hopes for warmer days and light winds. Once that happens a lot of fishermen will rebound and hit the water. Hang in there!