Ponds and Small Lakes First to Warm up In Spring

Ponds and Small Lakes First to Warm up In Spring
Stephanie Brandt, fisheries biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, holds a largemouth bass captured during population sampling on 96-acre Corinth Lake in Grant County.

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Rapidly changing weather can play havoc on early spring fishing.

The possibility of cold fronts, rain and sunny afternoons, all in one week, often make it difficult to correctly time a fishing trip. But, the one true constant of spring fishing is that ponds and small lakes warm up before larger bodies of water.

Chris Hickey, black bass biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said the size of the pond or lake and the clarity of its water are factors in how fast these waterbodies warm up.

“The smaller they are, the less water there is to warm up,” said Hickey. “The more fertile lakes, the ones that we refer to as having green water, have a tendency to warm up earlier than clear lakes, which have relatively low fertility.”


A warm rain always seems to turn on spring bass, especially in small ponds. Runoff washes in food and the plume of colored water offers bass some security, so they can move up shallow to feed.


“When it’s still cold, they need the warm water to get their motor running, to stimulate those pre-spawn feeding binges,” explained Hickey.

Compared to major reservoirs, ponds and small lakes aren’t as dramatically affected by heavy rainfall because they don’t have large drainage areas. Hickey said the relatively stable water levels in ponds and small lakes lead to more consistent reproduction. “Bass on the nest don’t have to deal with fluctuating water levels that may cause them to lose their spawn,” he said.

Generally, male bass move up shallow when water temperatures climb into the 50s. The females follow them when water temperatures hit 60 to 62 degrees. The largest female bass spawn first. All spawning activity ceases when water temperatures rise to about 78 degrees, even if some females still have not dropped their eggs.

Kentucky’s small lakes tend to be overlooked by bass anglers in the early spring.


Hickey said a list of small lakes that offer good bass fishing in the spring includes: Lake Beshear, Guist Creek Lake, Kincaid Lake, Elmer Davis Lake, Greenbo Lake and Lake Malone.

“Elmer Davis and Kincaid Lake are chock full of quality bass in the three-to-four-pound range,” said Hickey.

There’s a lot to like about small water fishing, too. There are plenty of places to fish from the bank. Ponds and small lakes are ideal for canoes, kayaks, cartop johnboats and even float tubes.


Dams, especially those covered with rip-rap, tend to hold bass in the spring. Rocks warmed by the sun heat up the water and bass are looking for suitable spawning substrate.

Log on to the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife webpage at fw.ky.gov and click on Fishing and Boating, then Where to Fish to find the closest small lake.

The license year expired Feb. 28, 2013. You’ll need to buy a new fishing license, available in the sporting goods section of department stores and tackle shops, to fish now. Licenses and permits may also be purchased online from the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife homepage at fw.ky.gov or by calling 1-877-598-2401. The entire Spring Fishing Frenzy series will be posted at this same website for future access to these articles.

Author Art Lander Jr. has been writing about the outdoors since the 1970s. He is a staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources manages, regulates, enforces and promotes responsible use of all fish and wildlife species, their habitats, public wildlife areas and waterways for the benefit of those resources and for public enjoyment. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is an agency of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. For more information on the department, visit our website at fw.ky.gov.

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