From Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources
FRANKFORT, Ky. – April 2011 is one of the wettest on record. Just a couple more inches of rain would propel this month into the most rained-soaked April of all time.
So far, this spring follows a predictable pattern. One day is gloomy, grey and wet and the next glorious with highs in the 70s and abundant sunshine. The next day features a tornado watch and winds that leave broken tree limbs in the street.
The Kentucky River flows high with long stands of sticks, tree tops and dead grass floating down the middle. Creeks run high and seem to consist of liquid mud. The rain pushed the shoreline of lakes up into the trees that line the bank.
Anglers wonder what all of this rough weather and high water will do to the fishing for the rest of this spring.
“The flooding shouldn’t affect fishing at all if you can find the fish,” explained Gerry Buynak, assistant director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “It makes it tougher to fish because the fish are spread out in more water. There is much more habitat for them when the water is high.”
High and stable water makes for the best fishing situation over the next few weeks. A rapid drop will turn off fishing as will major fluctuations in water level.
“When they are pulling the lake, or rapidly dropping it, the fish move deeper,” Buynak said. “You need to fish deeper and slower when the lake is dropping.”
Buynak believes Lake Cumberland should provide good largemouth bass fishing for the next several weeks. Since the drawdown due to ongoing repairs to Wolf Creek Dam, saplings and brush flourish along the exposed banks. Rainfall pushed Lake Cumberland into this new growth. Largemouth bass love flooded trees and brush. A black and chartreuse jig flipped or pitched into the middle of this cover should draw strikes. A chartreuse spinnerbait pitched into the brush should also work as would a weightless white soft plastic jerkbait worked just above it.
Bluegill and crappie love this cover as well and a 2-inch red and chartreuse tube jig worked along the edges of the flooded brush and saplings will draw strikes on Lake Cumberland.
The shore of your local lake may be well back into the woods for quite a time, especially with the heavy rain predicted for the next week or so. A trick used by largemouth bass anglers on Kentucky Lake should produce in flooded shoreline timber.
Rig a Senko-style cigar-shaped soft plastic jerkbait wacky style. Wacky rigging involves hooking one of these lures through the middle with a 1/0 work hook with the ends dangling. Don’t use any weight.
With a spinning rod and at least 10-pound test line, cast the lure at a shallow angle so it strikes the surface. This rig will skip on top of the water like a flat creek stone. With some practice, you can skip this lure deep into flooded timber. Once it reaches the desired spot, let it slowly fall on a tight line. This presentation can produce trophy largemouth bass feeding in flooded timber.
The high water will push redear sunfish or shellcrackers into the yellow mustard flowers on Kentucky and Barkley lakes. “Shellcrackers like spawning and hanging in those yellow mustard flowers,” Buynak said. “You should catch some nice ones in the next couple of weeks.”
Although this spring’s enormous amount of rainfall will generate some new fishing opportunities, flooding could negatively affect fishing a few years down the road.
“The biggest impact from the high water will be on spawning success this year, especially for largemouth bass and crappie,” Buynak said. “It all depends on what happens for the rest of the spring. If the water stays high, we should be fine. If we have a lot of fluctuations in the water levels, then that is bad for spawning.”
Water temperatures are in the low 60s now. Buynak explained that largemouth bass are preparing to spawn. Crappie are in various stages of spawning.
“We are now heading into the bass spawn,” Buynak said. “If it is higher than normal, but stable, they will nest in the flooded cover and that is good. If they are on the nest and the water levels rise or suddenly drop, then all those eggs are lost. Crappie will keep moving up and nest again, but when they drop the water, you’ll lose those eggs as well.”
If bass and crappie nest again and produce young later than usual, they may not grow large enough to survive the next winter. “Largemouth bass must be five inches or longer by late fall to survive winter,” Buynak said. “If you lose that first spawn, it is not good.”
The monsoon like weather of this spring is a mixed bag. The high water produces more fishing opportunities now, but may slow fishing a bit in a few years.
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.