FRANKFORT - This past March set 17 records for lowest minimum daily temperature in cities across Kentucky. On many nights into the last weekend of March, the low temperature dropped into the mid-20s.
At this time last year, Kentuckians basked in shirt-sleeve weather in one of the earliest spring warmups in a long, long time. The spring fishing season started weeks earlier than usual.
The opposite is true this year. The fishing season is behind several weeks. With balmy weather on tap for the next week and half, the peak of the spring crappie fishing season is within sight.
“It could start next week if the temperatures hit 70,” said Tom Timmerman, northeastern fisheries district biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. During population sampling for muskellunge earlier this week, Timmerman saw some smaller crappie on shallow brush in Cave Run Lake.
Water temperatures are just tipping over the 50 degree mark at Green River Lake and Taylorsville Lake while Cave Run Lake still remained in the 40s. Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley are 52 degrees right now. Crappie start to spawn when water temperatures hit the low 60s.
These behemoth twin waters offer excellent fishing for both white and black crappie with many fat healthy fish in the 13- to 16-inch range. Neal Jackson, western fisheries district biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, said Lake Barkley’s crappie population displays the benefits of two consecutive excellent reproductive years.
“For both white and black crappie, we had the highest catch rates in our population sampling last fall since 1985,” he said.
Jackson said anglers caught limits of crappie in the mouth of Sledd Creek on Kentucky Lake in mid-March. Those fish should be migrating toward the middle of major creek arms in Kentucky Lake such as Jonathan Creek, Anderson Creek, Big Bear Creek and Blood River.
Target channel drops and humps with 1/8-ounce chartreuse and red tube jigs for white crappie. For black crappie, cast pea gravel banks in the mid-sections of these creek arms with 1/16-ounce chartreuse or lime-green Roadrunners tipped with matching curly-tailed grubs. The pea gravel banks on the northern shore of the Blood River arm are particularly productive at this time of year for black crappie.
The burgeoning population of white crappie in Green River Lake provides some of the hottest numbers fishing in Kentucky. The lake is stuffed full of 8- to 10-inch white crappie and makes an excellent destination for taking a child crappie fishing. Eric Cummins, southwestern fisheries district biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, said anglers must sift through many crappie to get a limit of keeper 9-inch or better fish.
A stocking effort begun in 2009 that continues this fall expanded the population of white crappie in Taylorsville Lake. “We are seeing good growth of the stocked white crappie,” said Chris Hickey, fisheries research biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “It takes about two years for them to grow to the keeper 9-inch size.”
Target the abundant submerged timber in the Little Beech and Big Beech Creek arms with live minnows for white crappie. Anglers score black crappie by casting to stickups and submerged timber on the bank with white 1/16-ounce Roadrunners near the Settlers Trace Access and in the Salt River arm of the lake.
The crappie population in Cave Run Lake is on an upswing with many 10- to 12-inch fish. Try for black crappie by swimming lime green curly-tailed grubs rigged on 1/8-ounce leadheads over shoreline vegetation. Live minnows fished in the submerged timber produce white crappie.
Crappie season is knocking on the door. Don’t get left out in the cold.
The current 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. 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.
Lee McClellan is an award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.