Murray, KY – It's time for our weekly glimpse at how to catch fish around here. This time, it's about finding and hooking catfish, panfish, and bass in our flood-swollen lakes.
Scott Ellison here with the FLW Outdoors Weekly Fishing Report.
The good news is that the fish in Kentucky Lake are still hungry and ready to bite; the bad news is that the lake is so high that they've got plenty more places to hide. Water is up at record levels because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is trying to alleviate flooding in the lower Ohio and Mississipppi Rivers. The lake hit above 373 feet, which beats the old record of just under 370 feet that was set in 1984. That previous record was reached on may 11 that year, which tells us that May floods are nothing new.
As might be expected, lake water is really dirty now, especially where the feeder creeks dump in. Also, there is going to be a lot of floating debris, so be careful and take it slow if you do decide to go fishing. The next problem you might have is finding a place to launch your boat, because a lot of the ramps are under water, or the roads to them are under water. Think of the steepest ramp you know about; if there is a good place to launch your boat now, it will be that one. From what I've heard, the only ramp within easy driving distance of Murray that's still available is at Kenlake State Park.
As long as the lake continues to rise and then stabilize before falling slowly, catfish are going to go on a feeding binge. Use prepared stink baits, liver or anything else that puts out a lot of scent. Bluegills, redears and shellcrackers also are in the shallows now and preparing to bed as the water temperature nears 68 degrees or so. But like I said, the banks are so flooded now that it's going to be more difficult to locate the best fishing. When you do, it's likely to be in and around flooded bushes and trees, so plan on fishing with a pole straight up and down, rather than casting with a bobber. Here's a tip you might find useful: one of the best panfish rigs for fishing vertically, or for casting, is a Zebco micro triggerspin reel mounted to an 8 or 9-foot flyrod. The micro trigger spin is like an underslung spincast reel. If it's mounted on a spinning rod, which is what it's designed for, you release the line by pulling up on the trigger release with your index finger. But if you mount it on a fly rod, you'll be releasing the line trigger with you little finger because your hand is farther up on the rod. I like the flyrod approach because you can either fish up and down in the cover, or back off and cast to the outside edge of the cover. Of course, you've got some kind of foam or cork float, plus the hook and split shot, to give you enough weight to cast. Worms and crickets are still the best bet for bait.
Like the panfish, bass are biting up against the bank if you can get a bait in front of them. Because the water is so dirty now in a lot of places, you want to use a scented soft-plastic bait such as Berkley power worms or Attrax worms cast up into cover. A jig with rattles and a scented trailer will also work. If you're fishing water that's not too dingy, a rat-l-trap or diving crankbait with rattles might be the best bet. The thing to remember is that bass aren't going to see a lure as well right now; they've got to smell it or hear it to zero in.
That's about it for now. Looking forward to lower water levels and hungry fish, this is Scott Ellison signing off.
Scott Ellison is a lifelong fisherman and FLW Outdoors College Fishing Promotions Manager.