Murray, KY – This week's FLW Outdoors Fishing Report delves into Kentucky Lake ecology.
Dave Washburn here, with the FLW Outdoors Weekly Fishing Report.
This time of year, late summer, it's inevitable that you start hearing talk of thermoclines in Kentucky Lake. A thermocline is a water layer that typically forms in hot weather. Just above it, the dissolved oxygen content is optimum and the water is warmer. Below it, the water is cooler and practically devoid of life. Find the thermocline at various locations where there is also corresponding cover or structure changes, and you'll catch lots of fish. Or at least that's the theory.
The truth is that thermoclines do form in deep lakes where there isn't much water movement or current. In Kentucky Lake, however, that's not the case in most areas. That's because water in Kentucky Lake is almost constantly being pulled through the dam to generate electricity and such stratification seldom occurs - even in the deepest water. Wind and wave action also tend to keep the water mixed up as you move toward shore.
What is more impactful to fishing in the coming weeks is the so-called fall turnover, when cooling air temperatures correspondingly cool down oxygenated surface water to the point that it sinks and displaces warmer and less oxygenated water below it. The water that rises, in turn, becomes more oxygenated. The fall turnover doesn't just happen all at once, though. It's a general progression that typically lasts for a few weeks.
Because it is a transition period between summer and fall, fishing suffers for a while as fish get re-acclimated and gradually move from deeper water toward the banks. Shad start migrating into the more oxygen-rich shallows and toward the backend of creeks and coves, and pull the bass with them. Eventually, once everything settles down again, fishing points, brushy shoreline cover and places where the bank steps off will be more productive.
So much for the ecology lesson; let's talk about what's biting now. Mainly, it's catfish. For whatever reason, catfish are feeding aggressively and good catches are being made in water from about 20 feet deep out to the river channel in water 40 to 50 feet deep. Prepared catfish bait or chicken liver are working better than anything. If you don't have a boat, try fishing from a bridge dike. Just make sure it's legal where you're fishing.
Otherwise, it's status quo for bass and crappie. Schooling largemouths, though generally not very big, are still being caught on the flats on a variety of topwater poppers and spoons. Otherwise, fish the ledges in deeper water with big plastic worms or deep-diving crankbaits. Crappie are taking jigs or trolled 300 series bandits along ledges in 14-16 feet of water in the big coves.
That's about it for now. Here's a parting tip, though. Watch the bream fishermen. When you start seeing them fishing the banks again, it's time to really concentrate on shallower water for bass. The fall fishing season is about to heat up.
This is Dave Washburn for FLW Outdoors, signing off til next week.
Dave Washburn is a lifelong fisherman and FLW Outdoors Operations Director.