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Art Lander’s Outdoors: Spring fishing is underway, but anglers should monitor weather trends

The calendar says yes, but the weather forecast can be iffy.

Spring fishing is underway and now is the time for anglers to pay close attention to weather trends — temperature fluctuations, outlooks for precipitation, and storm fronts, to pick the best times to wet a line.

Springtime in Kentucky means unsettled weather, and sometimes snow, as we experienced this week. Make the most of your time on the water by fishing when conditions are best.

Anglers cast jigs, spinnerbaits, plastics, and suspending jerk baits to catch largemouth bass as they begin to move up into the shallows to spawn in the spring (Photo provided)

Affects of weather on spring fishing

Here’s a few observations on how weather affects fishing in the spring:

• The worst fishing conditions are high, muddy, cold waters, followed by a bluebird (clear, high pressure) day. Cold fronts push fish deeper.
• The best fishing conditions are stable and clearing waters, with a slight warming trend and overcast skies.
• Rapidly falling water levels pull fish out into deeper water.
• Bright sun warms up stained or turbid waters, drawing fish into the shallows.
• The best fishing begins when water temperatures push into the mid-to-upper 50s.
• Rain is not all bad. Warm rain entering a cold lake concentrates fish where the run-in (creek) enters the lake.
• Snowmelt is bad because it’s cold water, which pushes fish deeper.
• Fish follow subtle water level rises into the shallows, especially as the spawn approaches.
• Windblown points, and shorelines in bays can be productive fishing spots because winds push schools of bait up against the bank.
• Light, warm winds raise the temperature of the surface layer of water.

Two popular spring fish and top waters in the region

Two of the most popular fish species with springtime anglers in Central Kentucky are largemouth bass and crappie. Here are some updates on top bass and crappie waters in the region:

• Anglers cast jigs, spinnerbaits, plastics, and suspending jerk baits to catch largemouth bass as they begin to move up into the shallows to spawn.

Small lakes warm up faster and earlier than major reservoirs so they are a good option for largemouth bass in late March and early April.

The largemouth bass is Kentucky’s number one sport fish. Generally, largemouth bass are a sport fish, for catch-and-release (Photo provided)

Kincaid Lake and Guist Creek Lake are two good choices for early spring bass fishing. Concentrate fishing efforts on the upper sections of these small lakes, and at the heads of shallow coves, near channels.

Kincaid Lake, 183 acres in Pendleton County, has a good to excellent bass fishery with lots of fish over the 12-inch size limit and up to 15 inches, with excellent potential for a trophy-sized fish.

Guist Creek Lake, 317 acres in Shelby County, has a good to excellent bass fishery with good numbers of fish over the 12-inch size limit, with excellent potential for 15 to 18-inch bass, and trophy-sized fish over 20 inches.

Two major reservoirs in the region, Green River Lake, and Herrington Lake, also offer excellent early spring bass fishing.

Green River Lake, 8,210 acres in Taylor and Adair counties, has quality in numbers, with lots of 15 to 18-inch plus bass.

Herrington Lake, 2,500 acres in Mercer, Boyle, and Garrard counties, has a good to excellent bass fishery, with good numbers of 12 to 15-inch bass, and larger, and potential for trophy-sized fish.

• As crappie move up, they concentrate around submerged shoreline cover.

Anglers cast jigs and still fish live minnows below floats to catch crappie. While generally, largemouth bass are sport fish, for catch-and-release, crappie are fished for to be eaten. There’s nothing quite like a meal of fried crappie fillets, served with coleslaw, hushpuppies and fried potatoes.

New this year is a 20-fish daily creel limit on crappie. Check the Kentucky Fishing and Boating Guide for special regulations regarding minimum size limits and reduced creel limits on crappie at some lakes. Click here to view: fw.ky.gov

In the spring, crappie move up from deep water, and concentrate around submerged shoreline cover (Photo provided)

Boltz Lake, 92 acres in Grant County, has an abundant crappie fishery, rated good. A majority of the fish are around eight inches long, with larger fish possible.

Herrington Lake, 2,500 acres in Mercer, Boyle, and Garrard counties, has a good crappie fishery. While crappie are often difficult to locate in this deep, rocky lake, there are many quality-sized fish, nine inches or larger. One fishing strategy for white crappie is fishing brush or fallen trees in upper half of lake. A second tactic targets scattered schools of large black crappie, found around floating wood debris in inlets on the main lake.

The Ohio River is 981 miles long from its headwaters in Pennsylvania to its confluence with the Mississippi River at Cairo, IL. The Ohio River forms the northern border of Kentucky for about two-thirds of its length, with numerous tributaries, both large and small, arising in Kentucky. Surprisingly, crappie fisheries are rated good to excellent in these backwater areas and creek mouths, where there’s submerged brush, deadfalls and driftwood.

Taylorsville Lake, 3,050 acres in Spencer, Anderson and Nelson counties, has a crappie fishery rated good, with good number of fish at and above the 10-inch minimum size limit. The lake had a good spawn of white and black crappie on 2015, so strong year classes are coming on. The daily creel limit is 15 crappie.

Lake Cumberland, 50,250 acres in Russell, Wayne, Clinton and Pulaski counties, has an excellent crappie fishery, with moderate numbers of fish, but good size distribution. Larger fish, in the 12 to 14-inch size range are common. Fish minnows and jigs around submerged cover in the major tributaries.

To get details on current fish populations in all of Kentucky’s major lakes and rivers, consult the 2018 Fishing Forecast, published by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR).

The forecast is based on 2017 fish population surveys, creel surveys, fish stockings, and historical knowledge of the fisheries.

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1Art Lander Jr.

Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for KyForward. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.

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