When the dogwood blooms swell and the temperature begins its spring rise, you’ll find Mayfield resident Jackie Matheny and a navy of other anglers searching for slab crappie in Kentucky Lake.
“Why am I so interested in crappie fishing? If you ever have a good day, you’ll understand,” Matheny explains. “When you have four poles go down at once—and you’ve got a 2-pound crappie on all of them—that’s why I crappie fish.”
Crappie fishing is a spring ritual to many Kentucky anglers. At this time of year, crappie move onto the submerged flats near old creek channels in preparation for spawning around exposed tree roots and bushes closer to shore. Nearly 80 percent of crappie caught in Kentucky Lake—the state’s premier crappie destination—are caught during March and April.
Fisheries biologist Paul Rister, who heads a study of crappie movement in the lake, says these fish congregate around submerged brush piles and stake beds before moving to spawning areas. Fish feed heavily before dropping eggs—the reason why anglers enjoy so much success in the spring.
Rister suggests fishing shallower areas if you’re not catching crappie in deep water. Research shows that black crappie move to shallow areas by March and may linger through June. White crappie, the other type of crappie in the lake, stay longer in deep water before moving toward the banks.
Although minnows are traditional crappie baits, many anglers are switching to small, 1-inch tube jigs. Chartreuse is the hottest color on Kentucky Lake. Natural colors are also worth a try if the fishing is slow.
For the most success, put out several fishing rods rigged for a variety of depths and drift your boat over submerged wood cover or bushes. Crappie are schooling fish, so where there’s one, there’s bound to be more. Anchoring your boat over fish can scare them off.
Visit www.fw.ky.gov and look under the fishing section for current information on Kentucky Lake crappie.
If western Kentucky is too distant, other places rated excellent for crappie include Buckhorn and Rough River Lake.
Learn what’s happening in nature each month, gain valuable fishing tips, and see hunting seasons at a glance with the 2004-05 Kentucky Afield Outdoor Calendar. The calendar, which also features Kentucky’s finest outdoor photography, is published in June. It is included with a subscription to Kentucky Afield magazine. Order this month at www.fw.ky.gov to reserve your copy.