Back when I was a kid, I always looked forward to the day when the Sears Wish Book appeared in the mailbox. I would spend days poring over the 300-plus pages of toys in this catalog, daydreaming of playing with nearly everything in the book.
Nowadays, I have big-boy toys like fishing rods and tackle. My new wish book is the fishing forecast published each year by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. This year’s forecast contains 36 pages of fishing information and tips, including a lake-by-lake breakdown of fish populations.
The forecast is handy for planning fishing trips and deciding which new lakes to explore. Kentucky and Barkley lakes in the western part of the state top my personal fishing list for March and April.
These two lakes are spring crappie fishing hotspots for anglers from all over the north-central United States. This is because lakes to the north may still be icy and the drive is much closer than southern crappie destinations, such as Weiss Lake in Alabama or Lake Okeechobee in Florida.
Paul Rister, the department’s fisheries biologist in the western end of the state, says crappie populations in Kentucky and Barkley lakes have rebounded from poor year classes that occurred in 2005-2008.
“We’re expecting a good spring crappie season because we’ve had a few good spawns in recent years,” he says. “Fish from the 2009 year class have finally grown past the 10-inch size limit. While anglers are not going to be catching a lot of trophy crappie, the outlook is good for crappie in the 11-inch range.”
The lakes have both white and black crappie. White crappie have barred sides and look longer and leaner. They move up into shallow water to spawn just a bit later than black crappie. Black crappie have mottled sides and are chunkier than white crappie.
Crappie typically start their move toward shallow water when water temperatures reach the mid-50s. This could be as early as mid-March if the winter has been mild. In early spring, look for the black crappie along rocky shorelines and pea-sized gravel banks on sunny days when the water is clear. Black crappie loaf in these areas because the rocks absorb solar heat and warm the water. Catch them by casting green curly-tailed grubs, purple and pearl tube jigs, or a minnow fished under a bobber. Keep your boat well away from the bank to keep from spooking the fish. The white crappie may still be found in deeper water along the creek channels and drop-offs.
Crappie spawn around submerged bushes and woody cover in less than six feet of water when the water temperatures reach 57 degrees. This occurs anywhere from mid-March to mid-April. Drop a minnow or tube jig around spawning cover to catch these fish.
Overall, the forecast for fishing in Kentucky this year calls for fun. Take your family fishing—and enjoy Kentucky’s great outdoors.
To receive your free copy of the 2013 Kentucky Fishing Forecast and Tips, call (800) 858-1549, or download it online at www.fw.ky.gov
by searching “2013 fishing forecast” to locate the link.