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March 23, 2018

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)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)


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

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

 

March 20, 2018

RIVERBED BUBBLER AND SOUND SYSTEM TO BE USED ON ASIAN CARP

Bill Schroeder of Paducah is shown at left in the photo above after he landed this world record Asian Carp in Lake Barkley in May of 2015. A new study will begin his fall on methods to slow the spread of the invasive species in local waters.Bill Schroeder of Paducah is shown at left in the photo above after he landed this world record Asian Carp in Lake Barkley in May of 2015. A new study will begin his fall on methods to slow the spread of the invasive species in local waters.

The Lake News

Frankfort – Researchers will experiment with a riverbed bubbler and sound system as part of the ongoing effort to slow the spread of Asian carp throughout the Mississippi River basin.

European technology originally designed to steer migrating salmon back into main river channels will be tested below Barkley Dam in western Kentucky as an environmentally friendly way to block passage of Asian carp upstream.

The Bio-Acoustic Fish Fence (BAFF) creates a curtain of bubbles, and in conjunction with a powerful sound signal, produces an underwater “wall of sound” designed to deter the passage of fish.

Fish Guidance Systems,LTD, a company based in the United Kingdom, invented the device to herd migrating fish around water intakes and dams in Europe. The company describes the fence as a behavioral barrier that requires less maintenance than a physical barrier, such as a screen or an electrical barrier.

A multi-agency research group chose the company’s technology for the Barkley Dam test. The Nashville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Geological Survey, University of Minnesota, Fish Guidance Systems and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources are combining funding, technology and staff to construct a research plan that should put an acoustic bubbler system below the dam in fall 2018.

Researchers will use an existing telemetry receiver array and other electronic devices to assess the extent of Asian carp movement from the tailwater into Barkley Lake. The existence of the current telemetry array – set up by local Kentucky Fish and Wildlife research staff dedicated to Asian carp – and the large numbers of Asian carp in the tailwater make Barkley Dam the ideal location for the research.

The invasive Asian carp are a major concern throughout the Mississippi River basin, including the Tennessee River, which forms Kentucky Lake, and the Cumberland River, which forms Lake Barkley. These are two of the largest reservoirs in Kentucky.

The lock systems of Kentucky and Barkley dams are the primary sources of reservoir access for Asian carp, which continue to expand their range throughout the Mississippi and Ohio river basins.

Bio-acoustic fish fences below lock chambers in the Mississippi River basin are untested as an Asian carp deterrent. This requires research to assess the technology’s efficiency at reducing fish movement beyond the barriers. While this technology does not require construction of physical barriers such as fences, challenges remain.

The amount of barge and boat traffic through the lock at Lake Barkley’s dam could create logistical challenges for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Water depths during low-flow periods below the lock chamber will be marginally sufficient to pass barges through. A large volume of sizeable debris coming through the lock chambers during floods could pose problems for the sound system and bubble barrier.

Deployment of the fish barrier may affect a few anglers who fish in parts of the lock canal. Because of the potential for considerable damage to the system, the area between the lock walls immediately downstream of the chamber will be off limits to fishing. However, the area downstream of the bubble curtain located at the end of the short wall along shore will remain open.

Testing will occur over a three-year period. Most likely, officials will remove the barrier system after the test and the entire portion of the lock structure will reopen for fishing.

The research goals include determining the effectiveness of a sound barrier system at restricting or reducing movement of Asian carp through lock chambers; assessing the system’s resiliency; and determining the barrier’s effect on movement of native fish species through lock chambers. Information gathered from this research will be important to future tests at other dams in the Mississippi River and Ohio River basins.

 

March 19, 2018

Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Time to scout and develop a game plan as spring turkey season approaches

 

The landscape awakens almost spontaneously from its winter slumber. Winter flocks break up into smaller groups. Innumerable turkey calls and lifelike decoys reappear at sporting goods retailers.

Turkey hunters interpret these occurrences as signs that it will not be long before they are easing into their spots before dawn, filled with anticipation.

In Kentucky, hunters still have ample time to scout and develop a game plan to increase their odds of success in the upcoming spring turkey season. This year, Kentucky’s youth-only season is the weekend of April 7-8. The start of the 23-day general statewide season follows on April 14. It ends May 6.

“Start at the computer then get out in the field to find birds,” said Zak Danks, wild turkey program coordinator with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Know some different approaches you might take and where you can move based on gobbling you hear once the season starts. Think about some good set-up spots or places to put your decoys, or vantage points to see birds.”

 

Spring turkey hunting season opens statewide April 14 and closes May 6. The season outlook is promising as a majority of Kentucky counties show a stable to increasing harvest trend over the past decade. Kentucky hunters harvested just over 33,000 birds during last year’s spring turkey season, the third highest on record. (Photo from KyAfield)Spring turkey hunting season opens statewide April 14 and closes May 6. The season outlook is promising as a majority of Kentucky counties show a stable to increasing harvest trend over the past decade. Kentucky hunters harvested just over 33,000 birds during last year’s spring turkey season, the third highest on record. (Photo from KyAfield)

Virtual scouting can save precious time for hunters looking to hunt public land. Topographic maps and satellite views may reveal access points, existing trails, open fields, wooded areas, elevation changes and creeks or fences where approaching gobblers could hang up. Kentucky offers dozens of wildlife management areas and other lands open for public use.

As a reminder, turkey calling is not allowed from March 1 until the opening of the youth-only season, and from the close of that season until the opening of the statewide season. Hunters may still use an owl, crow or other calls to locate turkeys while scouting.

It is always a good practice before the season to shoot your shotgun at a paper turkey head target using different brands of turkey loads. By patterning a shotgun ahead of time, the hunter knows the shotgun will shoot where it is aimed and deliver an acceptable number of pellets to the turkey’s vital area (head and neck).

“One thing I’ve learned over the past several years is just how good the hunting can be later in the season,” Danks said. “Last year, in particular, I had hunters contacting me well after the season ended saying they were still hearing turkeys gobble. So don’t get discouraged if you don’t have success early on. There’s still time to find turkeys throughout the season.”

In Kentucky, the spring hunting seasons are timed to give gobblers enough time to breed hens before subjecting the birds to hunting pressure. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife monitors turkey reproduction on a statewide scale through annual summer brood surveys.

Weather during the nesting period in May and June influences reproductive success. Heavy rains in Kentucky and surrounding states during that timeframe last year affected nesting success, which reflected in a statewide average of 1.2 poults per hen. A figure of 2.0 or higher is optimal. Hunters should expect to encounter fewer of the more easily fooled jakes, as a result, this season.

Kentucky annually ranks first or second among surrounding states in the number of turkeys taken per square mile.
Hunters took a record number of birds during the 2010 spring season and have averaged more than 31,000 birds over the seven seasons since.

Last spring, hunters reported taking 33,061 birds, which represents a 6 percent increase over the previous year and the third highest total on record. Muhlenberg County led all counties with hunters reporting 681 birds taken there. Looking at it differently, Pendleton County led the state with 1.76 birds harvested per square mile.

The majority of counties are showing a stable to increasing harvest trend over the past decade. Some counties are exhibiting lower harvest totals. In response, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is expanding efforts to monitor the turkey population and reproduction. Feedback from hunters will play an important role.

A new spring hunting log and a post-season survey will soon be available on the department’s website at www.fw.ky.gov. On the homepage, type “Spring Turkey Hunting” into the search box. The log serves to collect information about a hunter’s daily hunting effort, the number of turkeys seen, heard and harvested, observations about weather and other species observed. The post-season survey will include questions about spring hunting experiences.

“Our harvest totals tell us that we’re still in a pretty good situation on a statewide level,” Danks said. “We are hearing from people who tell us they’re not seeing as many turkeys as they had in the past. Most of that is from counties that have shown a decrease in the harvest. What’s the reason? It’s difficult to determine on a statewide scale when all we’ve had to go on is a harvest. We need information on hunter effort on a county level.

“The information gained from these hunter surveys and logs should help us track trends across the state.”

Hunters are allowed a limit of two bearded birds during the spring season, but no more than one bearded bird may be taken in a day.

The 2018 Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide provides information about current regulations, licenses and permits, legal equipment, safety tips and more. Find it online at fw.ky.gov or wherever licenses are sold.

Hunters also will have an opportunity to have their questions about spring turkey season answered during a special “Kentucky Afield” TV call-in show scheduled Saturday, March 24. The live one-hour show will air at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central on Kentucky Educational Television (KET). Joining host Chad Miles for the show will be Danks and pioneering turkey hunter Harold Knight.

By Kevin Kelly
Special to KyForward

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Kevin Kelly is a writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. 

 

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