This is the Fourth installment of a series of articles titled “Fall Fishing Festival” profiling the productive fishing on Kentucky’s lakes, rivers and streams in fall.
The incredible weather so far this fall has many in Kentucky thinking about football, deer hunting, Keeneland and crappie fishing.
Yes, crappie fishing. This may be the most consistent time of year to catch a species most associate with the spring dogwood blooms. Water temperatures are now dropping into the best range for good fall fishing.
To help insure good fishing in future years, the fisheries division of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources will stock roughly 260,000 2- to 4-inch white and black crappie from Kentucky Lake in the west to Paintsville Lake in the east over the next few weeks.
Paintsville Lake in Johnson and Morgan counties receives 35,000 black crappie today. Carr Creek Lake in Knott County receives 14,000 white crappie on Oct. 21 while Taylorsville Lake in Spencer, Anderson and Nelson counties receives 61,000 white crappie on the same day. The Blood River embayment on Kentucky Lake gets about 150,000 white crappie Oct. 24.
“The stockings are part of a research study to evaluate whether crappie stockings in bad reproductive years will improve crappie populations down the road,” said Gerry Buynak, assistant director of fisheries for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.
Eastern Kentucky anglers have three good crappie lakes to hit this fall. Buckhorn Lake in Leslie and Perry counties, Dewey Lake in Floyd County and Fishtrap Lake in Pike County all hold good crappie populations, contrary to the belief that other parts of the state are the main crappie strongholds.
Kevin Frey, eastern fisheries district biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, said the upper lake regions of these lakes are the places to crappie fish right now.
“Target structure on the shallow mud flats in the upper parts of these lakes,” Frey said. “All three of these lakes are putting out nice, big fish, but Dewey seems to be doing a little better. It has a lot of black crappie over 11 inches and many white crappie in the 14- to 15-inch range.” Anglers may want to fish Dewey soon as the winter drawdown begins Nov. 1.
Anglers will catch high numbers of crappie at Green River Lake this fall.
“Green River Lake is in the fall turnover,” said Eric Cummins, southwestern fisheries district biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “I would fish above Emerald Isle in the Robinson Creek arm and above Holmes Bend in the Green River Lake arm right now. The lower lake hasn’t turned over yet.”
Cummins recommends anglers target brush in the middle of coves with live minnows. “You’ll have to weed through fish to get some keepers, but you will catch a lot of them,” he said.
Barren River Lake is also undergoing fall turnover. Cummins said anglers should fish the upper half of the lake as well. “They’ve been catching nice crappie all summer and into fall,” he said. “We have some nice black crappie in the 11-inch range in Barren and good numbers of white crappie a little larger.”
The white crappie at Kentucky Lake are on deep brush piles in 12- to 20-feet of water in the mouths of creeks such as Jonathan Creek and along deeper channels in the major creeks such as Blood River. Fish chartreuse and red tube jigs rigged on1/16-ounce leadheads for these fish.
With colder weather coming, black crappie will move shallow along pea gravel banks on Kentucky Lake. Cast 1/8-ounce chartreuse Roadrunners or lime green curly-tailed grubs rigged on the same weight leadhead near the bank. Work these lures back to the boat with a steady retrieve, similar to bass fishing with a crankbait.
Stay well off the banks and cast as far as possible. Black crappie spook from the shallows with the slightest sound from a tackle box lid or dropped pair of pliers.
Anglers report recently catching nice crappie from the Fishing Creek arm of Lake Cumberland on small shad-shaped soft plastic lures. The Ohio River is also producing nice white crappie off brush in backwater areas.
Hit these waters this fall for some of the most consistent crappie fishing of the year. You don’t have to wait until the dogwood blooms next spring for some highly productive fishing.
Author Lee McClellan is an award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.