Wednesday May 22, 2024
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Photo: Kentucky Department Fish And Wildlife

This spring seems like one long continuation of late winter. As soon as we get a warm day, the temperature plunges and we are back in February again. It even snowed on Monday of the third week of April.

This up and down weather combined with cold rains has the spring fishing season behind by a few weeks. The spawning runs of white bass into the headwaters of reservoirs are scattershot so far this spring, with some movement followed by retreat.

“I don’t think the white bass have really had a chance to run yet,” said Ron Brooks, director of Fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “I think the fluctuating water temperatures are screwing them up a bit. We need a sustained warm front to get them going.”

Water temperatures are in the low 50s in most reservoirs and streams across Kentucky.

Anglers fishing the headwaters of Taylorsville Lake found rewarding, but sporadic, fishing over the last week. “Last Thursday, I took home six white bass, but on Friday, I took home 10, at least four of them over 15 inches,” said Clifford Scott, internal policy analyst for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “I had to walk quietly out of there because I had the biggest stringer of fish.”

Scott took his fish with a combination of old-school 2-inch curly-tailed grubs in white and yellow along with a 2-inch Bobby Garland Baby Shad in pink and pearl.

“I saw small shad all over the place,” Scott said. “Once I saw them, I switched to the Baby Shad. You had to fish for the white bass, they were not on a hard run, but produced enough action to keep your interest.”

The upper part of Taylorsville Lake WMA grants bank access to anglers that produces fishing comparable to those in boats.

Mike Hardin, assistant director of Fisheries, caught some white bass in the upper reaches of Taylorsville Lake this past weekend. “We caught them above the first riffle from the impounded water,” he said. “We caught a mixed bag of different sizes and caught more in the evening than in the morning. The males were marked up in breeding colors. We caught a few females, so they are already staging for the spawn.”

White bass populations are by nature cyclic, and good fishing often erupts in lakes over the course of a year or two.

Green River Lake is one of those lakes poised for a white bass breakout. Southwestern Fisheries District biologist Eric Cummins and crew conducted white bass population sampling on the lake last year. They found excellent reproduction in 2014 for white bass, producing an expanding population of fish 14 inches and longer in the lake.

Last week, some bass anglers fishing a tournament on Green River Lake reported incidental catches of white bass while fishing crankbaits for largemouth bass. Anglers should search the Robinson Creek arm from Wilson Creek up to the KY 76 Bridge (Knifley Road) and in the Green River arm above Holmes Bend.

Bank anglers can access the upper end of the Robinson Creek arm at the Elkhorn Ramp and the Wilson Creek Recreation Area. They may also access the upper section of the Green River arm at the Snake Creek Ramp and other roads on the Green River WMA in that area.

Cave Run Lake is another reservoir with growing numbers of white bass. Population surveys conducted in 2017 show high numbers of larger fish, which should mean good fishing in 2018. Search for surface activity to find white bass in spring on the lake.

The fishing peaks in summer on Cave Run, when white bass get in the “jumps” by trapping shad against the surface and ripping through them. The confluence near the mouth of Buck Creek as well as the areas around the Clay Lick and Alfrey boat ramps make excellent places to search for them when it gets hot. Any shad imitating topwater cast into the jumps will get smoked.

Some anglers caught fish in the Broad Ford area in the headwaters of Nolin River Lake a few weeks ago, but the fishing slowed with the cold rains that accompanied major frontal passages earlier in April. The sustained warm weather in the upcoming forecast will draw waves of white bass into Nolin River Lake above Bacon Creek Ramp.

Fast and furious fishing during the spring runs makes white bass one of the most popular fish anglers pursue. When they are on, you can catch several fish on consecutive casts.

In-line spinners like the venerable Rooster Tail in white, chartreuse and pink all score white bass. You can work an in-line spinner near the surface or let it sink a few feet and retrieve. Vary the depths of the retrieve until you hit fish.

Like what Scott found last week, small shad-shaped soft plastic lures or curly tailed grubs also attract white bass. Some anglers fishing the headwaters of reservoirs suspend 1/16- to 1/32-ounce white feather or hair jigs under bobbers and let them drift in the current. Change the depth of the jig until you find white bass.

Anglers may keep 15 white bass daily, but only five of the daily limit may be longer than 15 inches. White bass fishing gives you a fantastic reason to buy your fishing license, so don’t forget to get one if you haven’t already.

Photo from KDF

February days in the 60s make for crowded boat ramps and golf courses during a time of year usually spent indoors.

Everything, nature wise, seems a couple of weeks ahead of schedule. Buds show on lilac bushes, green grass already grows in bunches and the sound of lawn mowers permeates an afternoon backyard barbecue.

The rare winter temperatures may alter white bass spawning runs as well.

“With the weather pattern so far, I would be looking at the white bass getting going a little earlier than usual,” said Rob Rold, Northwestern Fisheries District biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “When we’ve had consecutive warm days, the white bass run up a bit into the headwaters above Nolin River Lake, but when it cools they go back down in the lake. They will do false runs until it gets right.”

Water temperatures are in the low 50s on Nolin River Lake, while other lakes such as Taylorsville Lake are flirting with water temperatures in the mid 50s.

“It should be getting close,” said David Baker, Central Fisheries District biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “We are doing a creel survey on Herrington and the white bass are staging in the upper one-third of the lake, waiting for the next temperature spike. A good warm front with water temperatures getting into the upper 50s, they will start moving to the shoals in the upper lake of both Herrington and Taylorsville.”

Baker said Herrington gets the nod for size of white bass. “There are a lot of really big white bass in Herrington, many up to 14 inches long. For catching a big white bass, Herrington is better than Taylorsville,” he said. Taylorsville Lake produces numbers of white bass, but less size.

Anglers may access the upper section of Herrington Lake and Dix River via Bryants Camp Boat Ramp in Garrard County. Bank anglers may access the Salt River above Taylorsville Lake via River Road on the Taylorsville Lake Wildlife Management Area until the opening of spring turkey season April 15. Boaters use Van Buren Boat Ramp on Taylorsville Lake.

Nolin River Lake holds arguably the best white bass population in Kentucky.
Rold said the Cane Run area, known to locals as the “Three Fingers,” in the upper lake upstream to Broad Ford at the KY 1214 Bridge is usually where the white bass runs begin.

“The length of day really dictates when they will run, even if it is not the preferred water temperature,” Rold said. “They start staging around Cane Run. It is a bit early, but they will come on soon.”

Rold said bank anglers use the access at Bacon Creek for productive white bass fishing. “Go to Bacon Creek ramp and walk the bank up or down,” he said. “The Corps property goes all the way up past Broad Ford. At winter pool, Broad Ford is the first shoal on Nolin River upstream of the lake.”

The tailwaters downstream of the locks and dams on the lower Green River also provide excellent white bass fishing. “The water below Lock and Dam 1 at Spottsville, Lock and Dam 2 at Calhoun and Lock and Dam 3 at Rochester all have decent white bass,” Rold said. “The mouth of Pond River downstream of Calhoun at Jewel City has a big white bass fishery. They run up into Pond River.”

Anglers may access the mouth via a public boat ramp at Jewel City. The tailwater below Lock and Dam 2 has a boat ramp and limited bank access at the end of Second Street in Rumsey, across the river from Calhoun. The tailwaters below Lock and Dam 3 at Rochester offer excellent bank access just west of town on Boat Ramp Road via KY 70.

The smaller male white bass make the initial runs. You will catch many fish during this time, but most will be of similar size. You often catch fish on consecutive casts when the males are running.

“By the first weeks of April, the females show up and it is prime,” Baker said. “This is the best fishing of spring runs.”

Running white bass hit anything that resembles baitfish with abandon, one of the keys to their enduring popularity. When the spring white bass runs peak, nothing else compares to the furious fishing.

White, chartreuse or gray in-line spinners are hard to beat during the runs, but 2-inch white curly tailed grubs rigged on 1/16-ounce leadheads also produce many white bass. Anglers also suspend 1/32-ounce white and red, pink or yellow feather jigs from 18 to 24 inches deep under small bobbers and allow them to drift in the current. Some anglers tip the feather jigs with small crappie minnows to make them more attractive to white bass.

As the runs peak, small topwater propeller baits draw vicious strikes, but you get more consistent action with subsurface presentations.

The next long sustained warm front will get the white bass running. It is time for the most exciting fishing of the year. Remember to buy your fishing license. The new license year began March 1.