Five days on Hard Water

By Chris Erwin
Kentucky Angling News

In the spring of the year, we think about the water getting warm and the fish revving up, biting everything that looks appetizing. However, the spring can also be a time when the water is unstable throwing everything you know out the window. So was the case last week as I stayed on the lake for ten days and on the water for five of the ten days.

– Aaron Erwin the grandson of author Chris Erwin holding the first crappie caught on a crankbait. While the fishing was slow they caught many small bass, white bass and crappie. (photo by Chris Erwin)

Spring rains might bring May flowers but it also brings high water. Flooded streams surged Licking River eight feet out of its banks. I had many reports. The fish was still active, so I took some time and decided to do some middle of the week fishing.
I was looking forward to taking my time and fishing uncontested water. You know things don’t always go the way you plan, and this was one of those trips. However, I did manage to have some fun and catch a few fish.

I know it was going to get tough when I saw how hard they were pulling the water. Everything that would float was dragged to the middle of the river, and the current was visibly moving. These conditions usually pull fish from the bank. I also knew that the bluegill was nesting, and they should be in shallow water, which is a natural magnet for predators. That was also a problem because the water was in the trees and bushes, making it near impossible to get to them.

Each day the water fell a foot or more on some flats that uncovered a lot of ground, and as the week progressed, the fishing got a little better. After checking the depth finder, it was plain most of the fish were suspended in about 14 feet of water on secondary points and channel edges. I worked these areas hard, but the fish were not finding my offering to their liking.
By the third day on the water, the water level had receded to where many of the flats were fishable, and I started catching fish. The only problem was most of them were small. The bluegill and redeye were hitting like crazy. This, at least, kept me entertained while I changed baits and different presentations to try and find bigger fish.

Every so often, we hit a pocket of white bass they would strike your lure like a freight train many times right at the boat. They came in all sizes from 14 inches down to bait size. While they were fun, I was looking for something worthy of taking a picture.
My Grandson Aaron came down on Thursday. He is usually always working so we haven’t had a chance to fish together in a long time. This pretty much made my week; it doesn’t always have to be about catching fish. I haven’t seen any of my family for almost three months, so this was a treat for me.

Aaron and I caught a ton of small fish every day till Sunday when I packed up to come home. We found crappie around the down trees and on the flats in wind-protected coves. By this time, we were catching small bass with some regularity, but still, all in all, it was five days of fishing hard water! I hope to make another trip soon when the water is more stable, and maybe I will have better success. It was clear that once the water level got back to summer pool, the fish were ready to turn on. Stay safe and protect yourself and your loved ones. Chris Erwin is the founder and publisher of Kentucky Angling News an online magazine available at Chris can be reached by email

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