Due to the global economic meltdown, I ended up with a one week furlough last week. Luckily the company is allowing us to pick our weeks, so mine fit nicely on a five day trip to Kentucky Lake with the in-laws. The wife and I showed up last Tuesday to Cedar Knob Resort, a fishing focused group of cabins near Benton on the Johnson Creek bay. The Johnson Creek area was large enough that we never had a need to explore the main lake because we never finished exploring the bay. On the last day though, we rented a pontoon and spent the day getting sunburned on the main lake.
The weather cooperated for the most part, we got a nice mix of hot sun and cool rain, and the fishing was good. Over the course of three and a half days of serious fishing, the group ended up catching ten (maybe twelve) species of fish. The variety was a very nice surprise, because everything I'd read about Kentucky Lake focused on bass and crappie. After the fat lady sang, the species taken and possitively identified were largemouth bass, spotted bass, black crappie, bluegill, red ear sunfish (locals call them shellcrackers), long ear sunfish, channel catfish, sauger, and yellow perch. The species taken and not really identified were either white, yellow or striped bass. I'm not very familiar with the temperate bass species, so I'll let you decide what we caught...more on that later.
We caught plenty of largemouth and spotted bass, but none of them were particularly note worthy. In fact, now that I've had a chance to review the pictures we only have proof of catching one largemouth. It was a fish I had deep hooked and I was performing surgery when my wife caught her first of the trip - a crappie. While lining up the shot, I held the fish out over the water, hoping to keep it out of her shot...here is the result. I could have achieved the desired effect with a quick crop, but this picture is a little funny as is. She claims I'm trying to steal the spotlight and it looks like I am.
We'd been having fun catching some small white/yellow bass from the dock, so I had a minnow under a bobber during a light shower when I caught the heaviest fish of the trip. It was a hoot bringing in a 3.5lb channel cat on a 5'6" ultralight rod with 4lb test. After a long argument about whether or not it should be under the dock, I somehow got it up and weighed it. I was alone at the time, so I managed a picture as proof.
The cat might have been the heaviest, but the nicest fish was a fourteen inch crappie my father-in-law caught on the first day. This after catching an eleven incher the day before. Anything over ten inches is pretty good where I come from, but the crappies on Kentucky Lake enjoy a ten inch keeper limit. This one is still swimming around down there somewhere if you're interested.
I need your help. We caught plenty of small fish about the size of the one below. Most I believe were white bass, but this one looks more like a yellow. Any temperate bass experts out there?
And this guy my wife caught in the main channel. You may have noticed she wasn't holding any of her fish in previous pictures. This one flopped off the hook so her normal pose wasn't possible and I had to help her out. Isn't she cute? My first thought was this is a white bass, but after some internet research I'm not so sure. Is this a white, a striper or a hybrid?
If it's a white bass it might take over the "nicest fish" title from her dad's crappie. I'm curious what you think.
My wife caught the first and largest sauger of the trip and I followed up that night with a sauger of my own. Both fish came in fairly shallow water, an oddity this time of year but it happened twice in a day for us. I noticed water temps had fallen from 80 degrees on Tuesday to 75 degrees on Friday. Perhaps the sudden drop confused a couple. Sauger are such a pretty fish and catching these made me long for the days when I focused mainly on Illinois River sauger, maybe some time on the river is in order.
Also of note was the yellow perch I caught. I took a picture of this not due to it's size, but because this is the first yellow perch I've ever caught. It came on a crawler fished from the dock.
Another first for me was a red ear. How I caught the read ear is the interesting bit. It bit on a crawler and I caught it with a shaky head jig. In case you didn't understand that, here's how it went down. I had a crawler sitting quietly under a bobber on the dock and was fishing a shaky head worm. My shaky head got hung up, so I walked down the dock to get a better angle at getting it out. While unsnagging the jig we heard a big splash. My ultralight rod was gone. We stood around a few seconds scratching our heads, then my bobber floated back up. On my first toss, I hooked the line with my jig and pulled in the fish. Then pulled up my rod. I didn't get a picture of the rascal, maybe I was too flustered about losing and then finding my rod.
Beyond the variety of fish, the other surprise came on Friday. I don't follow tournament fishing, but apparently the pros (the real pros, you know...the kind that hold trophies up in front of fireworks) were on the lake Wednesday through Saturday. During our pontoon expedition on the main lake, it was easy to pick out the pros. They were the ones shooting all over the lake in big sponsored boats while we tooled around in our rented pontoon with a 40hp 4-stroke. If I'd known that before Friday I might have tried to make a weigh in, or at least ventured out of the bay to spectate a little.
I think for the next furlough, I'll be drinking more lemonade.