FRANKFORT, Ky. – A day spent catching fish from the bank of a
pond or lake will hook a novice angler and entertain the most experienced one.
May traditionally offers good opportunities
for anglers as fish move shallow to spawn - and into easy casting range.
“If you’re interested in catching fish, this
time of year is really cool,” said Neal Jackson, western fisheries district
biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “You
have channel catfish, you have bluegill and you have redear, all in the same
“You could be fishing with light tackle and
catch a 12-inch redear, which fights like a mule, and the next cast you might
catch a 5-pound channel cat on your 6-pound line.”
If redear sunfish are what you’re after,
Kentucky and Barkley lakes hold excellent populations with some fish pushing 12
“When you factor in the roundness of the
fish, it’s the size of a small plate,” Jackson said. “That size sunfish is
something a lot of people haven’t ever seen. When you catch one it just blows
you away. Even the smaller ones, the 10 inchers, are really impressive.”
The redear, also known as a shellcracker
because of its ability to crack open snail and small mussel shells, typically
begins spawning when the water temperature climbs into the 70s.
Redears colonize like bluegill, but nest in
deeper water. To locate shellcrackers, look for bedding bluegill up against a
bank. Then focus your attention on deeper water a little farther out from the
Shellcrackers often gather in the backs of
the bays in areas with gravel bottoms and vegetation like milfoil or mustard
“The redear seem to key on the aquatic
vegetation,” Jackson said. “I assume that’s got to do with the fact they feed
on snails and mussels.”
A period of stable weather and consistent
lake levels help improve an angler’s odds.
“We went a week ago and caught a bunch of
fish in a couple feet of water,” Jackson said. “But then we got a 10-degree
drop in water temperature. We went back the next day just to see if they were
still in that same spot and we didn’t catch them. The water was a little muddy
and the temperature had dropped.”
Good baits include red worms, wax worms, mealworms
and crickets, or small artificial baits like a jig in black or brown that
mimics a snail or small insect. Fish these underneath a bobber and close to the
Another option is crawling a red worm. Tie a
hook a few inches above a 3/16-ounce weight – anglers call this a drop-shot rig
– then slowly move it along the bottom until you locate fish.
McNeely Lake in Jefferson County, Cedar
Creek Lake in Lincoln County, Beaver Lake in Anderson County and Pan Bowl Lake
in Breathitt County also offer good opportunities to catch large redear
The statewide daily creel limit is 20 fish
and there is no size limit, but some water bodies have special regulations.
Pick up a copy of the 2014 Kentucky Fishing and Boating Guide or download one
online at fw.ky.gov for details.