Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Big Crappie from Small Kentucky Lakes

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Every spring, anglers pursuing crappie during April’s spawn flock to large reservoirs such as Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkley, Barren River Lake or even Green River Lake. However, crappie fishing in the big lakes is tough if you don’t have a good-sized power boat.

The good news is Kentucky offers several smaller state-owned lakes with excellent crappie fishing. These lakes, some of which are under 100 acres, can easily be fished from a kayak, johnboat or even from the bank.

Where to begin? Start your fishing adventure by reading through the 2024 Kentucky Fishing Forecast. The forecast provides great tips and useful information about crappie populations in these lakes.

Next, visit the Lakes with Fish Attractors page online at to find fishing locations at each lake. You can also download the Fish Boat KY app to your phone to access fishing maps, waterbody lists, fishing stocking schedules and more.

The app and the Kentucky Fishing and Boating Guide alert you to lakes with special regulations on size limits for crappie. Otherwise, there are no minimum size limits on crappie statewide. On all waterbodies, anglers may keep up to 20 crappie a day.

Using the fishing forecast as a guide, several small lakes in the state stand out for crappie fishing. In central Kentucky, Beaver, Boltz and Benjy Kinman lakes offer excellent opportunities for crappie anglers.

Beaver Lake covers 158 acres in Anderson County and has an expanding crappie population. “The black crappie numbers in Beaver are insane,” said David Baker, Central Fishery District biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “It is the best since I’ve been in the district. This past year we saw many crappie of 9-plus inches - and quite a few over 10 inches.”

Beaver Lake has oodles of fish habitat placed in its waters by fisheries personnel, including brush piles and Christmas trees. A live minnow suspended under a bobber and fished near this cover draws strikes from hungry crappie.

Although Boltz Lake in Grant County is just 92 acres, it earned a 4-star rating for crappie in the 2024 Fishing Forecast. “It is good,” Baker said. “The crappie in Boltz had a history of over-crowding. About 5 or 6 years ago, the size of the crappie began to increase with more 9 and 10 inchers and some larger.”

Baker said Boltz Lake is perfect for canoes, kayaks or johnboats - like the one he uses to fish the lake. “I troll crankbaits in summer in that top 10 feet of the water column,” he said. “I come home with a cooler full of crappie.”

Baker recommends anglers keep some crappie for the dinner table as a bumper crop or two of crappie spawns can lead to overpopulation and stunting. “Some harvest is our preference for the crappie in Boltz Lake,” he said.

Benjy Kinman Lake is an 88-acre lake on the Boone Tract of Kentucky River Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The lake is ringed with flooded timber and holds ample brush piles placed in the lake by fisheries staff. A 2-inch boot-tail crappie grub rigged weedless on a 1/16-ounce leadhead worked in the brush piles or among the flooded timber draws strikes from crappie. Electric chicken, lime green with a chartreuse tail and pearl are good colors to fish.

In Eastern Kentucky, anglers should pay a visit to 1,100-acre Dewey Lake in Floyd County. Although it’s much larger than Boltz or Beaver lakes, Dewey offers some of the best bank fishing opportunities for crappie in the state. Fish habitat sites placed near the shoreline along KY 302 in the northwest quadrant of the lake are the best places for bank anglers to catch crappie.

Fisheries staff see good populations of white and black crappie in Dewey. Many white crappie in the lake run from 9 to 13 inches, while a large chunk of the black crappie run from 9 to 11 inches. A live minnow suspended under a bobber and fished over brush piles draws strikes from crappie.

Carr Creek Lake in Knott County is another good crappie lake in the east. The better black crappie in Carr Creek run 10 to 13 inches while white crappie run up to the bruiser 15-inch size.

This lake is laden with habitat structures. The upper lake - upstream of the Defeated Creek arm - holds mega stake beds, mossback structures, plastic trees, pallet stacks and Christmas trees. These upper lake structures are the best places to fish in spring.

Carr Creek Lake also has substantial numbers of hardwood trees that were cut along the shoreline and felled into the water. Crappie use this cover throughout the year.

The water in Carr Creek Lake usually runs clear, like many lakes in the mountains. More subtle soft plastic lures designed for crappie such as the Baby Shad, Shad Pole and tubes may draw more strikes in Carr Creek Lake.

In southcentral Kentucky, crappie anglers should head to Shanty Hollow Lake. This 135-acre lake in Warren and Edmonson counties holds surprisingly large crappie up to 14 inches. The department’s Fisheries Division placed many Christmas trees near the boat ramp off KY 1592 (Shanty Hollow Road), a spot easily reached by paddlecraft.

A chartreuse or white marabou 1/16-ounce Roadrunner spinner lure worked above these sunken trees fool crappie in this lake.

Try these lakes for productive spring crappie fishing. You don’t need to own expensive equipment to catch a limit of these delicious fish, a delicacy in Kentucky for generations.