Longtime crappie guide and outdoor writer Steve McCadams
says on Tennessee’s Kentucky Lake, fishermen can usually find great
crappie fishing at the end of the rainbow. (Photo: Richard Simms)
Destination: Paris Landing State Park, Tennessee
by Keith Sutton
A trip to this Kentucky Lake hideaway may be just what the doctor ordered for an unforgettable family vacation this summer.
As June begins, many schools are letting out for the summer, and many people are making plans for a vacation. If you are looking for a place to enjoy a family getaway with tourist attractions, good food and great accommodations PLUS great crappie fishing, look no farther than Tennessee’s Paris Landing State Park.
Located on the western shore of Kentucky Lake, just east of Paris, Tennessee, this 841-acre state park is the perfect location for all kinds of water sports such as boating, swimming, skiing and of course, fishing. Crappie fishing is excellent whether you bring your own boat, rent one or hire one of the many area guides to take you and your family on the water.
Steve McCadams, a professional hunting/fishing guide and outdoor writer from Paris, Tennessee, has more than 30 years of experience sharing the joys of Kentucky Lake crappie fishing with his clients. McCadams says, “The Paris Landing sector of Kentucky Lake is a popular destination for crappie anglers, for several reasons. Not only is it easy access with nice resorts, public boat ramps, restaurants and the southern gateway to Land Between the Lakes, but it’s located at the confluence of both the Tennessee River and Big Sandy River. It’s all part of Kentucky Lake, but the Big Sandy portion is a huge area within itself that’s relatively shallow compared to other parts of Kentucky Lake.
“The abundant bays within Big Sandy have always attracted early spawning crappie in the spring and lured them back in the fall when cooler conditions return,” he continues. “Big Sandy, when compared to other portions of Kentucky Lake, tends to have a little more stained water. This pulls fish shallow as it filters out bright sunlight. That appeals to crappie as they’re somewhat light sensitive, plus Big Sandy and West Sandy, a large arm off the main Big Sandy itself, offer shallow stump fields that hold crappie year-round. Anglers also have placed a lot of manmade fish attractors to compliment the natural submerged structure already in the lake.”
Although spring is the crappie angler’s most popular season, McCadams says the month of June is a well-kept secret that can produce some of the year’s best fishing.
Fall is known for stable weather patterns and is a beautiful time to be on the lake.
“It’s an area that lends itself to several different styles of crappie fishing, from spider rigging with multi-pole presentations to slow-trolling crankbaits out over main-lake flats and ledges to single-pole tightline techniques using jigs and minnows,” he said. “The diversity of the huge reservoir will often see anglers fishing several different depths using different techniques at the same time. And, sometimes they all produce fish.
“It’s also a Mecca for crappie anglers who love to follow their sonar units as they scan drop-offs, humps, submerged creek channels and other bottom structure,” McCadams continues. “Here, there’s a lot of depth variation as the topography reflects the surroundings where feeder creeks and sloughs once emptied into the Tennessee River the area was flooded.”
There is a minimum 10-inch length limit, with a daily creel limit of 20 crappie per person.
Hiring professional guides for a few days is considered money well spent as they can teach anglers a lot about local techniques and help eliminate a lot of dead water as they know the patterns of the fish throughout the seasons.
More to Do
On land, there are plenty of fun activities as well. Enjoy a picnic at one of the grounds overlooking Kentucky Lake or attend one of the park interpretive programs. Visit the 18-hole golf course; play softball, basketball or tennis; or hike the 3-mile-long self-guided nature trail. Over 100 miles of trail also are available nearby at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in Golden Pond, Kentucky, where you can see wildlife at the Elk and Bison Prairie and Woodlands Nature Station, visit the Homeplace 1850s Working Farm and Living History Museum and see the universe unveiled at the Golden Pond Planetarium. This is an outdoor lover’s paradise for sure.
They don’t call Paris the “Capital City of Kentucky Lake” for nothing. In fact, in large part, that’s due to the presence of Paris Landing State Park. Every year competitors flock to the park for the marina’s numerous professional bass and crappie outings.
The park’s Lodge at Paris Landing has 91 modern rooms, each with a view of the lake, plus a full-service restaurant and bar. There are also 16 cabins, 63 campsites, an on-the-water grill with a variety of dining options and a marina offering everything anglers and vacationers could need.
For more information, phone the park office (16055 Hwy 79 N, Buchanan, TN 38222) at 731-641-4465 or visit tnstateparks.com/parks/paris-landing.
Keith Sutton has been an avid crappie angler for more than half a century, pursuing his favorite panfish on waters throughout the United States. His fishing stories have been read by millions in hundreds of books, magazines, newspapers and Internet publications. In 2011, he was inducted into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame as a Legendary Communicator.