Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Muskellunge fishing heats up in fall
This is the first installment of a series of
articles titled “Fall Fishing Festival” profiling the productive fishing on
Kentucky’s lakes, rivers and streams in fall.
FRANKFORT, Ky. – The angler’s whoop
traveled fast and loud over the water from the back of Buck Creek on Cave Run
Bringing a trophy
muskellunge to the boat after a spirited fight uncorks raw emotions and
provides a unique sense of satisfaction. In this instance, the 45-inch torpedo
of a fish was a new personal best and the fourth muskellunge the angler had
caught on this cool, calm, overcast Friday in mid-September.
muskellunge bite was turning on, and word traveled quickly. A parking lot that
held only a handful of boat trailers on Friday was full Saturday.
The shorter days,
brisk nights and cooler water temperatures of early fall trigger the start of
some of the finest muskellunge fishing of the year. Cave Run, Green River and
Buckhorn lakes are the state’s top destinations as they have been proven to
produce trophy fish.
state record came from Cave Run Lake in November 2008 and was caught on a
silver Double Cowgirl in-line spinner. It measured 54 inches and 47 pounds.
In recent weeks,
muskellunge at Cave Run Lake have been caught in the backs of creeks – many of
them loaded with weed beds and standing timber – in 8 feet of water or less.
Weed beds near submerged channels and across the main lake flats aren’t to be
for one thing: food to get them through the winter,” said Tom Timmermann,
northeastern fisheries district program coordinator with the Kentucky
Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Bass go through a heavy feeding
period in the fall, and muskellunge do the same thing.”
Smaller lures such
as a 4-inch balsa wood crankbait in silver and black, a ½-ounce dressed in-line
spinner or a ¼-ounce skirted buzz bait can be effective in early fall. As the
water cools, consider upsizing to rubber and hard-bodied jerkbaits, and single
and double-bladed in-line spinners and spinnerbaits.
those smaller baits,” Timmermann said. “If you’ve never fished Cave Run before,
you can throw some of those larger bass crankbaits, especially in black and
white colors, and do pretty well.”
Buckhorn Lake in
Leslie and Perry counties is rated good for muskellunge and holds ample numbers
of fish in the 36 to 40-inch range.
In early fall, target the back of creeks and
shallower areas that have weed beds. The best fishing once the lake level has
reached winter pool is on the lower end of the lake by the dam, said Kevin
Frey, eastern fisheries district program coordinator with Kentucky Fish and
Crank baits, jerk
baits and bucktail spinners are proven producers. Generally, orange and
sucker-imitating colors work well in the creeks while silver, purple or chartreuse
are go-to colors for the main lake.
“There are several
good spawns of shad throughout the year,” Frey said. “There will be a lot of
smaller shad, so there could be an opportunity to try some muskie-sized baits
and some bass-sized baits.”
Otter Creek and Meetinghouse Branch are a few of the best spots for fall muskie
on Buckhorn Lake. The tailwaters can be excellent for muskellunge as well.
“There’s lots of
bank access,” Frey said. “There’s also a small creek that comes into the tailwater.
Over the years, that’s been popular with local anglers.”
biologists routinely see muskellunge exceeding 45 inches on Green River Lake,
which is rated excellent for the species.
still has big fish potential,” said Eric Cummins, southwestern fisheries
district program coordinator with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.
While a lot of the
standing timber is gone, Russell Branch is one notable exception. Try the
slides on main lake bluffs and the edges of flats. Robinson Creek features expansive
flats with some isolated brush piles and flooded timber.
The upper reaches
of creek arms often will hold muskellunge.
“It’s just a
little cooler than the main lake itself,” Cummins said, “and they can find
whatever they’re eating.”
Where there are
shad, muskellunge probably aren’t far away. Give a shad-imitating crankbait a
try. Jerkbaits also produce on Green River Lake.
Kentucky Fish and
Wildlife maintains these fisheries and others around the state by stocking them
with 13-inch long muskellunge reared at Minor E. Clark Fish Hatchery in
Cave Run, Buckhorn
and Green River lakes received stockings of the sub-adult fish this week. On
average, it takes five to six years for a muskellunge to reach 36 inches, the
minimum size limit in these impoundments.
Lake level and
outflow information for Cave Run, Buckhorn and Green River lakes can be found
online via the Louisville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ webpage