Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kentucky Afield Outdoors- Spring Fishing Frenzy: Shore anglers can get a foothold on muskellunge fishing
– The weather can be erratic and water levels can fluctuate wildly, but
spring brings with it some of the best muskellunge fishing of the year.
Anglers looking to
tangle with a big muskie are fortunate to have an abundance of options in
Kentucky – from Cave Run, Buckhorn and Green River lakes and their tailwaters
to native muskie streams like the Licking River along with Tygarts and
Not having a boat
doesn’t mean you have to sit idly during this active time.
definitely catch them from shore,” said David “Crash” Mullins, a longtime
muskie guide at Cave Run Lake. “You’ve just got to be on your game a little
Cave Run and the
area surrounding it make for an ideal early spring destination for the
enterprising bank angler.
reservoir was created by damming the Licking River and reaches into Bath,
Rowan, Menifee and Morgan counties. Regarded as the state’s top muskellunge
fishery, it yielded the current state record muskellunge in November 2008 – a
54-inch, 47-pound behemoth caught by Sarah Terry.
Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources helps maintain the population by
stocking about 2,800 13-inch muskellunge into the lake each year. The fish are
reared at the nearby Minor Clark Fish Hatchery.
“It takes an
average of five to six years for them to get to 36 inches,” said Fred Howes,
northeastern fisheries district biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “In
the stream system, you’re looking at seven years.”
muskies seek their preferred water temperatures in the spring, they stage in
the tailwaters below dams and move into creeks or find shallow coves that warm
quickly during the daytime.
The Stoney Cove
Recreation Area is tucked in a corner along the lake-side face of the Cave Run
dam and like the tailwater area on the other side of Ky. 826 is popular among
“They catch all
kinds of them from the shore there,” Mullins said.
The area around a
culvert extending under Ky. 1274 near Longbow Marina on the southern end of the
lake in Menifee County is another spot known to produce quality fish. Weed
growth on the main lake has created habitat that anglers can work from shore.
being in those weeds,” Mullins said.
Tailwaters can be
phenomenal for spring muskies.
earlier this month, a three-man crew from the hatchery loaded into an
electrofishing boat and set out in search of muskie broodstock from the
tailwaters below Cave Run’s dam.
encountered slack water and shallow running conditions, limiting the search
area to about 300 yards downstream from the ramp, but wound up netting eight
muskies in short order. The largest was a 49-1/4 inch female. The fish will be
returned to the area where they were collected after breeding at the hatchery.
“You can catch ‘em
right now,” Mullins said. “That will hold until it starts warming up. Once
everything settles down and warms up, they’ll move on down.”
Lake level and
outflow information for Cave Run Lake can be found online via the Louisville
District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ webpage at www.lrl.usace.army.mil. An ideal water
level below the dam ranges from 1,000 to 2,000 cubic feet per second.
“From a bank
fisherman’s standpoint, and from a fishing standpoint, when that river gets up
a little bit it allows the water to go back into the little coves around the
tailwaters, which enables people to fish that area better,” Howes said.
Mike Hardin grew
up in the area and has fished the lake and Licking River since childhood.
Licking River tributaries like Triplett Creek should not be overlooked, he
“Look for a warm
rain event,” said Hardin, an assistant fisheries director for Kentucky Fish and
Wildlife. “The muskies will go back into the creeks as the water warms up
closer to the 50s.”
Lure selection is
not drastically different for bank fisherman targeting muskies.
Minnow lures or
twitch baits and 1-ounce spinnerbaits with two single hooks work well in the
spring. As the water warms, top-water baits can entice a curious muskie into
“You need to fish
a lure that’s not going to hang up a lot,” Mullins said.
rigging with live suckers or bluegill is another option. The tandem-hook system
aims to reduce mortality rates for catch-and-release muskie by eliminating the
need for anglers to wait for the fish to swallow the bait whole.
“Learn to cast,”
Mullins said. “If you’ve got to throw a 7-foot rod to hit what you’re aiming at
then that’s what you need to do. Most of the creek or stream fishermen will use
a shorter rod. And I suggest using at least a 12-inch leader from shore. Other
than that it’s typical muskie fishing.”
reminded to get permission from a land owner before entering or crossing
private property to fish. A fishing license is also important. The new license
year started March 1.
are sold through a variety of outlets. Vendor locations are available on the
department’s website at fw.ky.gov. Licenses and permits also can be purchased
online or by calling 1-877- 598-2401. The Kentucky Fishing and Boating Guide
provides complete licensing information and is available online and wherever
licenses are sold.