Walleye Central

Muskie Madness
By John Hoffman

The dawn broke with red fingers of fire as the john boat slid into the foggy waters of Cave Run lake. "I've got a real good feeling about this morning" Roger said as we pushed away from shore, gliding silently out into the darkness. " The Muskie's are done spawning and still holding in the shallow structure. They should be on a top water bite" Roger observed. I was fishing this morning with long time friend Roger Boose, one of the best Muskie hunters I know, and a man who has been successful in catching his share of these elusive fish. We were launching at the Longbow boat ramp on this early May morning and intended to fish the wooded structure of Murder Branch of Cave Run Lake.

Most Musky fishermen think of Wisconsin, Minnesota or Canada when planning their excursions for this elegant species, not realizing that Kentucky, acre for acre, has some of the best Muskie fishing in North America. Cave Run Lake in the eastern part of the state and Green River Lake in the western are both excellent destinations for those seeking Esox Masquinongy. While fishing for Bass at Kentucky Lake last year my son, Matt, caught a 28" Muskie on a plastic lizard. This was quite rare but not entirely uncommon as most Kentucky rivers have always held a small population of these terrific fighters. Muskie's are solitary fish that establish a territory and defend it viciously. The largest member of the Pike family, Muskie are very difficult to catch and attract a small but dedicated clique of fishermen. Primarily a structure relating fish, they are predictable but very wary.

The sun was just peeking through the morning mist as Roger and I slowly worked a timbered point, casting prop type top water baits into the logs. "Whoosh". "There he is !!" Roger yelled so loud I believe he could be heard in Lexington. "Good fish" he said, as the drag on his baitcaster screamed like a runaway train on a downhill grade. As fast as it started, it was over. The Muskie broke water right at the boat, throwing the 6" bait sky high and spraying us both with water as it slammed back into the lake. "Oh well" Roger said as he sat down, his knees shaking and arms weak, "I guess that's what keeps us coming back". We estimated the fish to be about twenty pounds, a good size fish that we would have released anyway, but it sure would have been nice to boat him. We sat in the boat and reflected on this great sport of Muskie fishing and the fact that fish may be the only one we would see this day. "You know" I said, while checking my line for fraying, "It is estimated that 100 hours of casting is required just to raise one Muskie, and you are way ahead of the curve". Roger just laughed. "If you study these fish and use common sense you can beat those odds with considerable regularity. Lets try for another."

The exceptional Cave Run and Green River Muskie fishery is the result of dedicated work by the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Division. Years of stocking and aquiculture development has yielded a wonderful resource for all Kentuckians to enjoy. In order to challenge these sleek gamefish however, you will need a few special modifications to you tackle, not to mention a change in tactics. Muskie's are positioned at the extreme top of the food chain. They are the 'freshwater sharks' of our inland waters. A rather stiff action rod is necessary because when a Muskie grabs your lure he clamps down with a vise like grip, his razor sharp teeth cutting into it. You must set the hooks with a great deal of force in order to break his grip on the lure, thereby moving it in his mouth. A wire leader is a must as Muskie usually engulf the entire lure when they strike. Your lure selection should include an assortment of STRONG top water lures as well as creak baits and spinner baits. Be sure your hooks are as sharp as possible when fishing for Muskie. I suggest you use some of the new braided lines in 40 or 50 pound test, being careful to constantly check for fraying at the knot. By and large, bait casting outfits work best for this type of fishing as they tent to have more dependable drag systems than open faced rigs.

Trolling and live bait fishing also works quite well for Muskie. When summer comes on and the heat is up try a 8"-10" live sucker hooked through the lips with a 7/0 heavy wire hook. A very successful method is to drift this live bait rig at the edge of structure or off points in 30' of water. When you get a pick up, let the Muskie "run" with the bait for a full minute before setting the hook. They generally take the bait sideways in their mouth and then turn it slowly prior to swallowing. If you set the hook to soon you will pull the sucker out of their mouth. When trolling you must get your lures down deep. In the summer these fish relate to deep structure.

Roger and I finished the day without boating a single fish but we considered ourselves successful . We managed to 'raise' four good fish in addition to the one Roger lost at the boat. Just experiencing a Muskie strike is awesome. Once Muskie fishing gets into you blood your hooked forever. In planning my Muskie excursions a usually check with local tackle shops, where information is readily given. You can also use the Internet to obtain current lake conditions. Try www.fishin.com. There you will find a wealth of information on both Cave Run and Green River lakes. Hiring a local guide can often save you a lot of time and increase you chances of at least seeing a good fish. Muskie's are truly the best example of BIG GAME fish. If you decide to try fishing for them get ready for the thrill of a lifetime.

John Hoffman

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