Muskie Joe said the Lord was better


G. Sam Piatt



A few wees ago I mentioned here in passing about Muskie Joe Stamper holding the record for the biggest muskie ever caught on Kinniconick Creek.

This past week, browsing through a cardboard box holding some old writings, I came across a column I wrote more than 40 years ago in which I interviewed Joe at his cabin on the banks of the stream in the tiny Lewis County community of Comeysville.

“Jesus put it on me just a little,” he said. “He fed 5,000 people with a few little fishes and had 12 baskets left over. My fish fed 27 people and we had two skillets left over.”

He said he had caught “around a 100” muskie from the creek, including the record he landed in 1960.

“It was four feet long and weighed 32 pounds,” he said.

He said the fish was eaten all but its head, which was mounted on a board and hanging on his front-room wall.

It was the muskie, he said, that brought the summer cabins built along the road near his place.

Just across the road out front, a two-inch pipe driven into the hillside poured cold spring water out onto the rocks. He called it Buckeye Spring.

“I’ve got good spring water, 55 acres of second-growth timber, and $2,000 worth of rattlesnakes. They’ll fetch $50 apiece if you can catch them and get them over to the university in Morehead. But I’m getting (too) old to go chasing after rattlesnakes now.”

But he had been busy sharpening the hooks on some of his favorite muskie plugs.

He was nearing his 86th birthday – born March 3, 1887, on the Head of Grassy, not far from his home.

Some of the best holes of water on Kinni – Punchen Eddy, Goodwin Eddy, Pike Lick – lay near his home.

He said muskie, a male and a female, will “den up like ‘coons” under submerged logs along the creek.

Marcus McCleese of Olive Hill broke the ice in February during the early 1970s to catch a muskie that had Joe thinking his record might tumble.

“It was four inches longer than my fish, but weighed just 31 and one-quarter pounds.”

(I’ve heard a report of a 51-inch, 38-pound muskie caught from Kinni about three week ago. I hope to have a report on it next week.)

For years, Joe guided fishermen for muskie. He loved to share some of the trips he’d been on.

“This preacher came down from Huntington,” he said, “never had seen a muskie. Hired me to take him out for one. We went out in a boat and the preacher hooked into something he thought was a log but turned out to be a pretty big muskie.

“First time that muskie jumped, the preacher got all excited and fell overboard. I didn’t know if he could swim or not, but I sure didn’t want to lose that muskie. I grabbed his rod and finally fought the muskie in. I had a considerable harder time getting the preacher back in the boat than I did that muskie.” The muskie weighed 18 pounds, the preacher about 160.”

The best lures for muskie, Joe said, are the Mud Puppy, Pike Minnow, Daredevil spoon, Flat Fish, Bucktail Spinner and Bomber.

“During the spring and the month of June, surface lures are best, while in hot July, the best chance to catch one is by trolling deep runners right down the middle of the creek. The muskie will be in the deepest holes then.”

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G. Sam Piatt

Reach G. Sam Piatt at gsamwriter@twc.com or 606-932-3619.

Reach G. Sam Piatt at gsamwriter@twc.com or 606-932-3619.