G. Sam Piatt
PDT Outdoors Columnist
My son, Kelly Joseph, and I met up at noon this past Monday with the diminishing members of the Old Crappie Gang in the campground in Twin Knobs Recreation Center on 8,200-acre Cave Run Lake, located in the Daniel Boone National Forest 10 miles west of Morehead.
We spent four days fishing in short sleeves under sunny skies. The nights featured star-filled heavens, jar flies singing their October swoon song from the trees, and chilly nights when the dancing flames of our campfire drove back the darkness.
For the first time ever, a sign posted at the gate warned campers to keep food stored high or in vehicles to keep from attracting black bears.
We didn’t see any bears, but on the night chief cook, bottle-washer and Wagon Master C.G. Barker decided to fry hamburgers, we hunted in vain for the hamburger buns.
Someone finally found the empty package in the edge of the woods, but we knew this was the work of the masked bandits called raccoons.
We shared a double campsite. Kelly and I slept in our Ozark Trail tent and Herbie Maggard in his Coleman tent pitched next to it. C.G. and Larry McGlone each slept in the beds of their pickup trucks with camper tops.
The first couple of days we heard talk from campers and fishermen concerned about the state of the Cave Run bald eagles. For the past few years wildlife officials have monitored active nests of the eagles in at least two locations around the lake, possibly more. In one of the more active sites, buoys – asking boaters not to enter – have been placed at the mouth of a small cove where young birds have been observed in a nest
In 2009, when we were on a family houseboat trip on Cave Run, my daughter, Cindy, and I watched from our fishing boat as two mature eagles perched in the limbs of a dead oak taught two of their young how to dive for fish.
On Wednesday Kelly and I saw evidence that the eagles are doing well. We were trolling for muskie along the shoreline not far from the eagles’ cove when we looked up in a dead tree and saw not one, not two, not three but four mature eagles perched and watching intently the water below.
Just after we passed on of them swooped down and rose up with a squiggling fish grasped in its talons. Another came down and tried to steal it away.
One fisherman told a story – which happened several years ago – of watching an osprey, often referred to as a fish eagle, winging its way low across the surface with a fish it had captured. Hard on its trail was an eagle, larger than the osprey, and gaining steadily on it.
The osprey showed its survival instinct. It dropped the fish. It plopped down near the fisherman’s boat. As he and a couple of his children watched, the eagle swooped down and flew off with his prize.
Old bones get brittle. I battled a muskie so powerful that, while trying to turn it as I held the butt of my rod against my side, it cracked one of my ribs.
I hope I’ve gained a reputation in this column over the years of always telling you the truth, even if it hurts. But what I just told you is a whopper, told in fun.
I did crack a rib. I’ve had it happen over the years on two different occasions, both coming on my left side. This one’s on my right.
What actually happened was I arose in the middle of the night and headed up the paved path to the restroom. I was in such a hurry to get there that I neglected to tie my sneakers.
I tripped on a string and fell like a tree. I landed on the pavement on my right side, not even able to break my fall with my hands. Son Kelly had to take down and load up all our gear for the return trip home all by himself.
The water temperature was running 72-75 degrees, which was good. But otherwise conditions were not so conducive to fish-catching. The Army Corps of Engineers had begun its fall drawdown of the lake. It fell possibly as much as two feet away from the shoreline while we were there.
This past rainy spring the lake rose 32 feet into the trees and stayed there for a while. This killed the underwater weeds. We could find no weed beds, which the muskie use in the fall to feed up on bait fish.
According to all reports, the weeds should make a comeback next spring.
Kelly and I fished almost exclusively for muskie. The fact that we didn’t catch one didn’t detract from the joy of being on that beautiful lake in the midst of the forest.
C.G., Herb and Larry fished each day for crappie, just as they have for 30 years of spring and fall outings on Cave Run. They didn’t do all that good, either, catching 21 on Tuesday and nine on Wednesday.
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (606) 932-3619 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his web site at gsampiattbooks.com.