It’s been a dozen years since Cave Run Lake surrendered the Kentucky record 47-pound muskie, so it’s past time for some lucky angler to get lucky.
Muskie go on the prowl earlier than most other species.
The last half of March through the first half of April is one of the very best times to go for this ferocious battler on the 8,200-acre reservoir.
Trolling a medium-depth crankbait over the weed beds remains one of the best tickets for boating a big one.
And even one that just reaches the legal 36-inch minimum size limit will try to throw your wrists out of socket as you gain line on the rod-bender.
The late David “Crash” Mullins was the Cave Run guide more than anyone else who helped the lake, 10 miles southwest of Morehead, gain the reputation as the “muskie fishing capital of the South.”
Mullins began guiding anglers on Cave Run as a teenager while still a student at Olive Hill High School.
He decided in 1993 to earn his living as a full-time muskie guide, opening Crash’s Landing Inc. guide service and bait & tackle shop.
In 2013 he was inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as a legendary guide.
He died in 2016 after a long battle with cancer.
He was 57.
RECORD A 54-INCHER
The state record muskie caught from Cave Run was 54 inches long and beat the previous record by more than two pounds. It was caught during the first week of November by Sarah Terry, who at the time was a 14-year-old freshman at Montgomery County High School.
She was fishing with her stepfather, Scott Salchli, who guided for muskie on the lake.
The lure she used, which will also work in spring fishing, was a Double-Cowgirl in-line spinner with two size-10 gold blades and a purple skirt.
She had cast the heavy lure all day and they had not had a strike. They were ready to call it quits when the big muskie struck at the lure right at the boat but missed. With five feet of line out, she did the figure 8 right alongside the boat. WHAM!
She set the hook. Salchli was able to dip it even before it had much of a chance to make a run.
Fisheries biologists with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources estimated the fish was 13 years old, which is about as long as muskie can survive in the lake.
Patience is a big part of the game in muskie fishing. It usually takes many hours of casting to entice a muskie to strike an artificial lure. So how do we explain the situation Chris McDavid of Bellefonte was involved in on Cave Run in September 2011 — a day when he caught four quality muskie in three hours and narrowly missed hooking four others.
McDavid and Jeff Hughes started fishing Cave Run early in the morning by moving up Big Cave Run.
He was casting a buzz bait when he landed the first muskie. Ten to 15 minutes later, a little deeper up in the cove, he caught and released another.
“I had another one come after the lure while I was doing the figure 8 at the side of the boat. It missed the lure and slammed the side of the boat.”
Ten minutes later another struck at the lure but missed.
“He rolled all over the lure. He was a giant. He would have exceeded 50 inches,” McDavid said. “Jeff wanted to know if I had another buzz bait like the one I was using.”
It was starting to get a little crowded in Big Cave Run, so they moved across the lake to cast near the point of Little Cave Run.
“I raised two more there and caught a 46-incher, then moved to Donithan Hollow and caught number four,” McDavid said.
“So, from 6:30 to 9:30 that morning, I caught four quality muskie and with a little luck would have had four more.”
I’ve had the good fortune to have caught four muskie from Cave Run Lake, as well as another up on Kinniconick Creek.
I fished with McDavid and Creighton Stephens one year during mid-October. Creighton and I were trolling the weed beds of Zilpo Flats. I snapped on a green Hellbender. I could feel it really working back there 50 yards behind the boat when all heck broke loose. The hooked fish jerked his head left, then right, then dove down deep. I felt like I was in the ring in a heavyweight match. He was within 10 feet of the boat when he split the surface and became airborne.
The muskie was 36 inches long and weighed 12.2 pounds.
In typical fashion he fought all the way into the dipnet.
And that’s muskie fishing on Cave Run Lake.
Reach G. SAM PIATT at [email protected] or (606) 932-3619.