Muskie no show; crappie came calling

G. Sam Piatt - PDT Outdoors Columnist

Aaron Brown dreamed of battling one of Cave Run Lake’s mighty Muskellunge.

A trip there can wind up with the stuff that dream memories are made of, or …

total frustration when the muskie decline to cooperate.

We arrived at Twin Knobs Recreation Center campground in early afternoon of

Monday, May 9.

Trailering my fishing boat, we crept down through A Loop and located campsite

No. 32. This was a double site that we would share with the three still-active

members of the Old Crappie Gang – Larry McGlone and Herbie Maggard, both of

Ashland, and chief organizer and cook Clowell (C.G.) Barker of Olive Hill.

The camp was deserted, but I knew we were in the right spot when I recognized

C.G.’s ancient cooler and four-burner propane cooker. And I knew that they would

be already on the lake in pursuit of those big white and black crappie.

That’s all they fish for, have been for more than 30 years of one-week campouts

on Cave Run, one in the spring and one in the fall. They don’t waste time

chasing fickle muskie and bass, not when they can be dunking minnows, watching

the bobber circle and go under, and sometimes hauling in 15-fish daily limits

per fisherman of those good-eating crappie.

Aaron and I pitched our tent, threw in the sleeping bags and air mattresses, and

launched the boat.


The Zilpo Flats is one of the most-likely spots to tangle with a muskie. I’ve

landed one keeper there, just under 40 inches, by trolling a crankbait along the

outer fringe of the 8-foot-deep flat, which is generally covered by weeds

growing to within a foot of the surface.

Later, casting a Slippery Sam in-line spinner in the same general area, I had

one of the most savage muskie strikes I ever hope to experience. Unfortunately,

I hadn’t loosened the drag on my reel enough. He snapped my line before I even

got him up to where I could see him.

He took my new, $16 lure and didn’t even say thank you.

The 65-degree water was rising and three feet above normal summer pool. We got

no takers on our offerings.

I motored to an area just off shore from the cove where the active eagle’s nest

is located. I had landed a muskie here, about the same size as the other, by

trolling one of my late father’s old plugs, the Bomber, a deep running


We got no action here either.

We worked past supper time. Of course, every fisherman keeps a few cans of

Vienna sausages and Beanie Weenies on hand. I also had a couple of cans of beef

chunks. I opened a can, downed three spoonfuls, and dumped the remainder in the


Back in camp, we found Larry and Herb filleting a nice catch of crappie. By

Friday, they would have 10 or 12 bags of crappie fillets to take home.

Also in camp was C.G.’s grandson, Grayson, and a friend of his, both in their

early 20s.

That night I was up three times to head for the restroom, and three times more

before noon. I blame that can of beef for cutting mine and Aaron’s trip short. I

was, as they say, sick as a dog.


Matt Flannery of Ashland was one of the original members of the Old Crappie

Gang. He was one of the finest human beings I’ve had the pleasure to fish with.

Sadly, he died the year after I met him.

This past week I was pleased to hear from his daughter, Brenda Hale, coordinator

of Fairview School’s FRYSC programs.

She’s been holding a summer camp for students for the past 20 years

“I truly believe that we need to get kids involved in outdoor activities as

young as we can,” she said.

She tells about the activities at a three-day camp held this past week:

“This year on day one we went to Grayson Lake, where I split the 90 students

(grades kindergarten through 6th) in attendance into four groups. I had about 20

7th to 12th grade students that served as leaders for this program.

“We rotated throughout the day to the four stations.

“First, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife met us with fishing rods

and bait. Every student was able to fish on the bank near the marina.

“Back at the shelter house, Tim England with the Boyd County Emergency

Management, had a program for the students on staying safe in the woods, the

‘Hug a Tree’ program.

“Eugenia Wilson with the Boyd County Extension Office was there as well. She

talked to them about healthy snacks and they got to make trail mix.

“And then the park rangers from Grayson Lake met us and took all the kids on a

nature hike. Andrew Herrmann was my contact there.


“On day two we went to the Cultural Heritage Center at Laurel Gorge in Elliott

County. The staff and volunteers there had four rotations planned for us as


“There was a Nature Hike, a tour of the cultural center exhibits, a volunteer

taught the kids about fossils and had lots of examples for them to see, and each

student got to paint a pet rock that they took home with them.

“On day three we had planned to be at Greenbo Lake where we would have rode

pontoon boats in the morning and then went to the swimming pool in the

afternoon. Because of the weather forecast we made other arrangements. Stephanie

Young with the Boyd County Conservation District met us at Fairview Elementary

and each student got to pot a plant, decorate it and take it home.

“Sam Castle and Josh Quillen with ‘Pathways to Prevention’ also came to the

school and did an alcohol and drug prevention program with the students.

“Then in the afternoon we went to Sparetime in Ironton where students got to

skate and play laser tag.

“It was a great week. We were able to expose students to the fun of being


G. Sam Piatt

PDT Outdoors Columnist

Reach G. SAM PIATT at (606) 932-3619 or

Reach G. SAM PIATT at (606) 932-3619 or