FRANKFORT - In early November several years ago, a then 14-year-old Montgomery County High School freshman named Sarah Terry fished for muskellunge on Cave Run Lake with her Dad on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. They fished hard without a single bite to show for their efforts.
Late in the afternoon, Terry’s stepdad, Scott Salchli, said they needed to get home soon. She negotiated for 15 more casts before they would call it quits for the day.
She worked a purple and silver Double Cowgirl in-line spinner along a weedline near the Claylick Boat Ramp about half way through her allotted casts. Four and one-half feet of muskellunge followed the bait to the boat.
Employing the old figure 8 move with her inline spinner, the muskellunge came from under the boat and struck on the second pass. After a short, but fierce, struggle, the 47-pound state record came to hand with her lure bent into an “L” shape and missing a hook.
The next six weeks are one of the best times of year to catch muskellunge from Cave Run, Green River and Buckhorn lakes. Another state record could succumb to a well placed in-line spinner, jerkbait or crankbait.
This past week, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources stocked Cave Run Lake, Green River Lake and Buckhorn Lake with 13-inch long muskellunge at the rate of about one fish per three acres of water. Stocking maintains these highly productive muskie fisheries.
Muskellunge are in the back of creeks right now at Cave Run Lake. Mike Hardin, assistant director of fisheries for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, witnessed several nice fish caught around him on a recent trip and had several follows.
“Smaller lures, such as a #5 Mepps in-line spinner or a 00 A.C. Shiner, are working better right now,” Hardin said. He explained that as the water cools into the low 70s, jerkbaits such as Suicks and larger, slower spinnerbaits and in-line spinners work better.
“They will soon move out onto the main lake weedbeds,” Hardin explained. “You can catch them in 8 feet of water or less on those lures.”
Buckhorn Lake in Perry and Leslie counties has one of the highest catch rates for muskellunge in the upper South. Fall is one of the best times of the year to fish the lake. As of this week, some water is flowing through Buckhorn Lake Dam, but the lake remains almost at summer pool.
Weedbeds on flats next to submerged channels are high percentage spots to throw in-line spinners such as the Grim Reaper Model 600 in the sucker color or the Double Cowgirl in the Purple Cisco color. The orange-hued sucker-colored lures work best in the creeks while lures with shades of silver, purple or chartreuse work best on the main lake.
Leatherwood Creek is a top fall creek for muskellunge on Buckhorn Lake. The heavy drawdown in fall on Buckhorn Lake keeps the tailwater area just below the dam full of muskellunge, providing outstanding fishing. Bank fishing is available, but there is no boat ramp. Anglers may carry down a fishing kayak, canoe or small johnboat and take out at the KY 28 Bridge downstream on the Middle Fork of Kentucky River.
Green River Lake boasts some of the fattest, healthiest muskellunge found anywhere in the country. Fisheries biologists with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife routinely find muskellunge in excess of 40 inches long during population sampling on Green River Lake.
Finding the shad is the key to success for Green River Lake muskies. In fall, shad congregate on flats that extend well out into the lake. The Robinson Creek arm of the lake boasts many of these flats. Work these areas with a Swim Whizz crankbait in the golden shad color.
Windy days improve fall fishing on Green River Lake. Fishing slides on main lake bluffs with crankbaits such the 00 A.C. Shiner in the shad color is an effective presentation on gusty fall days.
The good fishing on Green River Lake lasts past Thanksgiving after the drawdown to winter pool. In early December, large muskellunge strike crankbaits and jerkbaits fished slowly by periodically allowing these lures to float all the way to the surface on the retrieve. Muskies often hit as the lure breaks the surface.
Get out this fall and enjoy some of the best muskellunge fishing in the United States. These three lakes hold national reputations for high strike and catch rates on one of the most difficult fish to catch in nature.