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Late Fall Musky, Dynamite from Below

November 2, 2011

By Chris Erwin

The sky was clear, not a cloud to be seen, as I put my boat in the water at the Poppin Rock Ramp just two weeks ago. I couldn’t wait to get out on the lake and cast my offering to whatever might be lurking in the shadows of the standing trees, rocks, and everything else that looked like it could be holding fish. I planned to stay the week, so there was plenty of time to hone in on what the fish were doing.

I would be fishing with my daughter this week. For the last few years, this has been my time to fish with her since the rest of the family has been busy working and going to school.

While all my family loves the outdoors, my daughter Christy and my son Scott managed to get the fishing bug. Some would call it an affliction, while others might be kind and call it a passion. Whatever you call it, the three of us seem to share it.

For the first two days, the weather was beautiful. The days were warm and the sky was as blue as the ocean. The sun warmed your face and soon had you in your shirt sleeves, while the mild breeze only added a zest to the air that made the day a joy to be on the water.

Photo by Chris Erwin. Cave Run Lake on a perfect October afternoon.

The bass fishing was good! We quickly realized that the shad were in the coves and the outside bends of the river. Only minutes passed between strikes as our deep diving Bandit lures were striking home.  The sight of thrashing fish breaking the water, as we fought them to the boat, only added more excitement to glass calm water.  The reflection of the fiery colors of the fall trees burned into my memory as I watched the light begin to fade, and the orange-red and yellow sky gave way to the darkness. We found ourselves staying until the last visible light slipped into the sunset.

Photo By Chris Erwin. The fire seem to rage in the sky as the sun sets

It all sounds too good to be true and while it’s all true, the weather was about to change and so was the fishing.

Wednesday started out like the days before, but quickly turned into an overcast windy afternoon. The fish seemed to be only sparsely holding on our pattern and while we continued to catch fish, the numbers were falling fast and the time between strikes’ increased as the afternoon turned to evening.

Thursday brought the rains and overcast skies. The bass quit biting. Our pattern was no longer working, so it was time to try something else. With those conditions, it was time to start fishing for musky.

We switched lures, tying on buzzbaits, AC shiners 7 inch model, and inline Bearclaw magnum spinnerbaits, but we kept our crankbait tied on one rod to hit the spots we felt might still be holding bass.

Overcast raining weather is the condition that the toothy muskies seem to enjoy. They become active under these conditions. To catch them, we moved to the flats and creek heads. While the bass tend to stage in the trees, the musky gravitate to the flat edges and feeder creeks.

Christy drew the first strike. I heard her make this little squeal sound as she leaned back and set the hook. For the next few seconds the musky ripped line from her reel, and then the fish cleared the water making a 360 degree gainer. The beast was a small one, maybe 25 inches or so but the fight was anything but small. She managed to get the fish to the boat, and I slipped it in to the net. After a quick measurement, back in the water the little, angry, toothy critter went.

Photo by Photo by Chris Erwin. Christy Thomas, the author daughter, pulls in the first Musky of the trip.

The rain stopped, but the overcast day was getting colder as we moved up the river heading for the next flat.

When casting and working the flat, it is sometimes hard to keep your focus because many times you’re casting to open water with no real target to help build your confidence. I saw my buzzbait chopping across the top and a small swirl forming behind my bait. I commented to Christy, “I think there is a bass trying to take my bait.” So, I reached down and picked up my little crankbait and cast it just pass the swirl.

Two cranks on the reel and – bam! The fish hits. As she did she broke out of the water like she had been shot out of a cannon, and it wasn’t a bass! I could see the crankbait hanging from the musky’s jaw. My drag was smoking as the fish ran off the flat heading for deep water!

At this point all I could do was hang on! Holding my rod high so the shock of the fish didn’t pull out my hooks, the fish turned and started heading in my direction. Now I was reeling like mad to keep a tight line. She broke the surface again, buckling in a ball, water flying in every direction, as I prayed the hooks didn’t pull out. I stopped reeling and just hung on as the fish dove under the boat.

I slowly started reeling in line as the fish seem to settle down. I told Christy, “Get the net ready, she is coming up!” The fish popped up by the rear of the boat. I was not fighting her at this point instead I was leading her, trying to keep her head up. Christy slipped the net under the fish’s’ head as she dove deep into the net. I’m not sure who was shaking the most, me or Christy, but the fish was in the boat!

Photo by Christy Thomas. Author Chris Erwin displays the 38 inch musky he hooked on Cave Run Lake in mid-October.

We would go on to catch one more musky that day. The cold temperature didn’t seem to be anything that we thought of and as the day came to a close we were pumped. Friday I pulled the boat out of the water to head for the main lake to meet up with other outdoor writers attending the Kentucky Outdoor Press Association conference.

Cave Run lake is located near Morehead Kentucky just minutes from I-64 if you would like to visit the area you can contact Morehead Tourism at 1-800-654-1944 or 1-606-780-4342 for more information.

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