Spring has sprung all across our wild and wonderful state. Trees and flowers are blooming-and the birds seem to be singing louder and happier tunes.
In the slightly quieter aquatic world of West Virginia’s myriad lakes, rivers and streams, finny creatures of all types are also reacting to the warmer temperatures and slightly longer days of sunshine and rain. Every species, from catfish to walleyes, are becoming more active with each passing day.
If you’re a diehard angler like me, you’ve already dusted off your fishing gear —and are pursuing your favorite game fish. Let’s take a look at some of the state’s best springtime angling opportunities.
STONEWALL JACKSON LAKE MUSKELLUNGE
Stonewall Jackson Lake (2,650-acres in Lewis County) may be better known for its excellent largemouth bass fishing. After all, each new spring brings out the best bass angling of the year at this big water. Yet, Stonewall Jackson is also one of West Virginia’s finest muskellunge fisheries-and ranked as high as the No. 1 lake in the state during the 2010 season for muskies. What’s significant about that? Well, the 2010 season’s muskie catch statewide represented the largest ever in 40 years of record keeping by the state’s Husky Musky Club!
Not only is Stonewall known for numbers of fish-but big ones as well. During the record-setting season, anglers caught 47 muskies from this lake, including two over 50 inches long! Now, that’s a big fish anywhere. Add a mouth full of sharp canine teeth and even experienced anglers can have their hands full. Fortunately, as with a lot of bass anglers, most muskie fishermen practice catch-and-release as well.
Last spring, Dillon McDaniel’s of Frenchton caught-and-released a fine 50 1/2-inch muskie from Stonewall. He was fishing with a custom lure, made by Jerry Myers of Crawford. Young McDaniel’s used a pink, 7-inch proto-type trolling minnow made by Myers. Myers’ wife had chosen the pink color — and apparently it is a hit with muskellunge! The trophy muskie hit while the two fishermen were trolling straight out from a main-lake point. The fish hit the lure on the turn.
Myers’ lure is now called the Myers SJ-50 (for Stonewall Jackson and the first fish caught on it being more than 50 inches).
Some of the best places to troll for muskies right now and into the summer, according to Myers, include any of the bays like Skin Creek or Wolf Fork, along with any prominent lake point — any place where flooded timber is present. And, on Stonewall, there are plenty of places with flooded timber, leftover from when the lake was first filled.
Myers trolls with three or four rods out. These rods include 7- to 8-foot, heavy-duty Shimano models, along with a 10-foot Eagle Claw surfcasting outfit. Two SJ-50s lures — one each in perch or pink patterns — are trolled 20 to 40 feet back using Okuma Magna Pro 30 line counter reels.
On the shorter rods the lures are just 10 to 15 feet back and Myers trolls another of his creations, the Myers Gill Crank. It has a panfish profile and a crappie pattern. These lures are fished off two Abu-Garcia 6500 C-3 reels. The lures are run between 4 to 6 feet deep through good fishing areas, such as flooded timber. You can get snagged often, but that’s where you also receive strikes from an ambushing muskie.
“I’ll troll by the bays and then head down the main lake, targeting lake points at about 4 to 5 miles per hour. Some folks prefer to troll at 3.5 to 4.2 mph. It’s a matter of preference to what speed you feel will get you the most hits,” Myers said.
Myers’ lures are of exceptional quality. Anglers can contact Jerry Myers by calling (304) 924-6875 or e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OHIO RIVER CATFISH
It’s been said that over 50 percent of all fish caught each year in West Virginia are taken from the Ohio River. At first glance that seems amazing, yet, when you consider the size and length of this great river, it’s certainly not so unbelievable. After all, the Ohio River establishes West Virginia’s western border for some 272 miles, entering near Chester in Hancock County, flowing southwesterly, and leaving near Kenova in Wayne County. So it’s not really that big of a surprise to realize how many fish and how much fishing this huge waterway produces each season.
Along the way, the mighty Ohio passes through seven lock-and-dams in the Mountain State, where great angling for all kinds of game fish occurs each season. And some of the biggest of these fish are catfish.
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