Muskellunge Fishing Heats Up in Fall

This is the first installment of the series 'Fall Fishing Festival' which profiles productive fishing on Kentucky's lakes, rivers and streams in fall

Muskellunge Fishing Heats Up in Fall
Dave Dreves, fisheries program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, holds a 48 ½-inch long, 42-pound muskellunge captured and released during population sampling on Cave Run Lake this past spring.
Dave Dreves, fisheries program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, holds a 48 ½-inch long, 42-pound muskellunge captured and released during population sampling on Cave Run Lake this past spring. Fall is one of the most productive times to catch trophy muskellunge like this one from Cave Run Lake, Green River Lake and Buckhorn Lake.
Dave Dreves, fisheries program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, holds a 48 ½-inch long, 42-pound muskellunge captured and released during population sampling on Cave Run Lake this past spring. Fall is one of the most productive times to catch trophy muskellunge like this one from Cave Run Lake, Green River Lake and Buckhorn Lake.

The angler’s whoop traveled fast and loud over the water from the back of Buck Creek on Cave Run Lake.

Bringing a trophy muskellunge to the boat after a spirited fight uncorks raw emotions and provides a unique sense of satisfaction. In this instance, the 45-inch torpedo of a fish was a new personal best and the fourth muskellunge the angler had caught on this cool, calm, overcast Friday in mid-September.

The fall muskellunge bite was turning on, and word traveled quickly. A parking lot that held only a handful of boat trailers on Friday was full Saturday.

The shorter days, brisk nights and cooler water temperatures of early fall trigger the start of some of the finest muskellunge fishing of the year. Cave Run, Green River and Buckhorn lakes are the state’s top destinations as they have been proven to produce trophy fish.


Sarah Terry’s state record came from Cave Run Lake in November 2008 and was caught on a silver Double Cowgirl in-line spinner. It measured 54 inches and 47 pounds.


In recent weeks, muskellunge at Cave Run Lake have been caught in the backs of creeks – many of them loaded with weed beds and standing timber – in 8 feet of water or less. Weed beds near submerged channels and across the main lake flats aren’t to be overlooked either.

“They’re looking for one thing: food to get them through the winter,” said Tom Timmermann, northeastern fisheries district program coordinator with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Bass go through a heavy feeding period in the fall, and muskellunge do the same thing.”

Smaller lures such as a 4-inch balsa wood crankbait in silver and black, a ½-ounce dressed in-line spinner or a ¼-ounce skirted buzz bait can be effective in early fall. As the water cools, consider upsizing to rubber and hard-bodied jerkbaits, and single and double-bladed in-line spinners and spinnerbaits.

“Don’t overlook those smaller baits,” Timmermann said. “If you’ve never fished Cave Run before, you can throw some of those larger bass crankbaits, especially in black and white colors, and do pretty well.”


Buckhorn Lake in Leslie and Perry counties is rated good for muskellunge and holds ample numbers of fish in the 36 to 40-inch range.

In early fall, target the back of creeks and shallower areas that have weed beds. The best fishing once the lake level has reached winter pool is on the lower end of the lake by the dam, said Kevin Frey, eastern fisheries district program coordinator with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.

Crank baits, jerk baits and bucktail spinners are proven producers. Generally, orange and sucker-imitating colors work well in the creeks while silver, purple or chartreuse are go-to colors for the main lake.


“There are several good spawns of shad throughout the year,” Frey said. “There will be a lot of smaller shad, so there could be an opportunity to try some muskie-sized baits and some bass-sized baits.”

Leatherwood Creek, Otter Creek and Meetinghouse Branch are a few of the best spots for fall muskie on Buckhorn Lake. The tailwaters can be excellent for muskellunge as well.

“There’s lots of bank access,” Frey said. “There’s also a small creek that comes into the tailwater. Over the years, that’s been popular with local anglers.”

Fisheries biologists routinely see muskellunge exceeding 45 inches on Green River Lake, which is rated excellent for the species.

“It certainly still has big fish potential,” said Eric Cummins, southwestern fisheries district program coordinator with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.

While a lot of the standing timber is gone, Russell Branch is one notable exception. Try the slides on main lake bluffs and the edges of flats. Robinson Creek features expansive flats with some isolated brush piles and flooded timber. The upper reaches of creek arms often will hold muskellunge.

“It’s just a little cooler than the main lake itself,” Cummins said, “and they can find whatever they’re eating.”

Where there are shad, muskellunge probably aren’t far away. Give a shad-imitating crankbait a try. Jerkbaits also produce on Green River Lake.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife maintains these fisheries and others around the state by stocking them with 13-inch long muskellunge reared at Minor E. Clark Fish Hatchery in Morehead.

Cave Run, Buckhorn and Green River lakes received stockings of the sub-adult fish this week. On average, it takes five to six years for a muskellunge to reach 36 inches, the minimum size limit in these impoundments.

Lake level and outflow information for Cave Run, Buckhorn and Green River lakes can be found online via the Louisville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ webpage at www.lrl.usace.army.mil.

Editor’s Note: Kevin Kelly is a staff writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Get the latest from Kevin and the entire Kentucky Afield staff by following them on Twitter: @kyafield.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Lew

Lew's Pro SP Skipping and Pitching SLP Reel

Bass Pro Tour angler Andy Montgomery shares his insight on the new Lew's Pro SP Skipping and Pitching SLP Reel.

Strike King Ned Rage Craw

Strike King Ned Rage Craw

In-Fisherman's Todd Ceisner sits down with Mark Zona to discuss the new Ned Rage Craw to hear all about how this little finesse bait, is going to get you those extra couple bites when times get tough.

Daiwa Dark Water Rods

Daiwa Dark Water Rods

From barracuda to wahoo to kingfish to sailfish and beyond, these new Daiwa saltwater rods rely on HVG technology (that makes them 50% lighter), soft tips to protect leaders as big fish make strong runs, and strong backbones to help anglers crank up hard-fighting species from below.

G Loomis NRX Rods

G Loomis NRX Rods

Whatever the target species, these rods feel good in the fly shop when you're giving them a test drive.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing. Bass

4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass

Chris Schneider - August 25, 2015

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing.

Shad are a big part of the catfish angler's arsenal, as long as you can catch a few that is. Fishing How-To

How to Use Electronics to Catch Baitfish

Game & Fish Staff

Shad are a big part of the catfish angler's arsenal, as long as you can catch a few that is.

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options. Catfish

12 Great Catfish Baits

Jeff Samsel

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures? Other Freshwater

5 Great Lures For Bluegills

Stephen D. Carpenteri - March 10, 2011

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures?

See More Trending Articles

More Stories

Where and how some of the state's best archery bucks were killed last season. Whitetail

Oklahoma's Big Archery Bucks of 2018

Kelly Bostian

Where and how some of the state's best archery bucks were killed last season.

Various companies show appreciation to frontline defense – healthcare professionals – against the pandemic with special giveaway. News

Outdoors Industry Honoring Healthcare Heroes: COVID-19

April 27, 2020

Various companies show appreciation to frontline defense – healthcare professionals – against...

The The eastern Georgia lake may be best known for its bass, but anglers will find more trophies in these waters than just largemouths. Georgia lake may be best known for its bass, but anglers will find more trophies in these waters than just largemouths. Fishing

Chase a Mixed-Bag Bite at Lake Oconee

Larry Larsen - April 28, 2020

The The eastern Georgia lake may be best known for its bass, but anglers will find more...

How a humble Virginia hunter bagged the biggest non-typical whitetail a bowhunter has ever seen. Whitetail

The Story Behind Brewster's World-Record Buck

Lynn Burkhead - October 17, 2019

How a humble Virginia hunter bagged the biggest non-typical whitetail a bowhunter has ever...

See More Stories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now