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the Outdoors

by Cory Boothe


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Recently, I tried my hand at one of Calhoun County’s most frustrating outdoor activities: musky (or muskie) fishing. Calhoun County is blessed to have some of the best musky fishing in the state.

The Little Kanawha River and its tributaries contain West Virginia’s most dominant predator; however, this is the fish of a thousand casts. Some days you will believe they are extinct. Other days you may be rewarded with a glimpse of a muskie behind your bait, or better yet a fish in hand.

West Virginia law states that a musky must be 30 inches to be kept by a fisherman. A 30-inch musky is roughly four or five years old and just reaching the age to reproduce. The daily limit is two muskies.

Like humans, at a certain age, muskies tend to grow at the waist more than height, or in a fish's case, length. Most male muskies do not attain 40 inches. Your 40-inch muskies are usually a female. Either way, a 40-inch fish is probably 10 years old. At this time, they tend to pack on the pounds, but stop getting longer. The state record muskie is almost 50 pounds and over 50 inches long.

Fortunately, muskies tend to bite well during the winter. Most of Calhoun County’s fishermen either cast large imitation baits or use huge live bait. Either way catches fish. Usually, the bigger the bait, the better the results. Crankbaits reach 10 inches or more and its not uncommon to use live suckers over a foot long.

Live bait is usually caught out of our small creeks with a minnow trap baited with bread or dog food. Live bait can also be caught via rod and reel. It is important to note than game fish can be used as bait for muskies, as long as they are taken by rod and reel. In other words: yes, rock bass and smallmouth can be used as bait. They must be caught by rod and reel and in accordance with game law regulations, such as limits. This live bait is free spooled on the bottom or hovered under a large bobber.

Artificial baits, such as large rapalas, cranes, jones, or cobbs that imitate minnows, work well. Also, in-line spinners account for many a musky. I have started using large plastic grubs and tubes.

Regardless of what bait is used, you will need a leader to keep the muskys’ teeth or gill plate from cutting your line. Most fishing lines will be 20-lb. test or higher. You would not want to fish for hours only to have a musky break your line. Don’t forget a stout rod and durable reel with a correct drag setting.

Good luck and please release your catch for others to enjoy. Send your musky “tales” to

(Editor’s Note: Cory is the son of Ronzel and Karen Boothe of Russett. He is a 1996 graduate of Calhoun County High School and is a teacher at Meadow Bridge Elementary, Fayette County. He resides near Summersville.)

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