cvae run

Here is a little history on Cave Run Lake, Kentucky

With the upcoming “Bluegrass Fall Brawl” on November 6 & 7th – thought it might be a good time to take a look back at Cave Run Lake and give a little information about it for all you potential tournament goers who are considering coming on and competing!  Don’t miss out! 

Cave Run Lake has been known for excellent muskie fishing since the lake opened 40 years ago.

Cave Run Dam is 173.6 miles above the mouth of the Licking River, or about half way up the 320-mile long river, which is Kentucky fifth largest, and drains 3,670 square miles.

Before the 8,270-acre lake was built, the 48 miles of the Licking River that was inundated supported populations of muskies that were sustained by natural reproduction. Formation of the lake set the stage for the emergence of a muskie fishery unrivaled in Kentucky.

Since the mid-1970s, muskies captured from the river have been spawned off at the Minor E. Clark Fish Hatchery, which is just below Cave Run Dam. The fish produced are stocked in the lake, which has helped expand the muskie fishery to a level that has far surpassed the river’s potential before impoundment.

Cave Run Dam is 173.6 miles above the mouth of the Licking River, or about half way up the 320-mile long river. The 8,270 acre lake is surrounded by rugged, wooded hills (Photo Provided)

Cave Run Dam is 173.6 miles above the mouth of the Licking River, or about half way up the 320-mile long river. The 8,270 acre lake is surrounded by rugged, wooded hills (Photo Provided)

The silver muskie (Esox masquinongy ohioensis) is a native species that is considered a “sport fish,” rather than a fish that is caught to be eaten. Adoption of the catch-and-release philosophy by most anglers, and a 36-inch minimum size, one fish creel limit, has led to low numbers of fish being removed from the population. This has improved fishing and kept numerous large fish in the population.

“The water quality of the Licking River is very good. The river supports a wide variety of fish and mussels,” said Tom Timmermann, northeastern district fishery biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Muskies can be caught in the river above and below the lake.”

Cave Run Lake offers anglers a variety of cover to fish, including deep coves with flooded timber, rocky channel banks, gently-sloping gravel banks and shallow flats covered in rooted aquatic vegetation.

Anglers can catch muskies from the lake year-round, but fishing strategies must change with the seasons.

In spring, if water conditions are stable, fish in the backs of large coves. High, muddy water conditions are sometimes of problem early in the year.

April is a good month because that’s when muskies spawn. Large females are often found in shallow water on sandy banks, and caught on floating-diving crankbaits.

During the late spring/early summer, muskies move out into deeper water and frequent weed beds early and late in the day. That’s when in-line spinners (bucktail spinners) are a top lure choice.


During the heat of summer, fish very early and very late in the day, casting or trolling large, deep-diving crankbaits on channel banks near flooded timber.

Arguably the best time to fish is in the fall, on rainy, overcast days, when big fish come up shallow to feed before the onset of cold weather. Jerkbaits and bucktail spinners are top lure choice in and around weed beds at the backs of coves, gently sloping gravel banks, or flats near channel drop-offs.

There are two marinas and 13 boat ramps, so there is plenty of access to both the upper and lower lake. And don’t forget the tailwaters, just below the dam. Early and late in the year, under normal discharges, muskies move up into this area and can be caught by anglers casting from the banks.

Cave Run has produced several state-record muskies including the current record, caught on Nov. 2, 2008 by Sarah Terry, who was a freshman in high school when she caught this fish of a lifetime. The 54-inch, 47-pound muskie was taken near Clay Lick boat ramp.

Cave Run Lake also supports populations of bluegill, catfish, crappie, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, Kentucky (spotted) bass and white bass.

But at Cave Run Lake the muskie is king.

For more info visit

This article was written by Art Lander’s and appeared in

Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for KyForward. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.

Gregg Thomas

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