knapp 11-30-21

December is often a great month to catch river muskies, like this one caught and released by Wendell Freeman.

Our neighboring state to the south might not be thought of as a muskie-fishing destination, but it should be. West Virginia boasts several excellent muskie waters, rivers especially. And late fall and early winter can be a prime time to catch river muskies.

BUCKHANNON RIVER: The 6-mile Buckhannon Pool’s catch-and-release area has a dense muskie population; at least dense as far as muskie populations are concerned. When the state DNR conducted its muskie tagging study it collected muskies, by way of electrofishing, at the rate of one every 12 minutes. Expect to see/catch muskies in the 30- to 35-inch range, though some fish over 40 inches do show up. Propeller-driven boats can be used in this pool, but be sure to watch out for the woody cover that’s prevalent there.

The Buckhannon Pool can be accessed from the city’s Wood Street ramp.

MIDDLE ISLAND CREEK: A tributary of the Ohio River, Middle Island Creek has a catch-and-release section and miles of water under standard state regulations. The DNR’s tagging study revealed as dense a muskie population in the standard regulations areas as that of the catch-and-release area.

Middle Island Creek flows through Doddridge, Tyler and Pleasants counties. The catch-and-release area is in Tyler County, extending 6 miles upstream from the low water bridge near The Jug WMA. The best boat ramp is the Blue access, located at the mouth of Indian Creek.

ELK RIVER: The Elk River, from the Sutton Dam tailrace all the way to its merger with the Kanawha River in Charleston, furnishes muskie water that flows through Braxton and Clay counties.

Clay County access sites include Camp Associates sites No. 1 and No. 2, Duck, King Shoals, Mary Chilton Roadside Park, Procious and Queen Shoals. In Braxton County, small boats can be launched at Frametown Bridge and the Sutton Dam tailwaters.

HUGHES RIVER: The Hughes River, the largest tributary of the Little Kanawha River, is formed by the North Fork and South Fork of the Hughes River, each of which is over 50 miles in length. From this merger, the main stem flows for about 14 miles before joining the Little Kanawha.

The Hughes River is a top-notch muskie water, regularly producing fish in the low to mid 40-inch range. Don’t discount either of the two “forks” as muskie water. While not as likely to produce a larger muskie, the species can be found in both waters. Expect the fish to be in the mid 30-inch range.

The North Fork Hughes River contains a section with a 40-inch minimum length limit. The 1.3-mile section flows from the North Bend Lake Dam downstream to the CR 809 bridge near the North Bend State Park campground. Two muskies per day are allowed.

In Richie County, the main stem of the Hughes River can be accessed at the Chucks Ford access area. On the South Fork, the Haught and Westvaco ramps provide access.

MONONGAHELA RIVER: The entire length of the Monongahela River is impacted by navigational locks and dams. Thus, it’s more of a hybrid, a cross between a natural river and a reservoir. Its proximity to the Morgantown area makes it a popular choice for anglers of this area.

One might find either pure of tiger muskies (muskie x northern pike) in the Mon, fish supplied by either the West Virginia DNR or Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. Tributary mouths are often the best spots to target on the Mon, as well as the tailrace areas of the dams including the lock chamber of the dam.

In Monongalia County, public access sites can be found at Morgantown, Star City and Uffington.

Dunkard Creek enters the Mon in Monongalia County. Dunkard Creek once held a significant musky population, but suffered a major fish kill in 2009. Since then, efforts have been made to mitigate the damage. The stream has slowly been recovering and could be worth checking on.