For several years I have been reading articles and have talked to other fisherman on how to go about catching a large pre-spawn female walleye on the New River near Sandstone, West Virginia. The timing centers around fishing the New River during the winter months as the large female walleyes start moving upstream and staging in preparation for spawning. The section of river I targeted was the area downstream from Sandstone Falls. The walleyes cannot travel any further upstream as the Falls act as a natural barrier. My guide for the day was Dewaun Gilkerson the owner/operator of New River Outfitters (www.small-mouth.com) out of Crab Orchard, WV. It was a cloudy misty day and we were fishing with a variety of tubes, jigs, crankbaits, and even live shiners.
Speaking of live shiners that is what I was fishing with when I set the hook on what I thought was one of those big female walleyes. As the fight wore on I could tell that the fish was much heavier and was fighting harder than even the biggest of walleye I could probably ever imagine. It rolled near the boat and we thought we saw a reddish/orange tail on the fish. Shortly after, its identity was finally revealed when it jumped clear of that cold 42 degree water. It was a stout New River Muskie and as it tired and as I was easing it to the side of the boat Dewaun and I were trying to decide if he should try to grab it under the gill or use my net which I use on big smallies not good-sized Muskies.
I told him that I was able to put a 47″ Wisconsin Muskie in that same net last fall and I suggested that he should give it a shot. I swung the Muskie around and Dewaun did a great job of getting the head in the net first as the rest of the body followed and slid into the undersized net. She was a gorgeous fish with not a mark on her and measured 45″ long. I was very lucky to boat that fish because I was fishing with 8 lb. test line and the #6 Eagle Claw Bait Holder Hook was in the corner of the mouth and just out of reach of those teeth that could have easily cut the line. After a couple of pics and a quick measurement she was promptly returned to the New to fight another day.