When the experts talk about lakes in Kentucky that offer good crappie fishing, they never mention Cave Run Lake.

The 8,200-acre lake, located in the Daniel Boone National Forest, about 10 miles southwest of Morehead, is noted as a body of water that’s home to the ferocious muskellunge.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources hatch and rear muskie at its hatchery located in the shadow of the dam. About 3,500 of the fish, each about a foot long, are released into the lake every year.

Cave Run surrendered the 47-pound state record muskie about 10 years ago. Fisheries biologists said it was one of those stocked fish which was released into the lake some 13 years ago.

That’s an uncommon lifetime for a muskie and the record might never be broken.

But it is possible.

The Crappie Gang

But Cave Run also is a good crappie lake. Just ask C.G. Wright of Olive Hill. C.G., pushing 88, is the lone survivor of the original members of what I dubbed the Cave Run Crappie Crew. For more than 30 years they camped for a week in the spring and a week in the fall. They fished for nothing other than crappie.

Or you can ask me about the crappie. I’m a witness to their success with this delicious-eating fish.

C.G. and I worked out at the same times at the Ashland YMCA and he invited me to join their camp and fish with them.

There were Matt, Charlie, Boyd, Herb, Gary, Larry, Lew …

When I pulled into their campsite in Twin Knobs Campground the first week of May 2006, my timing to meet the crew couldn’t have been better. It was a Wednesday, and that’s the day they try to hold the fish fry with the crappie they have caught and filleted at that point.

I found the boys hard at work preparing the meal. Charlie was at the deep-fryer. He had already turned out a platter piled high with golden brown fillets. Boyd was frying up his famous cornbread fritters, which were better than hush puppies. A pot of baked beans simmered on the camp stove and two iron skillets were filled with fried potatoes.

Everyone ate their fill and there were two pieces of fish left on the platter.

After supper, it was time for the campfire and the retelling of favorite fish stories. Boyd had been crowned the champion in regards to the biggest crappie. Just to remind them, he brought the mount out of his motorhome of the one that he caught two years earlier. It weighed more than three pounds and cleared 17 inches in length.

The Measurement

That evening there was a squabble over who had caught the biggest crappie of two slabs boated by C.G. and Herb.

Gary had already put the tape measure to Herb’s crappie, which was among those they had carried up from the lake to the campsite.

Fifteen inches, that’s what they got.

Herb was highly unsatisfied with the measurement, especially after C.G. came up from his boat and started crowing about how he knew Herb wasn’t capable of beating his personal record crappie, which had gone 15 and a quarter inches.

“Let’s measure mine again,” Herb said.

This time Gary Lee handed me the tape measure. “You do it, Sam,” he said. “They’re makin’ me too nervous to hold it tight.”

At first it appeared that the fish was just a fraction over 15 inches, but after Herb stretched its lower lip toward him and I stretched the forked tail toward me, we came up with a new mark of 15 and 3/8 inches.

This brought a lively little dance around the picnic table by Herb and cries of “foul!” from C.G., who had been watching the procedure closely.

The issue was still not settled as we put out the fire and headed for bed. Whippoorwills called from the surrounding hills. The crickets added to the chorus.

I had brought my tent, sleeping bag and air mattress, but thanks to the hospitality of Gary I was able to crawl into a warm bed in his Dodge Cobra motorhome.

I found out later that C.G. had given up that bed for me. He slept on a mattress in the cap-covered bed of his pickup.

There was a full bed over the cab that either of us could have slept in.

But that bed must have been meant for grandkids, not us older guys with overactive bladders.

Time marches on and takes its toll, especially on members of the Cave Run Crappie Crew.

Matt, Boyd, Gary and Lew have all died.

But their stories live on around the campfire.

“I think of them every day,” C.G. said on Friday. “Fishing brings friends together, and they stay friends forever.”

Reach G. SAM PIATT at gsamwriter@twc.com or (606) 932-3619.

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