Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a series about Kentucky’s major resevoirs

Art Lander’s Outdoors: Cave Run Lake is Kentucky’s top destination for Muskellunge fishing

Cave Run Lake Dam (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Photo)

Cave Run Lake, Kentucky’s top muskie fishing destination, is in Menifee, Morgan, Bath, and Rowan Counties, about 15 miles southwest of Morehead. The major access highways are Interstate 64, U.S. 60, Ky. 801, and Ky. 1274.

The project was completed in 1974 at a cost of $83 million. The dam is 173.6 miles upstream of the mouth of the Licking River, which empties into the Ohio River at Covington.


At summer pool (elevation 730), Cave Run Lake is 8,270 acres and 48.1 miles long. The 6-foot winter drawdown to elevation 724 creates a lake with 7,390 surface acres of water.

The scenic reservoir is in Daniel Boone National Forest, set against a backdrop of wooded hills.

There are 166 miles of shoreline at summer pool and 50 miles of navigable water.

Cave Run Lake (U.S. Forest Service Map)(Click for larger image)

Lake Manager’s Office

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Cave Run Lake, Resource Manager’s Office, 150 Highway Ky. 826, Morehead, KY 40351, telephone 606-784-9709.

The daily lake information line is 606-783-7001.

Managing Fishery Biologist

Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Northeastern Fishery District, Tom Timmermann, District Biologist, 120 Fish Hatchery Road, Morehead, KY 40351, telephone (606) 783-8650.


here are two marinas.

Scott Creek Marina, open year-round with seasonal boat rentals, is 5 miles south of Farmers, on Ky. 801. The address and telephone number are 4325 Highway 801 South, Morehead, KY 40351, 606-784-9666.

Longbow Marina, open year-round, with seasonal boat rentals, is 7 miles east of Frenchburg, on Ky. 1274. The address and telephone number are 8020 Highway 1274, Frenchburg, KY 40322, 606-768-2929.

Boat Launching Ramps

There are 11 boat launching ramps on the lake, and one in the tailwaters.

At some ramps a fee is charged to launch, $3 a day, $5 for three days, and $30 for an annual pass. Boaters have the option of a hangtag or sticker for their tow vehicle.

For details on boat ramp and recreational fees contact: Daniel Boone National Forest, Cumberland Ranger District, 2375 KY 801 South, Morehead, KY 40351, telephone (606) 784-6428.

Alfrey boat ramp is adjacent to Twin Knobs Campground off Ky. 801. A fee is charged to launch.

Bangor boat ramp is off Ky. 1274, on the Menifee/Morgan County line. No fee is charged to launch.

Blackwater boat ramp is off Ky. 519, near the mouth of Blackwater Creek. No fee is charged to launch.

Claylick boat ramp is off Ky. 1274, 10 miles up the lake from the dam. A fee is charged to launch.

Leatherwood boat ramp is off Forest Service Road 129, on the west shore of the lake. A fee is charged to launch.

Poppin Rock boat ramp is off Ky. 519, on the North Fork of the Licking River. A fee is charged to launch.

Twenty Six boat ramp is off Ky. 772, at the extreme upper end of the lake on the Licking River. A fee is charged to launch.

Twin Knobs boat ramp is off Ky. 801, about six miles southeast of the dam. A fee is charged to launch.

Stoney Cove boat ramp is near the dam, off Ky 826. No fee is charged to launch.

Warix Run boat ramp is off Ky. 801, about 12 miles southeast of the dam. A fee is charged to launch.

Zilpo boat ramp is off Forest Service Road 918, on the west shore of the lake. A fee is charged to launch.

Local Tourism Information

Morehead-Rowan County Tourism, 150 East First Street, Morehead, KY 40351, telephone 606-780-4342.


Even before the Licking River was impounded, local anglers were harvesting muskies with regularity from Kentucky’s fifth-largest river, which drains an area of 3,670 square miles to the east of Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region.

Cave Run Lake is not a typical mountain lake, with moderate fertility overall. Fertility levels increase in the upper reaches of the reservoir and decrease near the dam. The lake can be very clear in the summer but is prone to muddy up after heavy rains above the lake.

The lake’s other sportfish species include largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, white bass, crappie, sunfish, and catfish.


Chad Miles, host of Kentucky Afield, with a muskie caught at Cave Run Lake (Photo from KDFWR)

The muskie fishery is rated excellent. The population is maintained by annual stockings and a very small amount of natural reproduction.

The daily creel limit is one fish, with a 36-inch minimum size limit.

In the late winter and spring, fish the backs of large coves. The muskie spawn is in April.

In the fall months of September and October, fish gently-sloping gravel banks near channel dropoffs.

Largemouth Bass

The largemouth bass fishery is rated good, with many fish about 15 inches long and a huge number of small fish, below 10 inches long.

A 13-to-16-inch protective slot limit is in effect. Anglers are urged to harvest small bass under the slot limit.

The best chance to catch a large fish is in the upper lake.

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.

Spotted Bass

The spotted bass fishery is rated good. A high percentage of fish are in the middle to lower main-lake shoreline, with fewer fish in the upper reaches of the lake.

In 1984 Cave Run Lake became the first reservoir in Kentucky to remove the size limit on spotted bass. Four years later, on January 1, 1988, the regulation was broadened to include all Kentucky lakes and streams. Kentucky was the first state to enact a no minimum limit on spotted bass on a statewide basis.

Smallmouth Bass

The smallmouth bass fishery is rated fair, with low numbers of fish found primarily off rocky points and shoreline in the lower lake.

An 18-inch minimum size limit is in effect.

White Bass

The white bass fishery is rated excellent, with fish in the 12- to 15-inch range and some fish up to 17 inches.

Jump action is sporadic during the summer and early fall near the Alfrey and Claylick boat ramps and the confluence of the Licking River and Beaver Creek.

No more than five white bass in the daily creel limit may be longer than 15 inches.


The sunfish fishery is rated good, and includes bluegill and a slow-growing population of redear sunfish. Fish in coves and around brush piles.


The catfish fishery is rated good and channel catfish up to 24 inches and larger are possible. Fish rocky shorelines in the spring and deep water near channels in the summer.

Some trophy-sized flathead catfish are also present.


The crappie fishery is rated good, with high numbers of juvenile fish.

Brush piles and other wood cover hold the best concentrations of fish. In years when rooted aquatic vegetation is abundant, crappie tend to scatter and fishing can be tough.

Scenic beauty, great muskie fishing, and abundant recreational opportunities have given Cave Run Lake a well-deserved reputation as one of Kentucky’s top outdoor destinations.