Whitesburg KY

Using road-kill as fishing bait

Points East

My buddy, Fredrick J. Beste #3, was recently surprised that a fellow who lives near him there in northern Pennsylvania caught a 52-pound muskie on a roadkilled squirrel.

So surprised was Fred, that he put out an email to four or so other guys and alerted us that a newspaper clipping was on the way about this fellow and the fish and he wanted us to guess what the guy was using for bait before we received the snail mail.

I ventured a few guesses that did include several small mammals including a chipmunk which is technically a squirrel, but F.J. still did not believe me when I registered no surprise. And for that matter, our mutual pal, Jeff Brenzel, contended that the only thing that surprised him was that nobody he knew had thought to try road kill for muskie bait before this incident.

Truth of the matter is that they probably have. And I personally know one guy who uses live mice at Cave Run Lake for muskie bait. He puts a piece of cork on a big treble hook so that it will float and then tapes it to one of those mice that you can get at the pet store to feed your snake.

He says it saves a lot of casting time. You just toss the mouse out there at the edge of a weed bed and let it kick around until it drowns or a muskie decides to dine on it. I know this sounds inhumane, but think about it. Would you rather drown, be eaten by a fish, or swallowed whole by a boa constrictor?

Personally, I’d be using the snake for bait. Of course it wouldn’t be kicking around and wiggling like the poor little mouse. The only snake I’m ever going to put on a fish hook is going to be in about the same shape as the previously mentioned roadkilled squirrel.

The real story, at least to me, is that this fellow has been fishing exclusively for muskie ever since one snatched a trout off his line when he was lifting it into his boat. We’re talking over 30 years, nearly every weekend and any time he could sneak off work. Something like a hundred days a year for 30 years. During the course of all this fishing, he’s caught upwards of 500 muskie. What this averages out to is that for every six days that he goes fishing, he catches one fish.

One has to wonder why he is still fishing instead of in an insane asylum. Like I said, I know some fellows who fish for muskie on Cave Run and they don’t even bother counting the fish they actually catch because zero is not a number. They talk about the number of follows they had. In other words they don’t even lie about the proverbial “one that got away”.

And to be fair, most of these guys do not use live mice or any other living thing for bait. They cast big chunks of wood or plastic better suited for firewood or home furnishings with treble hooks attached and are, I suppose, justifiably proud of the fact that a fish larger than most stove pipes took time out to look at it.

On Dale Hollow, Cave Run and several places in Canada I have seen both muskie or huge northern pike attack and eat muskrats, bullfrogs, ducks, goslings and yes, snakes. I even saw a muskie attack a full grown beaver in Canada several years ago but the beaver managed to get away by climbing up on the bank. Suffice to say that this was not a fish that I would have wanted on the end of my line.

I have caught muskie but never really on purpose. The real prey has always been pike or bass. I had one about 35 inches on Cave Run swallow a top-water plug that lodged in its gills and I kept it because it was not going to survive if I released it.

We tried to eat it. But it came out of the skillet tasting like chicken gizzards that had been soaked out in the sun for a week in a jar of old sardines.

So there you have it, Fred. Now we will see how many readers are surprised. In the meantime, given the choice between eating a 50-pound muskie and a road-killed squirrel, I’d want to inspect the squirrel first to see if it was reasonably fresh.

But I would much prefer a big slab of muskie to a plate of that northern Pennsylvania scrapple that my buddy Fred is so fond of.

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