I had the opportunity to interview Captain Ken Trail of Rock On Charters about his passion, musky fishing. Captain Ken has spent countless days fishing the New River and James River chasing down their toothy inhabitants. This interview focuses on the New River and the early and late summer musky fishing it offers.
What do you love about New River musky fishing?
I’ve been fishing the New River and the James River all my life. The awesome part of fishing these river systems is that they are close to a year around fishery. The only time I don’t fish musky in the New is when water temperatures reach 80 degrees. There’s all kinds of different water to fish on the New River, from slow moving, huge pools to whitewater.
What are the attributes that make the New River an excellent musky fishery?
There’s everything that you’d want in a river system on the New River! There’s tons of grass in the summer, big boulders, expansive ledges, huge long pools, and whitewater up to class 3 rapids in our area. It flows north from North Carolina to West Virginia and makes it a truly unique river system.
How do you rate the current quality of musky fishing on the New for both numbers of fish and size of fish?
New and James Rivers both are becoming musky fishing destinations from across the country. I’m seeing clients from literally all over the country. The musky population in these rivers are second to none.
Although it is musky fishing, we have a tremendous success rate among our clients. Average size fish is around 39″, and there are 50″+ fish being caught. Had a client catch a 51.5″, although not quite as common as some of the northern waters, there are some true musky monsters in our rivers.
Very common to put multiple musky in the boat on a day trip. The Department of Game is working the trophy side of the fishery and has enlisted help form guides and the public in helping to build a world class trophy musky fishery.
What are your favorite baits and methods for summertime musky fishing?
I will fish for them up to the 78 to 80 degree water temperature. Which usually happens with in the first couple weeks of July and runs through August. Early summer and late summer, my favorite musky lures are TOPWATER!
I use several different lures from ‘walk the dog’ style baits to prop baits, like Lake X. I will typically throw topwater any lower lights conditions, including cloudy days, and night time.
Go to bait during daylight hours this time of year are inline spinners. aka bucktails. I use a couple different companies for these baits, primarily Pond Fork Blades and Churning Waters Bait Co. I like to ‘burn’ the spinners, just under the surface of the water, you can’t move them fast enough this time of year.
How do you breakdown the River to focus on certain areas that musky will hold during the early and late summer?
Early and late summer the musky can be anywhere! But, I like to focus on some deeper water, current areas this time of year where the water is a little cooler and and has plenty of oxygen. The slack, deep water pools you typically fish in the winter have less oxygen and can be a few degrees warmer. Any eddie holes that have good current on the outside and decent depth is a sure bet to find a fish this time of year as well.
Is there any special handling that you use for catching and releasing summertime fish due to warmer water temps as opposed to other times of the year?
Again, please don’t fish for musky after the water temperatures get past the upper 70’s. Even as it starts to get in the mid 70’s, I really start limiting the out of water time for fish. I like a deep net, so the musky can stay in the water until I have hooks out, then it’s simply lifting the fish out, with support in the middle, and snapping a quick photo and back in the water. I typically won’t even measure them this time of year unless they are getting up into the mid 40’s, just to get them back in the water quicker.
Musky fishing in most lakes and rivers is usually better when the air and water temperatures are cooler than the summer. What is your overall favorite time to fish the New River for musky?
Winter time! I love January through mid March. This is the pre-spawn time and the big females put the feed bag on! They are the heaviest they will be all year long and are aggressive trying to put weight on to help in egg production.
How do your methods and baits change for winter as compared to the summer?
Go BIG in winter, I’m throwing big glide style baits predominately, like Hot Tail Gliders. Slow it down a little, fish deeper, slow moving water.
How does someone get in touch with you to book a guide trip? What can they expect when spending a day musky fishing with you or one of your guides?
You can look us up at www.rockoncharters.net. Call us at 844-FISHNVA or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Instagram is @teamrockon and Facebook is Rock On Charters LLC. We don’t fish on a clock! Our days are typically 9-10 hours of hard fishing! We either fish out of a raft or jet boat depending on river level and season.
Thanks you Captain Ken for giving us the scoop on New River muskies. Late summer can’t come soon enough!