Before Nov. 2, 2008, 14-year-old Sarah Terry of Mt. Sterling, Ken., had only caught two muskies in her lifetime and neither of those without help.
But she changed all that in a big way earlier this month when she boated a state-record muskie from Kentucky's Cave Run Lake. The whopper muskellunge measured 54 inches long, 26.5 inches in girth and weighed 47 pounds even, besting the previous record by nearly three pounds.
"Sarah caught the fish all by herself," said Scott Salchli, Sarah's stepfather and a professional muskie guide on Cave Run. "She cast the lure out herself — a Double Cowgirl inline spinner with twin blades — and was reeling it in when the big fish hit. She fought the muskie to the boat without any help from me. All I did was net it for her."
In retelling the fish tale, Sarah said that at about 4:45 p.m. she saw the big muskie follow her lure to the boat, chasing the artificial bait just below the water's surface.
Having muskie fished with her stepdad for the past year and a half, she knew that muskies often follow lures before striking. And Salchli had instructed Sarah that if that ever happened she should work the lure in a figure-eight pattern on a short lead at boat side, enticing the fish to bite.
Upon seeing the trophy fish, that's exactly what Sarah had the presence of mind to do. At the start of her third figure-eight the big muskie attacked, hitting so hard that the fish bent the lure.
Upon netting the fish and lifting it into the boat, Salchli suspected the muskie was a record-breaker, but still tried to release the fish back into the water.
"As a muskie guide, I'm big on catch-and-release fishing, but after trying to revive the fish for 45 minutes and watching it go belly up time after time, I knew it likely wouldn't survive so we kept it," Salchli said.
He is having the record muskie mounted for Sarah.
"It was a thrill for our whole family," said Salchli, "as my wife and our 7-year-old daughter were in the boat, too, and got to see it all."
The Salchli family met with fishery personnel from the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife on Nov. 3, when the fish was certified as an official state record. The muskie is believed to have been stocked as a fingerling in 1989, making it 19 years old.