"I don't know if we'll ever get any 50-inchers, but we see a lot of fish in the 40- to 44-inch range and they're fat as butterballs," he said. "There may be a few bigger ones, but that's the range we tend to see in our surveys."
The 25-mile section of river between Bluestone Dam and Prince harbors the most muskies, but Scott said the segment between Bluestone Lake and the Virginia border has a good population, too.
DNR officials used to stock the New with juvenile muskies, but Scott said that isn't necessary anymore.
"We have a reproducing population now," he explained. "We haven't stocked the river in quite a few years, and our surveys consistently turn up fish in the 12- to 14-inch range, so obviously we're getting reproduction.
"Often we shock up two adult muskies at a time, and they're usually a male and a female that are paired up. That's evidence they're trying to spawn, and the little ones we turn up are the proof they've been successful."
The New's resurgence as a muskie stream has brought a whole new angling clientele to the river. Scott said that in the past, most of the river's muskies were caught by bank fishermen throwing big chubs or by lure fishermen trolling deep-diving plugs.
"Now the die-hard muskie guys are down there, casting all kinds of lures," he said. "Heck, we even have guys down there fly fishing for muskies."
Because muskies are top-order predators, some anglers worry that the big, toothy critters will eat so many smallmouth bass and walleye that they affect fishing for those species. Scott dismissed the idea.
"A lot of those complaints have come from guys who hooked small bass or walleyes and had a muskie flash up and try to eat the fish they had on the line," he said. "Look, a fish on the end of the line is in distress, which is like waving a red flag at any predator that's nearby. Having a muskie attack a hooked bass doesn't mean muskies are actually hunting bass."
In fact, Scott said he expects the New's muskie-fishing resource to continue to expand.
"The river is capable of holding a lot of fish," he said. "As far as muskies are concerned, I don't think it's reached its peak yet."
Reach John McCoy at johnmc...@wvgazette.com or call 304-348-1231.