Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The 589 Pound Musky from 1878

I guess THAT got your attention! A funny blurb from the journal The Chicago Field from 1878 entitled "A String of Fish" references what has to be the largest muskellenuge ever claimed to be caught in history:

A Montreal correspondent sends us this clipping and asks if it can be credited:

Mr. Charles Lechay, of Gananoque, Ont., an oarsman, had a most desperate encounter with a maskinonge on Monday on the river, a little below Granite Island. When Mr. Lechay gaffed the monster he made straight at him, breaking his leg and frightfully lacerating his arm, and his clothers were literally torn off him; and had it not been for the timely assistance of Mr. Frank Lolond (another oarsman) the fish would have killed him. The monster measured 11 feet 8 inches, and weighs 589 pounds.

The response from the journal was precious:

Yes; we should think the story substantially true. We never before heard of a "maskinonge" 118 yards long and weighing 589 tons. But then everyone knoes that there are bigger fish about Gananoque than were ever caught anywhere else. It is remarkable tha the fish should have swallowed the two men and the boats, but the very fact that the oarsmen made faces at the monster may account for this mad freak...the Ganonque "maskinonge" [is] a most dangerous beast.

Fascinating to see that fish tales were around at the dawn of the modern era of sport fishing!

--Dr. Todd

Monday, May 28, 2007

Maine State Museum & Bamboo Fly Rods

Speaking of museums, I remembered after the fact that the Maine State Museum has a display of bamboo fishing rods. Maine, of course, was home to such important rod makers as Leonard, Wheeler, and many others. The nice article

Split Cane Fly Rods Favorites in Baxter's Days by Deirdre Fleming of the Portland Press Herald in Maine gives a brief glimpse at what appears a nice display.

My best on this Memorial Day to everyone.

--Dr. Todd

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Fishing & Fishing Tackle Museums Part II

There appear to be a number of other fishing history museums and displays.

I think there is a display in South Bend, IN of South Bend fishing tackle as well, I can't remember the details but I think it had something to do with the Studebaker museum?

The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago recreated in one of their displays a Fishing store from the South Pacific, circa 1960, complete with fishing tackle.

Tom Greene Tom Greene who has a huge collection of reels, runs a tackle shop in Lighthouse Point, Florida called Custom Rod & Reel, I think he occasionally displays his impressive collection at this store.

Bass Pro Shops flagship store in Springfield, MO had a huge display (Clyde Harbin's collection) for many years. They may have busted it up to stock other BPS stores with tackle displays.

The American Fly Fishing Museum in Manchester, Vermont is one of the neatest museums on fishing history in America. It has a ton of tackle, including some very rare items, and a world-class reel collection.

The Catskill Fly Fishing Museum in Livingston Manor, New York used to have a web site but it appears to be broken.

The Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Museum in Harrisburg, PA has a nice web site.

The Wonders of Wildlife Museum has The American Sportsman's Heritage Center which apparently has a historical tackle display.

There used to be a neat tackle museum in Osseo, WI run by Arlan Carter but it closed a few years back. Gladding used to have a tackle museum in Otsego, New York, but it closed as well.

--Dr. Todd

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Fishing & Fishing Tackle Museums

The Minnesota Fishing Museum got me thinking about other museums out there. Here is a partial list, that I hope to add to if anyone can alert me to what's missing:

The Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, WI has a large collection of fishing items, mounted fish, outboard motors, rods, reels, and lures. The lure displays (as of about two years ago) were in a terrible state of disrepair, having not been updated since they were first put up a long time ago, but just seeing the giant musky is worth a trip. I went recently and will have a comprehensive report soon.

The Karl and Beverly White National Fishing Tackle Museum is housed in a the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks, Oklahoma. It houses one of the largest museums in the world.

The Int'l Game Fishing Association has a museum in Dania Beach, Florida. It also houses the IGFA Library, the largest repository of fishing books in America.

In Dowagiac, MI The National Heddon Museumis a must see, a terrific collection of Heddon materials run by the very kind Joan and Don Lyons. I will be touring this museum soon and will have a full report.

--Dr. Todd

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Minnesota Fishing Museum

Being a native Minnesotan, I was pleased to hear of the success of the Minnesota Fishing Museum.

I am excited about hitting this museum over my fishing trip up north, and reporting back my findings. They claim to have over 9000 lures, which would make their lure collection the same size as the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin.

An interesting story was run on the museum by WCCO in Minneapolis. Finding Minnesota: Minnesota Fishing Museum by Bill Hudson details the founding of this museum in Little Falls, MN--not far from Brainerd in the central part of the state.

They have some photos from their collection up on the web site.

I will give a detailed appraisal of this museum in a few weeks.

--Dr. Todd

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

ORCA Makes Headlines

The National Convention of the Old Reel Collector's Association (ORCA) is only a week away, and it is already generating news. Taking place in historic Dowagiac, Michigan--home for decades to Heddon--the meeting brings together tackle collectors and historians from around the world.

Check out the following article from The Niles Daily Star entitled Reel Show Lures Fans. ORCA VP Bill Muth was interviewed for this piece.

It seems as if next Thursday could not come too soon for me, as I am arriving in the afternoon. This will be my first ORCA National and I am really looking forward to it.

ORCA also got a nice recent write up from the prestigious Maine Antiques Digest entitled Collector's Clubs On-Line. Nice to get a boost from an unanticipated source!

--Dr. Todd

Monday, May 21, 2007

Kansas City Show Report & Pics

The Kansas City show ended a week ago and was apparently a great hit. Casey Jones was kind enough to report in on the show, and Jack Looney provided some photographs. Looks like I'll have to make it out that way next year!

The KC show was great as always. The room trading was good friday night and the food in the hospitality room was even better. As I roamed in and out of the hospitality room I could hear Warren Platt telling stories of the old days. Come to think of it he is about the only one I could hear talking in there. I dont think anybody else could get a word in.(LOL)

Saturday morning the show got starter early . I was surprised to see how much stuff was on tables that I did not see in the rooms the night before. I was able to pick up a few C.A. Clark baits for my collection and was able to add a few things to other peoples collections. But most importantly I was able to visit with old friends and
made a few new ones. Jack and Don did a great job at putting on a first class show. I hope every body that can make it to a show this year will. I know gas prices are up but for the most part the lures prices are down a little so it kind of evens its self out.

See ya at the next one,

Casey Jones

All photos courtesy of Jack Looney.

Thanks to Casey and Jack for giving us a glimpse of a great show!

--Dr. Todd

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Spring Fever ca. 1912

My fishing vacation is just a couple of weeks away and I can't wait. While everyone else I know seems to have already hit their fishing openers, my opening day is still two weeks away. But rest assured I feel the same as the fisherman reported in the 10 May 1912 Wall Street Journal.

Spring Fever

Amidst the mahogany-plush of his elaborate suite of offices near the top of one of the Wall street skyscrapers the finacier sat looking out across the harbor. At his left hand lay a pile of unopened letters and at his right a neat pile of letters unsigned, and the cards of three callers lay unheeded on the desk before him. His secretary had about concluded that only a new issue of stock or an increase in dividends could justify so long a period of introspection, and had about decided that the time to go long of a small block had arrived, when the financier came to and touched a button.

"Get me a New Haven time-table," he said to the boy, and to the secretary. "Telephone to the house and have my fishing tackle got ready."

I know the feeling all too well. A big stack of papers on the right, a stack of manuscripts on the left, and all I can think about is going fishing. I should go get my tackle ready.

--Dr. Todd

Saturday, May 19, 2007

More On Losing Your Favorite Lure...

Apparently, I am not the only one to lose my favorite lure before! I posted the question of whether anyone else had a similar experience, and got some interesting responses. Here are a few of my favorites:

From Gerald Garrett: Losing a favorite lure is the next best thing to not losing it. My favorite was a small floating Rapala silver side with black back. I would tie it directly to the 6lb. mono and walk the shoreline of Wood Pond. Twelve years old at the time. And look for action along the shoreline between the brush and trees. Twitching that sucker on top, toilets would flush underneath and had to wait a few seconds before putting the 308 in gear. This was in new England a monster bass to me was 2 1/2 lbs. Those Rapalas, 308's and u/l garcia and fenwicks ruled the day for me. Had many a backup rapala ready to employ bought on saturdays at Sears from the paper route.

From Joe Walkowski: When I was a kid, I spent a week's paper route money and bot a TE Pikie in Pike scale for $1.25. Took it to the Alleghany River down the street, snagged it and lost it! Never really had a chance to become my "favorite" lure, but 20 years later when I started seeing old lures at garage sales, I decided I would own "one of every color ever made" and never fish them! My most treasured collection today is of colors/variations of 700 Pikies! I owe it all to that first Pikie!

From Ed: I had my favorite Big O tied on this spring had it for years. Caught my biggest crappie of all time on it. Hung it up on the creek stump close to my house. Bought several to replace it, just not the same. About 2 weeks ago, snagged another bait, in the same spot. This time I had bigger line on my reel. Yanked and yanked till it broke free. Saved that bait, but guess what was attached to the bait? Yup, my old faithfull Big O. Still had my 4 pound test attached to it although the rear treble had almost completly deteriorated thru. Thats why it came loose I guess. Lucky me.

From Tim Whitaker: Ever find an ole lure that some fisherman had painted up years ago? I think back then a dollar was a dollar so a person might repaint a lure if it got in too bad of a shape. Maybe they even thought by customizing a plug it would catch more fish. A fishing friend of mine loaned me a buzzbait that he said was made by a local luremaker. It had smaller dia. wire, was more flexable, with larger blade,3/8 oz. It had a black skirt and we used to paint the lead part red and blotch-up the shinny aluminum color blade with brown paint because we fished dark colored water in mill ponds. My friend 's theory was that it looked like a redwing blackbird to the bass.It chirped and squeaked when retrived real slow . He caught an 8 1/2 and loaned it to me. I caught an 8 1/2 on it on a later fishing trip and kept it in my tackle box. If the weather conditions got right for "buzzin" like rainy days or overcast or early in the morn. I would bring it out and attack the bass. One day I went fishing and it got real cloudy before the rain that was coming and I threw a white buzzbait ,got a few strikes and smaller fish were breaking the surface so I decided to tie it on. I was so excited because I was getting some action on a buzzer,my hands were shaking. Most of my really big bass have been caught on one.While trying to tie my favorite strong knot on heavy line with shaking hands and in a hurry because of light fading fast, I droped the bait and it hit the side of the boat and fell in the water.Boy you talking about feeling like a dummy, I had a bait that had caught two eight and one half pounders and dropped it in the water.

From Mike Presley: Took my oldest son to Canada when he was 12. First two days were pretty tough fishing and he hadn't even caught one. Dug around in the tackle box and put a #5 Krocodile in silver and green mackerel pattern. He outfished the other three of us combined for the next three days on that one lure. I retied it after every third fish. It is stuck in the top of the picture frame with pics of the trip and is hanging in my room. That lure gave me a lot of joy. He has tried to get it from me a couple of times but it isn't going anywhere soon.

From John Walker: 7 to eight in fireball pink Rebel was a great lure to snag shad with for catfishing.Well one day I had snag a nice shad and was reeling it in when the line stopped dead. Thought "Oh great snagged on a stump!". Uh-Uh big fat flathead cat had sucked down my shad and decided after seeing me to dive into a brush pile. The line went slack and that was that!! also would use a 1 ounce Cotton Cordel Hot Spot white with skeleton pattern at that same spillway pipe and catch nice 3 to 6 lb bass-same thing big cat grabbed and poped that baby off. I have owned a few of both of those baits since then but for one reason or another those certain baits worked and follwing ones didn't.

From Tony Malatesta: Thats an easy one. Both are 4 inch floating Rapalas. The first is in Fire-Tiger pattern. Trolled slowly over sand flats in Sturgeon Lake (Ontario) Once caught over 50 Walley in a 5 hr. period, releasing all but 5. The other is in Gold-Brown pattern. Trolled behind a downrigger in Lake Rosseau Northern Ontario. Caught many Rainbow and Lake Trout. Still have both of them and they still produce well. Using the first already but will have to wait for Sept. to use the second. OH Happy Times.

From Bill Muth: Rabble Rouser Angel Eye crankbait, in either red head / white or gold and black. Best pike bait ever, also knocks the largemouth and smallmouth bass dead on a couple local lakes. Used them to troll for pike in Nebraska as a kid, lost my gold and black lure when I was about 12 in a snag. Rediscovered them about five years after buying a few off eBay, work better now than ever. If anyone has a red head / white Angel Eye for sale, I would pay a premium for it. I have the only one I've ever seen, and it has caught so many fish that one of the eyes fell off last year.

From Merv Bortner: Mine was a small jointed Rapala. Black back and silver sides and white belly. That lure would catch fish all day and night long. On any day of the year. This was back shortly after high school out on my own. Barely had two pennies to rub together. The only rod and reel I had was a ultra light close face Daiwa. That was made for two to six pound test. And a very light little rod. But that combo had a lot heart. Since it was my only rod and reel. It went trout, bass, carp, catfish and any pan fish I could find. I caught and landed anything from a ounce or two to 4 or five pounds or more. On the last day I had the lure. Fishing was great as it always was with this lure. The last fish I landed was bass around 2 to 3 pounds. The next cast I hooked on to it's twin. I fought it to the boat. And just as I was getting ready to land it. It made a small run and my reel totally froze up. Last thing I saw of the fight was my little four foot rod bent beyond double. And snap went the line. I managed to get the reel working again. Like I said earlier I could not afford to replace it. But I did check the car seats and manage to find enough for a new Rapala. You guessed it I bought the very same size and color. But there was just something the first one had.That none of the others I bought since had. I do not know what happened I fished it the same way. But could not even get a rise. I still have dreams about the glory days with that lure. When I still had it. There was never a day I could not catch fish. But after I lost it and up until I could no longer make it to the water. There was more days that I want to admit. That I did not catch anything. But when you get right down to it. If you are fishing it is still a great day.

Apparently, this experience is far more common than I would have guessed! Thanks to everyone who responded on the ORCA board and on Joe's.

--Dr. Todd

Friday, May 18, 2007

Fred Kerr and the Era of the Tackle List

Two things happened this week, almost simultaneously, that caused me to think about the subject of mailed Tackle Lists.

First, Fred Kerr, former president of the NFLCC, passed away this week. It is easy to tell from the enormous outpouring of support from the on-line collecting community that he was admired and respected by his friends and colleagues. Others who knew him far, far better than me are capable of commenting on his many accomplishments in life, but suffice to say he was one of the most important collectors of fishing tackle in America.

Second, I received a comprehensive tackle list from Bill McVeigh, current NFLCC president.

What do these two things have in common? What some new collectors might not know is that Fred issued a for sale tackle list for many years. Of course, anyone who joined the NFLCC after around 1999 probably doesn't remember this, but since I have been a member of the NFLCC since 1991, I remember well the days of the Tackle Mailing List. Nearly every week, I would receive a new list from an NFLCC member listing tackle for sale. I am looking right now at a 1995 NFLCC Gazette and see that for the price of a SASE you could get lists from The Fishermen's Bookshelf, John McGrath, Bill Jackson, Mike Johnson, Jerry Barrows, Highwood Bookshop, Karl Kozak, Ed Stilwell, Art McLeery, Steve Hays, W. Jackson, Joe Walkowski, Joe Mittler, Ed stillwell, and Kim Cherwin. This list did not include Fred Kerr, Dave Hoover, Lindy Egan, and others who mailed them out on a regular basis to all NFLCC members. Sometimes I would receive 75 lists per year (keeping in mind some sellers mailed out quarterly or even bi-monthly sales lists), and some of these lists were 30 or more pages each.

For a young collector, reading these lists was a revelation. We would match up what we had in our collection with items being sold, and for the first time had an idea of what the relative worth and scarcity of a particular item was. We bought from a few of the lists, and were happy (with one exception) with what we received. I remember well buying a Green Crackleback River Runt Spook Sinker for $25 from a list, a Troll Oreno for $20, a Whirl Oreno for $30. In the days before eBay and the internet, if you didn't find lures in the field this was the main source of new tackle (short of the NFLCC-sanctioned shows).

Fred will be missed for any number of reasons, but for me he symbolizes a by-gone era, a time when your mailbox could be counted on to bring the collecting world to you. Now that the collecting world has gone digital, it seems to have lost much of its personality.

For those who knew Fred and wish to comment on his passing, Click Here. I'm off to look over Bill McVeigh's Tackle List and think about times gone by.

--Dr. Todd

Thursday, May 17, 2007

More on the Smelt...

Yesterday's post elicited some interesting reactions. Apparently, few people were aware that something such as a smelt run actually existed in the Great Lakes. And as pointed out by one alert reader, most people probably don't realize that smelt are an invasive species. An invasive species is any non-native species that lives in a body of water; and yes, that means that for many regions, the Rainbow Trout is an invasive species. Everywhere in America, German Brown Trout are an invasive species, as is the Carp. These fish, however, have been largely purposefully introduced into various waters.

The invasive species people worry about most are those accidentally introduced and that significantly alter the local ecology. In the Great Lakes, the most famous invasive species is the rather gruesome Sea Lamprey.

Having entered the Great Lakes through the Welland Canal in 1829, the saltwater Sea Lamprey has wreaked terrible havoc on native species. They often eat as much as 20 pounds of fish flesh during their life cycle, and can kill even the largest Lake Trout, the top predator in Lake Superior. Here is a picture of the gruesome effects of lamprey on lakers:

There are many other invasive species in the Great Lakes. These include the Rusty Crawfish, the Spiny Water Flea, the Zebra Mussel, and most recently, the Goby and Ruffe, two voracious little fish from the Caspian Sea that came to the Great Lakes in the ballast of saltwater tankers.

The Rainbow Smelt is another invasive species, only this one was introduced into Lake Michigan in the early twentieth century as a forage fish for stocked salmon, yet another invasive species introduced into these waters. By 1930, they had migrated from Lake Michigan to Lake Superior, where they thrived. Huge schools of smelt would run the rivers to spawn, and were at first seen as a huge nuisance. In the post-World War II era, however, they began to be harvested commercially as well as for sport, and the smelt run became an annual tradition along Lake Superior's northwest coast line.

The smelt numbers began to dramatically decline in the 1980s, and continue to dip down to the present. Although the smelt still run in the Lester, Knife, French and other rivers, their numbers are tiny compared to the heyday of the smelt run. But no matter how you look at it, the Rainbow Smelt is an invasive species that took a terriible toll on the native feed fish such as the cisco and tullibee, whose numbers suffered tremendously with the rise of the smelt. Perhaps with the decline in smelt numbers, these native fish will rebound, but with the recent introduction of the ruffe and goby, the odds are not in their favor.

[Update courtesy Bill Sonnett] Not to nit pick the smelt issue, but they were not introduced into Lake Michigan but rather a small inland lake (if my memory is right Crystal Lake) as forage for a stocked population of salmon. In any case they made their way down stream on their own and showed up in Lake Michigan in 1930, 18 years after the original planting in the inland lake. From there they exploded into the Great Lakes. Those who are mourning their demise can take hope from the fact that the smelt population crashed in the early 1950's and despite many who predicted an end to future smelt runs. the smelt came back with a vengence.

--Dr. Todd

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Lake Superior's Declining Smelt Run

Why do so many articles begin with the words "When I was young"? Maybe its just an updated version of the famous phrase "Once upon a time," but despite being labeled as trite, I will begin this offering with those very words. When I was young, the Lake Superior smelt run was something to behold. These smelt--an invasive species in the parlance of Lake Superior fisheries biologists--would invade the local streams along Lake Superior's north shore in surreal numbers in an effort to spawn. On the Lester River in Duluth, they would be so thick you could fill any number of five-gallon tubs in a matter of minutes just using hand-dip nets. Huge bonfires would hold vats filled with oil. The five or six inch long smelt would be dropped in whole (guts and all), fried in the oil for a few minutes, and eaten as soon as fast as they were fried. There was a festival atmosphere, especially when the smelt ran at night.

Then the smelt stopped running, at least in the huge numbers that people had been accustomed to. Jim Heffernan, a local writer for the Duluth News-Tribune (home to the award-winning outdoor writer Sam Cook), offers his thoughts on the demise of the Smelt Run:

"Smelt Were Once King of Spring," Duluth New-Tribune (13 May 2007)

It is hard for those who have never experienced the smelt run to understand how magical it was. Where did all the smelt go? According to the Minnesota DNR:

Many Minnesotans remember the heyday of the smelt in the 1960s and 70s, when Lake Superior’s smelt population peaked and thousands of netters could haul home buckets of fish. Although still popular among a few avid folks, this spring activity is no longer the big carnival-like event it once was. Smelt numbers have declined significantly from peak abundance in the 1970s because of predation by an increasing lake trout population and the establishment of Pacific salmon, interactions with lake herring, and the usual decline that is typical after the initial boom of an invading exotic species. With Lake Superior restored to a more natural state, we are unlikely to experience a resurgence of smelt to the levels that anglers recall from the 1960s and 70s. There is still a smelt run in most years, but it is minor compared to the smelt runs of the past.

So the smelt run is passing into history. A few stalwarts, as seen in this Fish Duluth Report, still smelt the rivers in the spring, but their haul is meager and the party atmosphere is long gone.

The smelt may be disappearing, but the memories remain.

--Dr. Todd

For more information on the smelt run:

Minnesota Public Radio on the Smelt Run

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Centennial of John Harrington Keene's Death

John Harrington Keene is one of the most overlooked fishing writers in Victorian American history. While his name is known to those knowledgable in the writings of the era, he has always taken a back seat to other writers from the era. This is unfortunate as Keene was a terrific writer who was, when on top of his game, better than any other fishing writer in America. He is best known--if he is known at all--for writing Fishing Tackle, Its Materials and Manufacture, a seminal work of its kind in America, but as the following obituary published in Forest & Stream notes, it was his Fly-Fishing and Fly-Making that was one of the most influential and important works in American fly fishing history.

Death of John Harrington Keene

Forest & Stream (08 June 1907)

John Harrington Keene, of Floral Park, L.I., who was prominent as an authoritative and entertaining writer on angling, died recently in a sanitarium in Bellows Falls, Vt., where he went a little over a month ago hoping to gain relief from the illness from which he suffered for the last five years.

Mr. Keene was an Englishman, and to this is attributed the fact that he never received the appreciation that his work deserved. Not than an Englishman may not be honored in America, but because his writings were colored, perhaps, by too frequent references to angling methods in Great Britain, whose conditions are widely different from those met with on this continent. He began by making artificial flies in England in 1865. His best works probably were "Fly-Fishing and Fly-Making" and "Fishing Tackle, Its Materials and Manufacture." The former, a handsome little volume, contains a deal of hand work, done by the author, who was an adept at fly tying. This was one of the first books of its kind to be published in America. It was published by the Forest and Stream Publishing Company and ran through several editions. He also wrote "The Angler's Complete Guide and Companion," "The Practical Fisherman," and hundreds of magazine articles. He was a man of good address, as might be judged from his writings, and had many warm friends among those, angler and others, with whom he was thrown. On the stream he was a patient and skillful angler, but it is said by the few who knew him well that he never quite became reconciled to American trout and American trout streams. And yet, after the death of Wm. C. Harris, he was perhaps the ablest writer on fly-fishing in America. Certainly his memory will long be cherished by the fraternity, the better, perhaps, when it is remembered that, though lacking the heart interest which he left behind in his native land, his writings were still at the time of his death the best that could be read in America.

One of the neatest pieces I uncovered in my research on the American fish hook that culminated in The History of the Fish Hook in America, Vol. I was the awe-inspiring letter that Keene wrote in 1886 attacking Henry Cholmondeley-Pennell where Keene referenced Talleyrand and Palmerston, two Napoleonic war figures, and used the wonderfully obscure Greek phrase "to pile Pelion on Ossa." I simply had to reproduce this lost gem in full in my book.

We celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passing of John Harrington Keene with the hope that some of you will rediscover this great fishing writer.

--Dr. Todd

Monday, May 14, 2007

Ladies With Rods ca. 1933

Keeping with the theme this week of women and fishing (in honor of mother's day) I reprint an interesting article from 1933 on women anglers. My wife could probably attest to the fact that husbands and boyfriends often make terrible teachers (I could tell you the most horrible golf story ever on this theme). Fortunately, her father taught her how to fish when she was very young.

The article Ladies with Rods comes from Time Magazine (24 April 1933).

Ladies With Rods

Many a Connecticut woman packed up a rod & reel and repaired to a three-mile stretch of Branford River near New Haven, when the State trout season opened one day last week. Few of them minded much when they tangled their lines in trees and bushes, whipped their hooks into each others' clothes, got their wading boots waterlogged. They were happy because at last they had a chance to learn how to fish with no impatient male anglers standing by to criticize, complain, show off. Any husbands or fathers who went along had to sit meekly inactive on the banks. This was a stream for women only.

The fisherwomen had Publisher Thomas Hambly Beck, president of P. F. Collier & Son Co., to thank for their fun. He calls fishing "my golf," serves as chairman of Connecticut's State Board of Fisheries & Game. When he heard last year about the U. S. Bureau of Fisheries' trout stream for women in North Carolina's Pisgah National Forest he decided then & there that Connecticut women should have the same privilege. Property-owners along the chosen three miles of Branford River helped him by leasing fishing rights to the State without charge. He had the stream well stocked with gamey brook trout.

Only requirement for use of the stream is a State fishing license. Women who are squeamish about handling worms will not be sorry that fly fishing alone is permitted. On hand to teach them the art is a State warden of their own sex. She is Edith A. Stoeher, 27, a husky, genial sportswoman who breeds English setters on her farm near South Wethersfield, likes to hunt, fish, trapshoot. Last fortnight, in a field test with four other applicants for the job, she proved her skill with rod & reel, her knowledge of flies, knots, trout. Publisher Beck expects her to turn out many a woman angler able to whip Connecticut's 32 State-leased trout streams with the best of men.

This was all part of the national "Fish and Feel Fit" program designed to help combat the Great Depression which had reached its zenith around the time this article was published.

--Dr. Todd

Sunday, May 13, 2007

A Mother's Day Angling Post

Today is mother's day so it is only fitting to reflect upon the impact that my mom has had on my life. Frankly, she has been the most important source of support for me from the day I was born. But since this is a fishing history blog, I would be remiss to overlook her role as an angler. Although she grew up surrounded by extraordinary wealth in Japan and probably never considered fishing beyond gazing into the coy ponds, when she met my dad (who was born with a fishing rod in both hands) and moved to America, she indulged him by going fishing whenever he wanted. Here she is in 1954 holding a 24 pound northern. My father had lost a northern earlier both of my parents swear was twice as big as this one. My dad was so depressed he didn't want to fish anymore, but my mom convinced him to cast out again, and this is what he caught.

It's funny how fishing moms shows up in the strangest places. I was reading a recent biography of Sandra Day O'Connor, the first female U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and discovered this mother of three is a dedicated fly fisher. The following anecdote shows her interest in fly fishing very well:

"She went fly-fishing whenever possible, and worked to get better at it. Roy Herberger...a longtime friend of O'Connor, recalled being on a plane and noticing a woman up a row and across the aisle, casting with an abbreviated rod and reel. 'I thought, what in the world is that woman doing?' Herberger got up from his seat and discovered it was Justice O'Connor casting with a mock fishing reel. 'In between reading briefs, she was working on another skill to be more competitive,' he said."

From Joan Biskupic, Sandra Day O'Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice. (New York: Harper, 2005): 293.

It just goes to show you there are lots of fishing moms out there, including my wife.

So here's to all of the fishing mothers--and non-fishing mothers--on this mother's day. May it bring you the peace and love you deserve.

--Dr. Todd

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Losing Your Favorite Lure...Circa 1939

We've all had it happen, after hours on the water, you finally find that one lure that for whatever reason works better than anything else in your tackle box. You jealously guard the color, make and other details of your prize lure, and it works for you without fail. Then comes that sad day when you hang it on a brush pile, have it cut off on a fish, have it stolen out of your truck, or simply fish it until it falls apart. Many of us know the pain of this, and it might bring you some solace to recognize that others have felt your pain. This great little vignette, from prominent national outdoor writer Raymond Camp, sums up how this felt in 1939.

Raymond R. Camp, "Wood, Field and Stream" in The New York Times (24 May 1939).

"A friend just returned to the city after a week of black bass fishing in North Carolina. While there he landed a nine-pound smallmouth, and in telling about he extolled the virtues of the 'special' plug he used.

'I hunted a long while to find the exact type of lure for this fishing,' he explained, 'but I've got it at last. I wouldn't take a small fortune for it, as I don't believe I could get another.'

He finally departed with a jaunty step and a smile that was almost equal to the traditional one from 'ear to ear.'

The next morning we bumped into him again, but this time he was the picture of dejection. Someone had broken into his parked car and had made off with his entire fishing outfit--rods, reels, fully equipped tackle box and everything, including the 'special' plug for which he 'would not take a small fortune.'

We know exactly how this man feels. One day a friend gave us a bucktail of a strange and somewhat weird pattern. When we tried this lure it proved to be one of the most effective of its kind we ever used. Each time after returning from a trip we planned to get out the fly-tying kit and make a few like it, but somehow the task was always postponed.

Then one day a frayed leader parted and the 'killer' bucktail was no more. Since then we have tied up to fifty as close to this pattern as memory would permit, but somehow they lacked the appeal of the original possessed.

Some Pacific Coast salmon anglers will put away their rods in the middle of the season if they happen to lose their 'hot' lure, as they call it. It is a strange thing, but you can put a dozen of these lures side by side, measure them with a micrometer, compare them as to color and be able to find absolutely no variation. But out of this dozen one will take fish time after time, while the others will be ineffective. Some of these 'hot' lures bring as much as $30, while an exact counterpart sells for 30 cents."

My favorite all-time Musky lure was a red and white Billy Finn bucktail. It didn't look much different than other red-and-white bucktails other than there was a noticeably smaller amount of red, but it worked every single time I used it. Without fail, when other bucktails wouldn't produce a rise, I could always get at least a follow with the old Billy Finn. Several years back I was fishing the Chippewa Flowage on a dead day--our party of at least seven boats hadn't gotten a musky--so I switched to the old stalwart. Casting the shore line of a calm bay, a nice musky hit the Finn as if on command no more than 10 feet from the boat. It wasn't a huge musky by any means--about 36"--but I was fishing with a friend who hadn't been musky fishing before, and before I could yell at him to stop he put the net in the water and immediately tried to scoop the fish. It made a violent lurch and 'ping' went the line and off swam both fish and bucktail. I have yet to find another musky lure that produced as regularly and as well as this one.

Anyone else have a story of a favorite lure lost?

--Dr. Todd

Friday, May 11, 2007

Antique Lure Article in 11 May 2007 Gainesville Sun

A busy week for the journalists! A second article this week profiles both an NFLCC member and collecting antique fishing tackle. This one comes via the Gainesville Sun and profiles professional bass angler and collector Bernie Schultz. The article profiles both the NFLCC and the FATC and is another in a line of positive press clippings that have emerged in the wake of the by now legendary sale of the Haskell Minnow a few years back.

You can read the article "Reeling in Antique Lures" by Tim Tucker on-line by Clicking Here.

Another positive reference in the media!

--Dr. Todd

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Cincinnati's Buckeye United Fly Fishing Club

Last evening I had the great pleasure of addressing the members of the Cincinnati-based Buckeye United Fly Fishing Club. The title of my talk was "Professional Fly Tying in the Victorian Era," a subject I am particularly interested in and have seriously researched. Of course, in around 35 minutes, there is only so much information one can hope to get across, but from the many nice comments I received after the presentation, I think it wasn't too disappointing. I truly believe we must understand where we come from as fishermen and women if we want to truly appreciate the outdoors, and I hope my small contribution helped all the many fly tiers in attendance better appreciate their craft.

The Buckeye United Fly Fishing Club (BUFF) is one of the largest and most vibrant fly fishing clubs in America, and has hundreds of dedicated members who hold regular trips all around the country. It is a model of how such an organization should be run; I've been to two meetings and I have to say, having attended many meetings in the past for Trout Unlimited and other organizations, I don't believe I've ever been to one where the members laughed as much as at the BUFF meetings. They are truly having a blast promoting their passion, and best of all, they have not forgotten the joy of simply fishing. If you are from the Cincinnati area, join the club. If you aren't, check out their great website at:

Buckeye United Fly Fishing Club

You'll find lots of information on fishing, fishing history, and fly tying. In particular, check out the Fly of the Month from Joe Cornwall.

Special thanks go out to Mary and Paul Barber, Lee Chambers, Steve Lilly, Randy Clark, and Lou Haynes for their tremendous hospitality.

--Dr. Todd

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Hawaiian Ocean Fishing Clubhouses

Got this interesting piece from Brian Funai, a Hawaiian outdoor writer and collector, on the subject of fishing stands used for surfcasting. Brian has graciously agreed to share this interesting piece with all of us.

Hawaiian Ocean Fishing Clubhouses


Brian Funai


I saw your blog article about the fishing clubhouses and the engraving reminded me of some things people did here in Hawaii. At some of the very popular Cliffside spots where people go for giant trevally or ulua overnight, there used to be wooden shacks that pretty much served as clubhouses and shelter. The fishermen, including some fishing clubs, would pool their resources and labor together to build or rebuild them after major storms. That was before the concept of “environmental vigilance” and people cared more about those things and eventually, they were either removed by the city or vandalized and burned down. Although these were not used to fish from, there were platforms that were used that way.

One of the famous sights from the 1940s to 60s that you no longer see today was little wooden chairs along some of the inland canals and dredged channels in the ocean. These were single man platforms used by mullet fishermen, primarily Japanese immigrants or the 2nd generation, to fish exclusively for mullet. As the schools of mullet disappeared due to the destruction of their estuary spawning grounds, the fishermen did too. Their style of fishing was highly specialized and required an incredible amount of patience.

These chairs were in pretty calm areas but, in my club, there was a member that built platforms on the reef to fish for the ulua. Other friends fished off of giant concrete “blocks” in the middle of Pearl Harbor that people said were used to tie off submarines but I think they were for all types of ships.


A very interesting little piece. I know in the Phillipines a similar type of fishing was conducted, and maybe other readers can remember and write in about other unique methods utilized for surf casting and ocean fishing. Thanks Brian!

--Dr. Todd

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Lee Wulff on Fishing with his Stan Bogdan Fly Reel

As collectors, we often forget that fishing tackle was made for one purpose: fishing. I know it's hard to fathom that a Heddon Slopenose or Chapman Spinner worth four or five figures once caught fish, but it is certainly true. Well, maybe not the exact one you have in a display case, but one very much like it for certain.

A recent work worth picking up for those interested in fishing is Fishing Passion: A Lifelong Affair with Angling by Jim C. Chapralis (Evanston: Angling Matters Press, 2002). In a chapter entitled "Fishing with the Greats: Lee Wulff" Chapralis describes the following scene that illustrates my point exactly. Fishing with the famed Wulff, Chapralis declared after watching him boat an epic fish:

The encounter between Lee and the fish was almost a Hemingway confrontation. I noticed his unique fly reel.
"What kind of reel are you using?"
"It's custom made. Stan Bogdan made it for me. Actually he made only two and gave them to me," he replied.
Whoa, only two reels of this model made by a famous reel maker, and Lee was fishing with one of them?
"Aren't you afraid of losing this rare reel, overboard?"
"So?" he replied. "Many people have good tackle and never use it. Stan made these for me for fishing, not to sit in a drawer and collect dust. If I lose a reel overboard, I lose it."
I felt a little sheepish. I have some unusual, valuable fishing rods and reels, but I hesitate to use them for fear that they will break or be damaged. I learned this from my grandmother, who used to save China dinnerware and linens for special occasions that never materialized.

Am I more like Wulff or Chapralis? An interesting question. Will I go fishing tomorrow with my bass-sized Chippewa? No. But I very much may take out my Leonard fly rod and matching Vom Hofe fly reel, for as Wulff noted, they were made to be used and not to sit in a drawer.

My two cents on this Tuesday.

--Dr. Todd

Jim Chapralis' book is Available by Clicking Here.

Monday, May 7, 2007

01 May 2007 Canton Repository Article on Antique Tackle

A great article featuring an NFLCC collector was posted in the Canton Repository. This article centers on Ron Kotch, and there are a number of things I like about this feature. First, although the spectacular high prices command attention, Kotch references Pikie Minnows in the $10-$30 range. Second, it talks about fakes and frauds, a really important subject. Third, it notes that Ron is a fisherman. I think too often we collectors get disconnected from our roots as fishermen and women, and get lumped solely into the collecting category. Almost all of us who collect and write on fishing history fish regularly and got into collecting because we loved fishing. I really liked this was emphasized in the article. All in all, a really neat piece.

A link to the article on-line can be found:

"Antique Lure Sells at $110,000" by Bob Russ.

A great article promoting fishing history and collecting!

--Dr. Todd

Sunday, May 6, 2007

May 2007 The Reel News Vol. XVII, No. 3 Review

The latest copy of The Reel News, the excellent publication of ORCA, is hot off the press! Edited ably by Richard Lodge, this edition is 40 pages long and, as always, contains a wealth of information that make it such an important venue for both reel and tackle collecting in general.

The articles include "Celebrating the Anniversary Reel: The George Worthington Company, Hardware Jobbers of Cleveland" by yours truly, which details the background and history to this important trade house that sold tackle under the Anniversary, Clear Cut, and Worthington names. Don Champion contribued a neat article on a rare Montague free spool reel entitled "A Pleasant Surprise in the 'Reel World'." Alan Baracco penned another nice selection on Langley Reels, this time on "Langley Lite-Sized Freshwater Spinning Reels." I have owned versions of all three of the Langley lite-sized pictured (dating from 1954-1962) and learned a lot about their development. I had not realized there were so many different models of the Spin-Flo, Spin Deluxe and #777.

Erstwhile Reel News editor Phil White makes a welcome return with an article on a most amazing catch, a 360 pound White Sturgeon captured with a Mitchell 302 reel. The photo of this behemoth next to the lucky fisherman was used by Garcia in their advertising, and is reproduced in the article. As Phil notes, the 302 was obviously built for big fish! Stu Lawson's always entertaining column gives a historical retrospective of The Reel News from its humble four-page beginnings to its expansion under Phil White's stewardship to its growth under Richard Lodge to the 40-page beauty it remains today. Jim Madden's always anticipated column on South Bend looks at "My Little Sixty: The South Bend Tournament Reel." I think many people did not know South Bend made narrow-spool tournament casters, so this should be something of a revelation.

Jim Schottenham's "Auction Report," always a popular feature, covers the best and brightest on eBay over the past two months. I was somewhat saddened to hear a Ward's Hawthorne Kentucky-style reel which I somehow missed sold at $275 on a buy-it-now, which is an absolute steal. I have been looking for one of these for some time, but they always go well above my price range! Ben Wright, author of the seminal work on spinning reels, answers (in part) the question "Which Newer Spinning Reels Will be Collectible?" I think I may go out and purchase an Abu Garcia Model C33, per Ben's suggestion. If you had followed Ben's advice seven years ago on spinning reels, you'd be living in a mansion on a hill now (apologies to those who live in mansions on hills already).

Last but certainly not least, Robert Miller's Pflueger Pfacts column entitled "The 2-Named Reel and the Impossible Dream: A Closer Look at the Pflueger Skilkast" details the history and development of this popular baitcaster. I had not realized this reel was referred to as the "Ampro" as well as the Skilkast. To round it off, Ed Slane's "Shirts Work" is a piece of good advice on using t-shirts to advertise your hobby, Col. Milton Lorens' "Reel Fix" details the Dyna Fish 100A and 100B, and Richard Lodge's editor's page reminds ORCAns to give a hearty thanks to Don Champion for taking over ORCA's voluminous (and ever growing) library from the late Harvey Garrison.

Seems like a lot of information in forty pages? You ain't kidding! No other publication puts as much original and useful info in as concise and useful format as The Reel News.

As an aside, I sometimes marvel at why more of my NFLCC friends are not members of ORCA. So much that is printed in this journal is of broad utility and will make you a better collector of whatever it is you desire, and I can confidently declare the majority of it simply cannot be found anywhere else. For the price of membership, you get in one year's time over 240 pages of information from just the magazine alone! This does not count access to the ORCA Library, web site, shows, etc. If you're a lure collector and you're not reading The Reel News, you are missing out on tons of information of great utility. If you're a reel collector and you haven't joined, you're just plain nuts.

--Dr. Todd

Visit ORCA's Web Site

Saturday, May 5, 2007

1960 Zebco Article

Zebco has become increasingly popular among collectors, and rightly so. This outstanding firm is still putting out quality products 60 years after its founding, and besides, how many of us caught our first fish on a push-button Zebco reel? There is a pleasing continuity in the fact that I did, and now so has my little daughter. Because there is renewed interest in Zebco reels, here is an interesting vignette from the 1960 Los Angeles Times on Zebco history that some of you may find of interest.

For a print-ready copy of this article, Click Here

Even if these kinds of articles are not pathbreaking, I enjoy them as they offer insight into how fishing and tackle was marketed nationally. This is from a prominent West Coast newspaper and probably helped spur the good Zebco name.

If anyone has similar articles they would like to share on any aspect of fishing and fishing history, please contact me.

--Dr. Todd

Zebco Reels USA

For more info on collectable Zebco Reels, type "Zebco" in the search box on ORCA's Reel Talk Web Pages.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Surf Casting for Striped Bass Circa 1905

In digging through some materials on the history of bass fishing, I ran across an interesting little piece on club-house fishing along the Atlantic Coast. For much of the nineteenth and into the twentieth century, fishing clubs were a common site along the coast. Many of these club members pooled their money and constructed sturdy fishing stands from which they could cast even in inclement weather. The following selection comes from Louis Rhead, Ed. The Basses: Fresh-Water and Marine (1905):


Club-Houses and Fishing-Stands

The substantially built fishing-stands, resembling the "pulpits" of swordfishing vessels, are a characteristic feature of the club properties on our New England coasts and islands. Stout planks and iron railings firmly bolted to the solid rock enable the angler to maintain his station near his favorite feeding-grounds, no matter how fiercely winds blow or surf beats against the shore. Clad in warm and waterproof clothing, and provided with all the needful appliances for the capture of his mighty prey, he braves the elements and patiently endures the long struggle for the sake of the highest trophy possible outside of the salmon regions. Blow ye winds! Roar, ye surges! The stout heart of the angler courts and defies your threatenings, for here revels wild life and matches its cunning against man's strength and skill!

A fascinating and intriguing way to overcome nature.

--Dr. Todd

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

1994 Article on Collecting Antique Fishing Tackle

Steve Brunssen recently ran across a 1994 article from Bassin' Magazine on collecting fishing tackle. I love these kind of personal articles, even if they don't usually offer any new information. It was around 1985 that my older brother, myself and my father started collecting. We knew next to nothing other than we liked old fishing tackle and had a ton of it lying around. Then one day, our local newspaper published an article on noted collector Peter Haupt of Hayward, WI. He had the most amazing collection of Musky Vamps ever. Not long after, we were lucky enough to run into him at an auction near Hayward, and talked to him for an hour. Then he came and visited us at the cabin and we spent an afternoon talking tackle.

We were hooked. The collecting bug had hit us hard and for the next decade, almost every weekend found us pounding the pavement looking for lures. Even after I left home for college, my parents would clip these kinds of articles out of the paper and send them to me. I now have a whole file folder full of them, which I will start to scan and place up on the website for informational purposes. I like these articles because they put such a human face on collecting.

The article is entitled "Collecting Antique Tackle" and is by Bob Whitaker, and was published in the May/June 1994 issue of Bassin' Magazine.

To download a PDF version of this article, Click Here.

If anyone has any other articles like this drop me a note and I'll post them.

Thanks for Steve for allowing me to put this up!

--Dr. Todd