Thursday, July 28, 2011

#26 - The One That (Almost) Got Away

Even eminent chartered accountants are known, in their capacity as fishermen, blissfully to ignore differences between seven and ten inches, half a pound and two pounds, three fish and a dozen fish. - William Sherwood Fox

I've heard some fish stories over the years but this one I had to see to believe. It was spotted leaping from a lake near Hayward, Wisconsin, in 1976 -- a Muskellunge (aka "Musky") of mythical proportions: one-half a city block long, four and one-half stories tall, with a gaping mouth so large its open jaw could easily accommodate 20 people or more! It was, most certainly, a world record fish and I wanted to photograph it.

Nothing makes a fish bigger than almost being caught. - Author Unknown

My first encounter with the beast was almost a quarter century ago while I was living in Chicago and working for Agence France-Presse (AFP Photo). One fine fall weekend, I cruised to Northern Wisconsin in search of colorful trees and was amazed at what I discovered instead. For towering over the Hayward timberline, bearing teeth the size of railroad ties and striking a semi-angry pose was the giant musky! Unfortunately I only had one half hour and one roll of Tri-X film with which to document the creature (please see the May 2009 post, "Do you See What I See?", to view those images) and so I vowed someday I'd return to finish the job. For my third Summer Photo Project I did just that -- here's my picture story from the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum in Hayward, WI.

Fishing is a discipline in the equality of men -- for all men are equal before fish. - Herbert Hoover

The National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum is much more than a record-keeping organization. In addition to maintaining the Record Book, which lists all world record catches, the four building complex is a warehouse for all things angling including over 50,000 vintage and historical lures, rods, and reels; over 300 mounted fish; and about 1,000 vintage outboard motors featuring Evinrude's first production model from 1909. But the highlight of the Hall has to be the "Shrine to Anglers", the massive concrete, steel, and fiberglass hand-sculpted musky -- its innards are a museum and its jaw is an observation platform. The landmark is surrounded by a quarter-acre nature pond complete with catch and release bluegill fishing!

If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles. - Doug Larson

The original idea for the Hall of Fame came from Bob Kutz, of Hayward, WI, in 1960. After about a decade of failed fundraising attempts for the project, the Hall ironically enlisted the aid of the Jim Beam Whiskey Distillers and their 10 year offer to produce collector's fish decanters with a portion of the proceeds directly benefitting the project. The Hall would net about $300,000 over that period and the gates to the museum opened in 1976. Today, over 50,000 people visit the complex annually.

The two best times to fish is when it's rainin' and when it ain't. - Patrick F. MacManus

Just like my trip in 1987, this time was an adventure too. Back then, I arrived at the museum 30 minutes before it was going to close with only one roll of black and white film after a full weekend of color shooting. This year, I arrived the evening before my planned visit but to severe thunderstorms and more rain in the forecast for the next day. I budgeted only one day for this shoot so it couldn't be rescheduled or redone. I showed up the next morning anyway and was miraculously greeted by the only 2 hours of sunlight for the entire day! These are the images I was able to make before the rains came, making the remainder of June 21st (the first day of summer I might add) a washout! My goal was to spend an entire day documenting the Hall and it remains that way. Once again, the Musky wins but at least it's still The One That Almost Got Away.

My biggest worry is that my wife (when I'm dead) will sell my fishing gear for what I said I paid for it. - Koos Brandt