October 2006

National Freshwater Fishing Hall Of Fame

Muskies Rule!

By Margie Anderson

Fall is the perfect time of year to visit northern Wisconsin.

Itís easy to imagine how the pioneers must have felt when they visited Sawyer County because the hardwood forests go on and on, and the natural beauty of the land seems almost untouched.

By the end of September, the leaves are just about in full color, and itís hard to imagine anything more beautiful than that.

One of the other main attractions of Sawyer County (located in north central Wisconsin) is the Chippewa Flowage.

The Flowage is basically a gigantic 15,300-acre reservoir formed by the damming of the Chippewa River at Winter, Wisconsin in 1924. There are about 233 miles of mostly forested shoreline, nearly 200 islands.

The first time I visited there and heard about the "floating islands," I was naturally skeptical. But, itís true: The Flowage is dotted with floating bogs that meander slowly about.

Once, a really big one floated into a bridge and blocked access to a big arm of the Flowage. People were in quite a tizzy trying to figure out how to break it up or move it away. The problem took care of itself when the wind shifted and the bog took itself off.

Northern Wisconsin offers fishing for a wide range of species including crappie, largemouth and smallmouth bass, perch, bluegills, catfish, northern pike, and muskies. Muskies are definitely king: Just about every place you visit in northern Wisconsin has a big chart listing the yearís biggest musky catches.

It helps that there are lakes and rivers everywhere, each one just full of fish. The smallmouth bass fishing in particular is outstanding, maybe because all the locals are after muskies all the time.

With everyone in Wisconsin so musky-mad, itís no surprise that there is a 1.5-block long, 4.5-story musky in Hayward, Wis. This giant musky building is one of the main features of the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. Since 1960, the hall has collected and recognized fishing records, but itís much more than that.

The museum itself is on six acres donated by the town of Hayward and offers 25,000 square feet of displays. You can see 400 fish mounts, 300 classic and antique motors, and 5,000 classic lures.

One of my favorite displays is the motors: Thereís one in there that is like an egg beater. You crank the handle to turn gears that rotate the prop! I could just see myself fishing while John cranks that motor.

There are tons of displays and photos of record catches, as well as photos and bios of famous anglers whoíve been initiated into the Hall of Fame. Itís a wonderful place to visit.

Besides the giant musky there are other huge fish models on the grounds. You can stand in a row boat and have your photo taken as you battle a 20-foot bluegill.

It only cost $21 for four of us to get in. Stop in the Hayward Visitor Center first, and you can get pamphlets that include a dollar-off coupon.

While youíre in Hayward, be sure you visit the Moccasin Bar. Itís on the corner near the Visitor Center. Inside youíll find an array of fish and wildlife mounts that will absolutely astound you. It is truly a one-of-a-kind display.

For more information on Hayward, Wis., visit www.haywardareachamber.com and the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame: www.freshwater-fishing.org.

Moccasin Bar: www.explorewisconsin.com/MoccasinBar/