Hayward, WI - Fishing Hall of Fame

On one of our excursions into Wisconsin, I collected a postcard with a picture of a two-story high musky at a place called the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin. 

Looking at a map, I noticed that Hayward is a scant 20 miles east and a just a little north of Spooner, Wisconsin.  Since I always pass through Spooner on my way to my favorite fishing spot in Minnesota, I decided to take a little detour this summer to see this museum for myself.

Information Sign

It was a Friday afternoon in early June and Hayward seemed surprisingly quiet – traffic-wise at least – but maybe that was a result of the all day rain shower. In any event, we checked into our room at about 3:00pm and headed the short distance back to town to check out the visitor information center, which turned out to be very close to the museum.

The museum was scheduled to stop taking visitors at 4:30 and to close at 5:00; it seemed like we had ample time. Admission was $5 for adults; we paid the fee and entered through the gift shop.

Giant Musky

Because of the postcard, my first stop was the giant replica of the musky (visitors can actually go inside, all the way up into it's mouth).  I have to say that besides the few mounted fish and a few old fishing lures, the place was simply a two-story listing of names of the Fishing Hall of Famers.  I was – and my sincere apologies to the inductees – disappointed to say the least.  This couldn’t be the whole museum! 

But wait… the disappointment was short-lived; unknowingly, I had saved the best until last.  Just outside was another building that I had apparently ignored… until now.  Walking inside, my jaw hit the floor.  The building consisted of five wings of rooms, jam-packed with memorabilia of every possible sort.  This was the mother lode!

Museum Grounds

One of the first things that I saw was a mounted world record musky – 69 pounds, 11 ounces – caught by Louie Spray! And then I saw the pictures of Spray with the monster and then more pictures… and more pictures. Can you imagine anything that big on your line? Even once?

Spray did it numerous times. This guy had caught more record muskies in his life than I ever could imagine. And he wasn’t alone. There were other world records as well, including one caught by Cal Johnson weighing in at 67 ½ pounds that was 60 ¼ inches long.

Old Martin '60' motor

The place was brimming with record fish of all varieties.  But there was so much more to see.  One of my favorite displays included an outboard motor that was identical to the first one that I ever owned as a kid.  I haven’t seen another since my mom sold mine at a garage sale before we moved.  “We can’t take it with us” she told me as I fought back the tears. 

It was a “Martin 60” that was made by Presto industries in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  Boy, did that bring back some memories!  And there were hundreds of other old motors of every sort and vintage.  There were thousands and thousands of lures – many of them exact replicas of the ones I had inherited from my father’s old Kennedy tackle box. 

There were fishing poles, reels, mounted fish, pictures of fishing legends, trolling motors and even a few boats. There were thousands of additional names in the Hall of Fame – here in what I considered to be their rightful place, alongside the tools of their trade.

All of a sudden I noticed that the place was about to close and we had to leave. But I had a great time and I could finally close my gaping mouth. Next time you are anywhere near Hayward, Wisconsin, do yourself a huge favor and visit the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. I promise that you will be glad you did!

R. Karl

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