Common Ground 516 – Minnesota Fishing Museum & Al Baert

Lakeland Public Television presents
Common Ground brought to you
by the MInnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund
and the citizens of Minnesota. ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Fishing in Minnesota is almost an institution
so we’re off to Little Falls to a museum to learn more about
this great heritage in our
state. ? ? ? ? My name is Jeff Doty and I’m the
president of the board of
directors for the Minnesota Fishing Museum.
We are standing here in the
middle of the present Minnesota Fishing Museum. We have about 10,000 square feet of space.
We have over 10,000 artifacts available for the public
to answer the questions where did come from in Minnesota’s
fishing history. The mission
of the Minnesota Fishing Museum
is three fold. One is to preserve the artifacts of the history of the fishing culture here in the state of MInnesota.
The second is to provide an educational forum and facility so that when we get school groups coming in on their field trips in the spring. We want them to be
educated about Minnesota’s fishing and Minnesota fishing history. We have
scavenger hunts that we have
kids do when they come around. We have a
coloring area back there for
the little kids. They get to color all different
kinds of fish and then they
learn about what that fish is. When we grow
out of this facility and end
up in a new facility. One we want to
expand the kind of experiences that kids have and make it
more of an education center. The third leg of our stool
when it comes to mission is to provide recognition
for the people in the industry and the companies in the
industry that have historical significance also. Well
our Executive Director here at the Minnesota Fishing Museum
is Mavis Buker. Mavis is our
only full time employee. Mavis came
to us after our previous
director who was Leann Luset who
was here from the very
beginning. We’ve enjoyed great expansion
and growth under Mavis’s directorship. She has just
been a joy to work with. My name is Mavis Buker.
I am the Executive Director here at the Minnesota Fishing Museum. We are located in Little Falls, MN. We are a collection of we like to say rather loosely
over 10,000 artifacts related to fishing in this
land of 10,000 lakes. Now obviously we don’t have 10,000 artifacts on display. We are a fairly small location at this time.
Growing always though. So some of our collection is on display.
Some of our collection is kept
in storage. and we do rotate our collection. So that
when people come for a second
or a third or a fourth visit. They are going to see
something different the next
time they come by. When a person walks in to the fishing museum, first of all you will enter our gift shop. Where you will walk
in on our pretend dock. You will note that our front counter
is actually a boat. It’s a 1946 Larson wooden strip boat
that had been donated to the museum as has everything
in the museum. We are a
non-profit organization. All of our artifacts
that are on display have been donated from
people across the state. And are happy to preserve
that piece of the past. Our
goal is to tell the story of fishing in Minnesota from the early days right forward to the present. So in our
collection you will find boats and motors and tackle boxes
and minnow buckets and lures and rods and reels.
We have winter fishing. Which some people like to call
hard water fishing because we
all know. Minnesota the lakes freeze over
and that becomes very hard. We
also have open water fishing.
We have fly fishing exhibits. We have a collection of the
Minnesota state record catches. The fish of each species
the largest ones caught. Those are replicas of course. For some reason
when someone catches a record
fish they want to keep it. So we didn’t get those just the duplicates. But we have those so people can kind of compare.
You know that walleye that I
caught last week how does it match up to the state record.
And they can get a visual
expression of that as well. We have an aquarium
a 280 gallon aquarium. with some native fish.
We have sunfish, crappies,
perch. That is always a fun little thing to watch, very relaxing and just so much more. The fishing museum started
here in Little Falls in 1998. Our founder is Al Baert.
Al lives just down the river from us in Sartell. How much
of this did you want to see? Al is the go getter behind
the whole operation. And I do believe he’ll be able to tell you the whole story. This particular lure on the top here
is a Surf Oreno. This guy that was suppose to
evaluate these lures shoved five of them away.
He said this is a 1919 lure Well look Al it’s got
two props and glass eyes He said I’ll buy it from you.
I said I don’t want to sell
it. I want to have it appraised.
So after about 15 minutes he had the audacity to
offer me $3 for that lure. Well this book that
I had received from Dick showed it was worth $75- $100
that’s 23- 24 years ago. I got mad and I went home
and I told my wife I’m going to start the
Minnesota Fishing Museum. The biggest problem was
to break the ice. I had a lot of people retired from
the state of Minnesota So I had a lot of friends
that knew me and they actually helped start
up donating things. But the general
public they didn’t know me. It took a while for them to understand that I wasn’t
doing this to collect this
stuff for myself. It is unbelievable the support
we get. So we have today
this beautiful collection to preserve the heritage of
fishing. Well here is some
of the favorite items. First of all a 1902 submergable motor.
This is the 6 volt submergable motor.
You steer it by turning this you control the rpm
by this rheostat. It was built over in Wisconsin. Now we look at
a boat like this. This is a boat that was built
in Alexanderia, MN. Completely refurbished and donated to us.
Dates back to the early 1900’s. Then we have
these knucklebusters. Outboard motors.
These knucklebusters is you start by grabbing a hold of this
and if you start it clockwise you go forward. If you start it
counterclockwise you go
backwards. You steer by steering
only the lower unit. You don’t steer
the whole thing. Now that’s not a good idea because
if you hit a rock it won’t
tilt up. Now you go to
this Evinrude. This is a very nice, old motor. It’s a knucklebuster
but it has a retractable knob and you
steer this from any place in the boat. It’s got a rudder
on the back end. One of our famous lures.. This lure came out of a box, a fishing tackle box
that had it in a compartment and this piece of paper
was wrapped up with it. It’s
called a Hoefer Lure Company
on West Lake in Minneapolis.
Nobody has ever visited the museum that has
ever seen this lure. You know it’s just amazing
the things that we have. You know we have a cabin
that depicts a 1920 or 1930 fishing cabin.
For two men and you can look in there and
this is the size and equipment of a cabin dating back
in 1920 – 1930. ? ? ? ? ? ? This particular cabin is using a cooker
of my grandma’s indoor
plumbing. People just can’t believe
that fisherman used to enjoy a cabin like that. Now this is my favorite display
of the whole museum. This is my dad’s fishing stuff. I could never convince dad
that when they said 6 fish was the limit that
that’s all he would keep. After I retired from
the Airforce, dad and I we’d fish in many many lakes
and alot of trips all over
Minnesota and Canada. The most enjoyable trip
was the first shore lunch I ever fixed dad
on island up in Canada. Now you talk about
what’s different? Here is another lure
that nobody’s ever seen. This lure looks like that
when it’s first baited up. This lure you squeeze it together
and push that pin back. While you are trolling it’s twirling.
And as you troll and a Northern hits it
the pin pulls forward and this spreads out and
it opens up and automatically hooks the fish itself. We have a donation
on fly fishing equipment. When I went to get a
picture from this gentleman who happens to live in Sartell. I questioned where he lived because
the telephone book said
Highview Trailer Park. Jim, when I called him…
Jim where do you live? He said how did you get my number?
Telephone book. That’s where I
live. I couldn’t believe it. I go over
to Highview and he’s living in
a very modest house trailer.
He’s driving a beat up old Pontiac.
He donated over $3,800 worth of fly fishing equipment that dates back to 1890. That was handed down. I said why did you do this? He said Al if
I would of sold it nobody would of appreciated it.
This is the fly fishing equipment that I told
you that the gentleman in
Sartell donated. You can see
it’s very very old. and very beautiful.
It has a folding trout net, that you can just
push the button and it folds. It has a fly book and
this has flies tied to each one of the pages.
I’d never seen one in my life until I saw this.
I did see that type of book
in that picture. Now in here this is our ice pond. This was a dream come true.
We have an artist by the name
of Les Kouba that lives
in Hutchinson, MN. His famous picture
was the Dark House. So we recreated the dark house and we have a northern coming in
and the lure and so on. Now I would never had this if it wasn’t
for the ice decoy association Jeff Doty and when you talk
about us appreciating things.
I had a guy by the name of Les Cronin
from Maple Lake, MN He came in and he walks into the museum
and he has something behind him.
Oh Al he says I’m glad your here.
Look what I got for you. He had spent 7 years
trying to get this spear donated. The gentleman that owned it
was a banker in Maple Lake. After he died his widow
donated this to him. It’s the first time I’ve
ever seen a cross spear. This is a sample of our
oldest spear that we have. This here dates back in the
1920’s. Then we go to today and
here is our most modern spear ad this is developed by Jeff
Doty. It’s all laser cut.
Beautiful. Ingenuity of people. Here is an ice auger that
was built with a bicycle handle bars, a Plymouth starter
and this lower gear unit.
So they don’t have to use the augers.
Then we have down here a lot of fish sticks that
are used for ice fishing This particular one
was used by Vince Meyer. Vince because of polio had a limp. So his
brother developed this fish stick out of a cane.
Put a reel on it for his brother to go fishing
and not fall. We can see this ingenuity in just about
everything that you see from the ice sled for ice fishing, to the hand made collapsible fish houses.
I have a motor I’d like to show you.
Are you are gambling man? Not at all. I was willing
to make a bet with you. I’ll bet
that you’ve never seen this type of outboard. Now this outboard you
take it out of the suitcase out of the trunk of
your car and you open it up and you have
a folding outboard motor. This is a 1966, 3 horse Evinrude. ? ? ? ? ? ? You see this picture
here in this case This is a picture of
ice decoys that are all carved by Minnesota carvers
and there on display here. We have the largest
collection of ice decoys in the country. ? ? ? ? Over here alphabetically by carver in that case is ice
decoys. Al is the man with the mission.
If it wasn’t for his impetus this would not exist.
If someone my age were to have started this a lot of
these artifacts that were
collected in the last 13 years
would already be gone. Imagine how much of this stuff
gets rusty and thrown in the
garbage. That’s what I like about a show like this
is that it gets the message out to people so that we can
preserve the value of the artifacts available to us before their gone. Because once their gone they are gone forever. As you were taping
and I was following Al around
here I heard stories that
I’ve never heard before. You can look at an old reel and see that it’s a cool old reel. But if you know the story of the person that donated it
and why they were significant that’s the most important part.
Another thing that happens quite frequently here at the museum
is that people will look at
something and I can’t tell you how
many times we hear my dad and used to …. and here
comes the story. My grandpa used to have a lure just like that one. So it can be quite emotional. I had a women visiting one day and
she was alone and I introduced
her to the museum, encouraged
her to take a look around So I went to greet her once again and said how’s it going? And she turned to me with just tears coming down her face and she said you caught me crying. And I glanced at where
she was looking and we have a little display with a table
set up for fly fishing. She
said my grandpa had a set up
just like that and when I saw that I couldn’t help it. I just felt so connected to my grandpa. So there is that personal element
that the fishing museum has. It’s not our sole reason
for existing but it certainly is something that makes us
a special place to visit. Museum acquires artifacts
by the generosity of people. They want to preserve the legacy
of a parent or a grandparent. Or maybe it’s something
they came across that they think is just so cool that this is
where it belongs. For example we have all kinds of motors here.
But we also have a motor that clamps on the back that’s
a big air fan. It’s the only
one of those that I’ve ever seen. Well that’s
unique and that’s special. It’s special to the person
who donated it to us and it’s special to us because of that.
Fishing history with each
person is very very personal.
It all triggers memories Telling people about the
1902 electric submersible trolling motor. When you think
about it that’s the same thing as all these electric trolling motors
that people use today. Think about the time
and history of 1902. It was before the model T.
We were washing clothes with scrub boards in
wash tubs. All of sudden here we have this new
trolling motor, that’s electric the battery was huge.
And when someone was back scrubbing clothes somebody
else was fishing with an
electric trolling motor. It’s just mind boggling.
It’s all about the stories, because to look at an old motor you can say oh yeah that’s an old motor. But when you see the
history or understand the history or know the history of this. That’s where the stories are and that’s what we are trying to preserve
here. When we receive artifacts we want the story that
goes along with them. Everything in our collection has been
donated from people across the
state. It’s not unusual when someone
walks through the museum to go well that’s my neighbor, that’s my uncle,
that’s my cousin I didn’t know they had this item. If people are
interested in something they might have in their garage
or their tackle box or a family treasure related to fishing and they
are thinking about what can I
do with it. We do continue to accept
donations for the collection. One would simply need to call the museum, talk to myself or the assistant director Diane. We will fill you on all the details
of making that donation. Again we are a non-profit organization so all donations whether they are cash
or in kind are tax deductible. The Minnesota Fishing Museum
is a 501C3 non-profit organization. As a result
of that all the stuff that is here is a result
of the efforts of Al our founder, the board of directors,
and the volunteers of this organization.
Whatever you’ve done you’ve got skills that will help us here at the Minnesota Fishing Museum. We need more volunteers and
we need lots more members. I believe there is 6 million people
in the state of Minnesota and
2 million people buy fishing licenses. Well we don’t quite approach 2 million in terms of
our membership so we really
encourage people to come and join us. And help
us preserve this. This is a
significant part of Minnesota’s history.
I guess that’s why I’m involved is because
it’s too important to watch it be sold at garage sales
and go far far away. In Minnesota we pride ourselves
on our fishing heritage and of course we want that
strong tradition to carry on
into the future. One of the exciting developments here at the fishing museum is this spring 2013. Our board of directors agreed
to merge with the Fishing Hall of Fame of Minnesota.
This is organization located in Baxter at the Gander Mountain
store presently. These two organizations
share a common bond and that is to recognize
leaders in the fishing sport in Minnesota, recognize
leaders in the industry and most importantly to
encourage that this sport continues by educating youth and
other folk about the whole
industry. of fishing and the fun and
the sport there of. So with
these two organizations merging
there is of course a need for more space. So what will be
happening in the near future is we are looking for an expansion.
In the meantime we will
definitely be here as we are for a couple
of years at least. So folks don’t need to worry about will I lose
them or will I come to see
them only to find a door shut and not know where to go next. All of that will be taken care. The Minnesota Fishing Museum is merging with the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame. We are going to become
The Minnesota Fishing Museum Fishing Hall of Fame and
Education Center. With that new responsibility is going
to have to come a new space. As you look around we are full up.
For example we have 73 motors on the floor. If you zoom
in down the hallway here you will see another 40 that
could be out in display but we can’t do it because
we don’t have the space. When
we add the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame
we have no space to put them.
Our vision is to be out on Highway 10
before the split that goes up
to Brainerd and the other split that goes
up the Battle Lake/Perham area. That other large fishing area in the
state of Minnesota. We want to
be before that so that every fisherman
that is headed north gets the opportunity to stop in at the museum
and we want to be in a
convenient location. for them. So whether
that be leased space whether we buy existing buildings
or whether we develop a new
place. We are just now starting in the process
of developing a mission and then determining the
location for the new Minnesota Fishing Museum
Hall of Fame and Education
Center. I want to see this museum out on the highway where we have
more exposure and a bigger building where we can where
we can have more dioramas. We have that diorama for ice fishing.
We would like to have a proper display of a diorama to
show native american artifacts Somebody that donates
a large amount of things that the are very rare. We’re full right now and we don’t
want to put anything more in
here until we get a bigger building
because we don’t want it to be
junky. Ah dad would be very very
proud. Very happy. I think he’d bust.
He would be so proud to be in a museum. That ice sled I showed you in the back in the diorama The gentleman that build
that he was 89 He stood there and cried.
I said what’s the matter? He said I never thought
I’d ever be in a museum. It’s not only what my dad
would have felt but all of my brothers, and sisters and grandchildren and great grandchildren and so on appreciate
seeing dad’s stuff. And this goes on for
every family that’s in here. Thank you so much watching join me again for
another episode of Common
Ground. If you have an idea for a Common Ground piece that pertains to north central Minnesota.
Email us at [email protected] or call us 218-333-3022. To view any episode of
Common Ground on line visit us at ? ? ? ? ? ? To order individual segments
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please call 218-333-3020. Common Ground is
brought to you by the Minnesota Arts and
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money from the vote of the people
on the 4th of November 2008.

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