The drive was a longish one this morning: about two hours until our first stop. We drove through downtown Ironwood to catch WI-77 and County Road GG to reach Hayward, WI. But what a stop it was: the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. Chris had visited the site in 1990 on another road trip. We were signed in by two older ladies and stepped out into the sun-drenched memorial gardens, which were graced with conifers, peonies, and…giant fish.
The centerpiece of the NFFHF is home to the World’s Largest Muskie (representation, not, you know, a caught-and-mounted fish).
One can enter the fish through the belly and proceed onward and upward through the beast’s inner cavity. The stairway was lined on either side with pictures of founders, replete with ’60s crew-cuts and thick-rimmed glasses; random bits and pieces of fishing history; memorial tiles; and the story of the NFFHF, which appeared to consist of a bunch of guys getting together and saying, “It would be cool to have a Hall of Fame! With big fish!”
Once at the top of the fish, one finds oneself standing in the mouth of the muskie, surrounded by nasty, big, pointy teeth and looking about a magnificent view of lesser-yet-still-impressive fish representations. It’s the high point of the visit in more ways than one—at least, if you’re not a fisherman.
As a family of primarily-non-fishing people, many of the other exhibits lacked zest. The museum, a few “rods” away from the fish, was not much of a “lure” for us, but we “took the bait” and were “reeled in” to its dim interior. The building has been expanded since Chris’s last visit, and the wings of the museum contain dozens of exhibits.
Most walls boast stuffed and mounted fish, labeled, dated, and marked with the name of whomever caught them. Those were the more interesting exhibits. Other displays included hundreds of fishing reels, ice-fishing equipment throughout the last half-century, outboard motors, and a hallway of photos of record catches.
There were also canoes, replica fishing cabins, and two somewhat-anatomically-correct “Primitive Fishermen,” which resembled Sasquatch. When we felt our eyes beginning to glaze, we wandered back out into the garden area, took a few photos, and were on our way out when we saw the playground area.
It took only moments to realize that there was a fish we could jump off of, and we were quick to suit action to word. Katherine’s first jump, while not impressive, was also not disastrous. Her second, however, seemed to finish perfectly until her momentum toppled her into the wood chips, leaving her with a skinned knee and the fear that she would get the family kicked out of the NFFHF.