About Spear Fishing
by Fred & Jo Anne Campbell © 2005
The making of fish decoys is part of a long and rich tradition of ice fishing. There is documentary evidence that Native Americans have speared fish through the ice using handmade decoys since prehistoric times. The earliest decoys known are from around 1000 A.D. The oldest in existence were fashioned from stones, bones, antlers and shells.
Fish decoys are functional objects used to attract large fish, primarily pike, musky and sturgeon for the purpose of spearing them through a hole in the ice. There is no difference between the decoys made for pike and musky because these fish share the same habitat and prey on common victims. Sturgeon decoys, however, are much larger than pike and musky decoys. They are intended to attract these huge fish strictly out of the fish’s curiosity or desire to congregate with other fish. Sturgeon will not attack the decoy with the intention of eating it as pike and musky do.
For the collector, this more obscure art in American heritage is at a time when serious collecting is just beginning. Understanding the sort of spear fishing and the art of fish decoy making provides insight for the collector at a time when old fish decoys are being sold and auctioned for thousands of dollars. There are still fish decoy carvers working today who understand both the art and support of fish spearing. Buying directly from them is one way of getting a contemporary decoy at a fair and honest price.
Provided by Fred & Jo Anne Campbell of Benziejo Decoys – World Champion decoy makers as per their repeated wins at 2005 GLFDA and Best of Show Awards 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 GLFDA World Championships.