Charles Zielke is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and carves Northern Pikes, Walleyes and L.M. Bass plus small Muskies, Bull Bluegills, sturgeons, Perch and more. He told me he can make anything from a drawing.
Charles started carving in early 2000 after seeing a few small fish decoys at a show and right away a light bulb went on over his head and he though “I could make that, but 100 times better.”
Charles explained his method of making a FISH and I quote “I see a mental picture of the decoy before it is even begun. If I’m making a productive perch decoy, I roughly shape it: then, cavity is carefully cut out, leaving some extra wood on bottom – A pilot hole is drilled towards front top of inside cavity – ten, an all steel screw (from my summer kitchen coffee can) is used as a holder. If steel fins are used, I carefully pour molten lead completely in the cavity covering steel screw. Fins get put on now through exact slits in side of fish. Then as lead cools I drink a beer.” He goes on and tells me that he uses white pine, oak, maple, birch, metal and cedar. Brass is often used for the fins as it does not rust and then with stainless steel screws are used sometimes on smaller fish decoys to secure fins and make custom bright bobbers. He paints the gills and wavy lines an on bottom of fish he dates and signs ZIELKE along with C.Z. Zielke. Charles is a self taught in his carving methods. Charles also builds ice shanties and makes spears for ice spear fishing. His final steps is testing and if the fish decoy swims ok he dries it off and completes the decoy. He makes up to five decoys at a time using the above methods and he figures as long as he has the blowtorch out and with any bad weather he will have at least five fish to work on.
The final words to me are and I again quote Charles as only he can say these words. “The main point is let the decoy speak to you so you can make the best and biggest fish raiser possible.”
You can contact Charles at:
cell phone is 414-793-9959
“Lake Winnebago Sturgeon”
Charles says large sturgeons are very curious about the large decoy.
Above – Franks Lower MI 2007 Contest
Above – Older Styles – Smooth cruising & level action
Photos & information courtesy Charles Zielke