by Larry D Christy
Ice Spearing fish decoys began with Native Americans. The decoys were used to attract fish to bring them close enough to spear them through the ice holes.
Styles of fish decoys are as numerous as the carver’s imagination.
Some of the common types are, Primitive, Contemporary, Modern and whimsical. These types styles can go from a nondescript piece of wood or bone to the specie level that you sometimes can not tell the difference between the specie decoy and the real fish. You also find the whimsical decoys from carvers like Otis Lael, who built/carved decoys from items that he had in his workshop. Another breed of carvings are what I call critters, this is the birds, beavers, turtles, frogs, lizards ect… well you get the idea.
You will have working and non-working decoys. Non-working decoys are normally designed and carved for collectors to show.
A good working decoy is one that attracts fish and it must swims well. Just a note on swimming – It was explained to me last year at the NFDA show in Perham MN that a good swimming fish is one that settles in the water and slowly sinks and moves forward under its own power of sinking and design. If you have never seen one swim – buy one and try it in the bathtub.
The Great Depression has been referred to the golden age of fish decoys and this as I have read is because so many decoys were being made and the carvers like Oscar Peterson was making and selling their decoys to supplement their incomes.
As a collector – Collect decoys by the carver, by the style, by the age or by the region.
However you decide to collect – just enjoy the FISH.