Chapter Eight

 

The Word Records Part II-The Controversies

 

Ostrich

I just can’t believe my “hero” might have cheated!

 

The stories of world record muskie catches, re-told in Part I, are generally first-hand stories by the successful angler. In Part II, for the first time, I present all of the innuendoes and controversy that my 40-years of research have revealed. Occasionally, as recorded below, correspondence and/or stories question whether the muskie was caught legally, on hook and line. Controversies range from where and whether a catch was made to doubts regarding length, girth and weight. I review accusations and where possible, support or rebut them with facts, affidavits, etc. Ultimately, you the reader have to make up your own mind. If you are squeamish, brace yourself 'cause it’s gonna’ get ugly!

 

To the naked eye, from a perusal of photographs, the length and girth of many records appear to fall short of their registered measurements. In some cases, amateur analysis of photographs provides an estimate of the dimensions of record fish. Generally, amateur photo analysis is imprecise, incomplete and can’t be repeated independently. Conversely, the science of photogrammetry utilizes defined methodology and provides repeatable, precise, results, however; few sanctioned records have been professionally analyzed. When significant differences in historic length and/or girth compared to photogrammetric solutions occur, a record may be suspect. While fraud is possible, keep in mind that measurement details were often overlooked and have rarely been documented for record catches. Furthermore, consider that it is not possible to apply photogrammetric methods to some photographs due to background and/or information constraints.

 

In fishery research, total length is the greatest acceptable length measurement. To properly measure total length, a fish is placed on a measuring board and measured from the tip of the closed mouth to the end of the tail with the caudal rays squeezed together. Fork length is also measured using a measuring board. It is a measurement from the tip of the closed mouth to the notch in the tail. At one time, both total length and fork length were required to complete a Field & Stream contest application. Unfortunately, greater but unacceptable length measurements are possible when a measuring board is not used, for example; measuring a fish while it is hanging vertically, measuring over the body of a fish, and measuring from the tip of the lower jaw to the top of the tail. The various lengths that the range of measurement methods provides may be the source of multiple lengths that have been reported in the press for some historic record catches, like the Malo muskie (see Appendix). Multiple measurements often lead to confusion and doubt.

 

Girth is the measurement of circumference of a fish at its most robust spot. It’s a measurement that’s difficult to accurately collect because the measuring device must be perpendicularly aligned, as well as, not overlapped. It’s also a measurement that’s easily overlooked and in some cases may have been taken well after the catch, when a record application was prepared. When a muskie’s measurements are used to estimate weight using a weight formula, girth is the predominate measurement. It should be obvious that a short fish with extended exceptional girth may out-weigh a longer fish with a lesser area of the same or greater girth. As an example, consider a 58-inch long muskie with a maximum girth measurement of 28-inches at only one narrow section of the body versus a 56-inch long muskie with a girth measurement of 28-inches that extends nearly from behind the head to just ahead of the anal/dorsal fins. The shorter fish that’s girthy throughout its body will likely outweigh the longer one with the less dominate robust plumpness, whereas; application of the weight formula would provide opposite results!

 

The variability in precision of measuring devices must be considered when evaluating records, as well as, the nuances involved in using; a steel tape measure, a wooden ruler, a folding wooden ruler, a soft sewing type tape, string, etc. On top of these considerations, remember that different folks measured every record fish. Unfortunately, measurement details were never a Field & Stream contest requirement, and therefore; measurement procedures are not part of the catch documentation. For example, while evidence indicates that 12-pounds of spawn were removed from Hanser’s muskie prior to a published photograph of Hanser with his fish, a measurement record is not available to document whether the affidavited girth measurement of just 24-inches was taken before or after the removal of spawn.

 

Ultimately, it is not possible to use photographs to definitively determine weight, and weight, after all, is the basis for establishing all-tackle world records! It’s possible that any record muskie may have been “loaded” with heavy objects, such as water or sand, etc., as documented in taxidermist Karl Kahmann’s letter (see Coleman section below), taxidermist Nordlander’s information (see the Oehmcke affidavit in the Hanser section below) and the admittance of same in the confession of Len Hartman (see Volume II). Unfortunately, until recent changes in the record verification process that requires witnesses to the opening of potential record fish, only the fisherman and possibly the taxidermist were aware of the fish’s stomach contents. Importantly, when a fish is “loaded,” affidavits attesting to verify weight are useless, regardless of the witnesses’ credibility!

 

Percy Haver 58-14 Lake St. Clair, Michigan – 1939

 

Percy Haver’s 1939 world record from Lake St. Clair, Michigan is where the fun begins. Haver entered a near 50-pounder (at 49-11) in the Field & Stream contest in 1937 finishing 4th, had a near record muskie in 1938 at 56-pounds 7-ounces finishing 1st in the contest and world record muskies in 1939 and 1940.

 

Haver%201937

Haver’s 49-11 from 1937


Haver%201938

Haver’s 56-7 from 1938

 

Although I hadn’t heard any rumors about his two record fish, there was evidently some question in the Detroit area about their validity, although nothing apparently surfaced in 1939. While Dettloff began his 1995 attack on Haver’s 1938 and 1939 fish I will cover the entire Dettloff investigation in the 1940 Haver section.

 

Dettloff said Haver’s 1938 Field & Stream contest fish ...proved to be greatly exaggerated after just one quick glance at the photo of Haver with the catch... Wow, just a glance was good enough for him on that one!

 

Louie Spray 59-8 Grindstone Lake, Wisconsin - 1939

 

So now, let’s get to the most controversial of all record holders and/or contenders; Louie Spray and his 1939 fish from Grindstone Lake, Wisconsin. Louie did things his way and because of this he was controversial. Most of the controversy took place in Wisconsin, although there were concerns expressed from other parts of muskie-land as well. Most of the controversy that reached print nationally was through prominent outdoor writer Mel Ellis. In his article, Throw Those Muskies Back Boys, in True magazine, Ellis wrote in part ...Fifteen years ago the record muskie taken on a rod and reel weighed 52 pounds (12 ounces). It was a Wisconsin fish, but in 1938 the record went to Michigan with the capture of a 56 pounder. (This is in error, as were several outdoor articles of the time as the 56-pounder he referred to, Haver’s 56-7, wasn’t even a world record - see the world record list at this books beginning, and Ellis missed three other fish that were world records).

 

The next year, however, Louis Spray, a former musky-hunting hero from Hayward and now a Rice Lake tavern keeper, came up with a 59 pound 8 ounce musky and it turned out to be the fish that was the first in a series that has been characterized in the press as not-so-nice smelling muskies.

 

His record catch was only second best for that year, however, because a short time later Percy Haver of Detroit, a professional muskie hunter who makes an art of trolling for the lunkers, smashed the record with a fish that went slightly over 60 pounds (again an error, as Haver’s 1939 smaller record was caught before Spray’s and it was John J. Coleman’s 60 ½-pound fish that beat both Haver and Spray in 1939).

 

But Louie the indomitable came right back the next year with a whopper that went 61 pounds 13 ounces, and this was another fish some people insisted smelled as though it might not be strictly fresh (to be covered shortly).

 

Nevertheless, he claimed a world record and during the time that this fact was in considerable doubt, he announced that he would soon produce the necessary statistical proof...

 

Eventually along came notarized statements that the (1939) fish had existed, and had been caught by Mr. Spray. There were the pictures and further detailed evidence revealed that it had been weighed at a creamery station and a tavern and that it tipped the scales at 59 1/2 pounds and measured 58 inches (actually only one photograph and it wasn’t even of Spray and the fish, it was his friend Alton Van Camp). Spray’s 1939 fish had been beaten by Coleman’s, which Ellis missed completely.

 

In the tome That Big Fat Musky Book Eli Singer revealed  what he learned from Alvin Van Camp, son of Alton. Alton is shown holding Spray’s record fish in the one and only photo of Spray’s 1939 record known to exist. Alvin had told Singer what his mother and father had said about the goings on at the time and about Spray. He learned that Alton had referred to Louie as a “shyster” and that Alvin’s mother Eva had related that lots of “metal” items had disappeared from their garage one day after Louie and Alton had been there with a big muskie. Eli also learned that when Alvin tried to relate this information to John Dettloff, Mr. Dettloff didn’t care to hear about it!

 

Eli Singer also questioned the lack of photos of Spray’s record muskies. He was at a loss to explain why there was none of Louie with the 1939 record, only three of Louie with his 1940 and 1949 records. Eli wondered regarding the known Spray record photos, if Louie had disposed of photo’s unfavorable to the fish. Could this be why Spray chose to use only the photo of Van Camp with his 1939 record?  Singer also wondered why Dettloff’s newspaper requests for more photographs had produced nothing. At least nothing new has been made public.

 

There have also been other comments regarding the shape of the mount of Spray’s 1939 fish. In a letter from Spray to me in 1981, Spray had this comment about the mount of his 1939 fish ...The thing made a very poor mount, due to the stretchy skin. Karl Kahmann, the tazidermist (sic) call (sic) me out to his shop and showed me. The form he had made for it was so small that if the skin had of been placed over it and allowed to dry, it would have shown wrinkles, according to Karl. He then pulled the slack up in back of the fish, while I looked at the front of it, and the fins then were very much distorted, and even the tail twisted a little. So he had to make a larger form which spoiled the shape of the fish.

 

Actually, it was’nt (sic) a bad looking fish in the raw, except for the very small head, as you can see from the photo with Van holding the fish. But the mounted fish was much distorted as described above...

 

Spray%2039%20mount

Photo courtesy Louie Spray

 

We previously reported the story of the capture of Louie’s 1939 fish so let’s pick up Louie’s story from there.

 

...We headed for Red Harmon’s but still no one was up. Well, we got them up but quick. The door was not locked so we walked right in and hollered “muskie” and I wish you could have seen the goings on. It was in July and everybody was only half dressed, women and all, milling around.

 

I believe there was more booze at Harmon’s place than there was in Spray’s bar. Everybody had a bottle in his hand of all makes and description and everybody was bound we should have one on them. So, on an empty stomach, well, you can guess the consequences. Finally, Tom and I broke away and started for home. However, when we hit the main highway I figured I would like to go over to Draper-Loretta way and show the boys over there how I do it now. There was no scale there that would weigh the fish, so someone came up with a bathroom scale. We put a board on the scale, weighed it, put on the fish, weighed it, subtracted the weight of the board and it came to between 59 and 60 pounds. A young man running a filling station, Widmer Smith, told me that he thought it might be a world record, but that it should be weighed on an official scale to be authentic. Somebody took it into Winter, Wisconsin, a distance of ten miles, and brought back the weigh slip of 59 1/2 pounds. The old record was 58 1/4 pounds.

 

So right now, the multitude gathered there, pronounced me the muskie king of the world, which naturally called for some whoopee, including some beverage gargling. While the gang was at it, Tom and I ate a lunch, then, headed for Park Falls to show off our catch over there. We did that all right, but in the ensuing hours, some of the gang, all my friends, stole my fish and proclaimed they would give it back only after they had run my tab up to about where they wanted it. To expedite, they finally gave it back to us and we started for home via Glidden and Clam Lake, on Highway 77. We passed up not one tavern. The next day I awoke about 3:00 p.m., and could not, for the moment, remember what had happened but knew it was something big. Did we win a lot of money, lose a lot in our business, or why did I get so plastered? It finally came to me and I hustled down to the tavern, unshaved and half undressed, to see if the fish had been properly cared for. My wife had had the porter put ice on it in the basement and covered it. I went upstairs into the tavern and the place was full.

 

There were reporters there with cameras, all asking questions of all natures, but mostly, “Where’s the fish?” In my stupor, and from my experience the day before, in having my fish stolen, gave some weird answers such as “I gave it away, I can’t find it, and give me time to get sober, will you?” All I knew was that I was not going to come up with that all important fish until after I had contacted Karl Kahmann, the taxidermist. He wasn’t in when I called his place. About that time I met my wife again and she exclaimed in no uncertain terms, “You get up to bed and stay there until you are presentable.” Which I was glad to do to get away from that mob and especially those reporters, who were half drunk and with that “you got to show me” attitude. I had just reached the apartment when up came Karl and was I glad to see him. My wife had shown him the fish and he said as long as it was kept iced it was okay. After the usual congratulations from Karl. I spent the balance of the afternoon in the house.

 

About 8:00 p.m., I went down to the tavern. The mob had left, just the usual crowd was around. I inspected the fish and found it well iced, so I went out and built a box to display the fish. The next morning I put the fish on display with a glass over the box, kept it well iced and offered a cash prize to the one who could come the nearest to guessing its weight and length, and put a book there for them to register their name and address. By then, for the first time in a couple of days, I was once again myself.

 

After 36 years, I am looking at that book right now. Pop Adams, who represented a bait company, was the first to register and Ray Noggles, a guide from Hayward, was second. There were 620 entries and after their guesses were all added up and divided by the said 620, the average guess was within a pound of the actual weight of 59 1/2 pounds and there were nine ties. Some amusing guesses, mostly by women were weight 90 pounds, length 29 inches (it had to be 30 inches to be legal). Another was 75 pounds and six feet two inches long. The lowest weight guessed by a man was 46 pounds. The sports writers made much of the bathroom scales that had been used, with full knowledge that it had been officially weighed. Others claimed it was never displayed as I had given it away and others had their own ways of discrediting my catch. Mostly, sports writers in general ran down the facts first and then came up with a favorable story on it. Many of those writers later saw the book that I am looking at right now, and thought some day it was going to be a very prized possession.

 

In addition to the above story from Louie’s book My Muskie Days, I have gathered additional facts and information to add to this story from a series of statements and affidavits that were prepared at the time. First an undated statement with the following.

 

We the undersigned wish to state and declare that we witnessed and saw a fish belonging to Louie Spray of Hayward, Wisconsin, on the 27th of July 1939, that the fish was a muskie, that we have seen several large muskies before and that this was the largest muskie we have ever seen.

 

Name                                      Address

O.P. Ruid                                Loretta, Wis.

Dick J. Hellerman                  Loretta, Wis

Betty Boody                            Ripon Wis

Jules Luppore                         Hayward Wis.

M.C. Watrud                           Spooner, Wis

Carl Watrud                            Hayward, Wis

Robert J. Melville                   Fond du Lac, Wis

V. Innchtnm (sp?)                  Ashland Wis

Chas Boyle                             Hayward

Nixon Barnes                         Hayward, Wis. (involved in all 3 Spray fish)                                                                 

J S Ponser                              Eau Claire Wisc.

A.J. Barney                            Superior, Wisc.

B.E. Brown                            Rice Lake, Wis

J.C. Granger                          Hayward, Wis.

Ray Ingersoll                          Hayward, Wisconsin.

Reinold H Hoppe                    Chippewa Falls Wis

Clifford Eytcheson                 Hayward, Wis

Harold Gobler                        Hayward, Wis.

 

On a copy of the above statement that I received from Louie Spray, he had typed the following note.

 

SPRAY’S COMMENT AS TO THE SIGNATURES...

The signatures were taken before the Fish was Officially weighed. Signed Louie Spray 10/30/79

 

Since the signatures were obtained before the fish was weighed, the statements are useless regarding verification of fish weight and document only that it was the largest seen. Next was the statement of the catch released to the press by Louie.

 

Official statement of World Record Muskie, released for publication by Louie Spray on this 31st day of July, 1939.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

The muskie was caught by Louie Spray, Hayward, Wisconsin, between ten and eleven A.M. July 27th, in Grindstone Lake, near Hayward.

 

The muskie was weighed at a cream station operated by W.J. Zecherle, Winter, Wisconsin. Also, at John Geschel’s Tavern, Loretta, Wisconsin and on each scale weighed 59 1/2 pounds. The length was 58 inches. Several people witnessed the weighing and measuring and affidavits of same are on record in the Court House in Hayward, Wisconsin.

 

The man holding the fish is Alton Van Camp of Loretta, Wisconsin, a licensed guide and life long friend of Spray. The muskie is being mounted and will be on display at Spray’s Cafe & Bar, Hayward, Wisconsin, as soon as completed.

 

Signed, Louie Spray

Hayward, Wisconsin

 

Louie sent me a note of clarification on the above Release.

 

OCTOBER 17, 1979

 

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

 

For purposes of clarification and with reference to the attached “Release,” after the fish was weighed at the Cream Station, myself and my fishing pal, Tom Campbell, drove to Park Falls where I was raised to show off the catch. Some of my old buddies whom I was wining and dining, stole the fish, as a joke of course, and wouldn’t come up with it until I had bought their fill of grog.

 

When they finally gave the fish back, Tom and I finished celebrating on the way home Via Glidden, Clam Lake, and every Joint on Hy-Way #77, and naturally got home very late like Two Bells in the morning, and was pretty stiff from the consumption of all the grog.

 

After the fish had been displayed at Spray’s Bar for a few days, Karl Kahmann picked up and skinned it out in preparation for mounting. And when I started to look for my camera which had a full spool of film in it, I couldn’t find it and never did. I recalled that Alton Van Camp had taken a few shots of the critter with his camera, but there was not a photo of me on it. There was a good picture of Van holding the fish, and this is the picture we used in Officially Registering the catch with the American Museum of Natural History, New York.

 

The attached “Release” was left at the Bar so the reporters would have the correct dope with which to draft their Story. But as it turned out, some of them did not follow the script to the extent they saw that the fish was weighed on a Bath Room Scale, which it was, but not for official purposes and they knew it.

 

I’ve said it before and I say it here now, that if you ever catch a world record muskie Reporters will delight in kicking you in the teeth, and their publishers are of no help in straightening out the wrong they did you.

 

Signed Lou Spray 10/17/79...

 

Louie then came out with the following affidavit.

 

We the undersigned wish to state and declare that we witnessed and saw a muskie belonging to Louie Spray of Hayward, Wisconsin, weighed and measured in John Geschel’s Tavern, Loretta, Wisconsin, on the 27th day of July, 1939. The weight was 59 1/2 pounds and length was 58 inches.

 

Signed             Alton Van Camp Address Loretta, Wis

                        Widmer Smith                                           

                         John Geschel                                

 

Witness

O.P Ruid

Louie Spray (witnessing your own catch on a

weight witness affidavit is unacceptable for record consideration)

 

Subscribed and sworn to before me

A Notary Public.

This 31st day of July 1939

Jenive Ruid

Notary Public,

My Commission Expires Aug. 20, 1939

 

Again we get clarification from Louie.

 

P.S. PLEASE NOTE:

The purpose of this Post-Script is for clarification only, and is not part of the Above Affidavit.

 

The above mentioned fish was officially weighed at the Winter, Wisconsin, Creamery, Winter, Wisconsin, and was officially recognized as a world record by the American Museum of Natural History, in 1939. And Widmer Smith, one of the affiants above, was the one who knew that the scales should be official in order to have the fish acceptable.

 

Signed, Louis Spray 10/7/1979

 

Later the following affidavit was signed by a Mr. Wm. Harmon.

 

AN AFFIDAVIT

 

I, William Harmon, of Hayward, Wisconsin wish to state and declare that on the 27th day of July, 1939, I rented a boat to one Louie Spray of Hayward, Wisconsin and that he returned to my boat landing on Grindstone Lake about nine thirty or ten o’clock the same morning with a muskie that measured 58 inches in length This fish would not weigh on a fifty pound scale that we had at the resort.

 

Signed Wm. V. Harmon Signed and sealed

In the presence of;

W J Shuman

H Gregersnd

 

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 2nd day

of August, A. D., 1939

Wilbur J. Shuman

Notary Public, Sawyer County, Wisconsin

My Commission Expires August 23, 1942

 

The final affidavit regarding the 1939 fish comes from a Mr. W.J. Zecherle.

 

Affidavit

 

I, W.J. Zecherle of Winter, Wisconsin wish to state and declare that on the 27th day of July 1939, I weighed a muskie belonging to Louie Spray, of Hayward, Wisconsin. The weight was 59 1/2 pounds.

 

Signed W.J. Zecherle

 

Signed and sealed in presence of:

G.E. Phillips

H.J. Phillips

 

State of Wisconsin

County of Sawyer, SS.

Sworn and subscribed to before me this 31st day of July, 1939.

G.E. Phillips, (is it legal to be both witness and notary?)

Notary Public

Sawyer County, Wis.

My Commission Expires March 1, 1942

 

In an August 1, 1939 letter from Louie to Mr. R.G. Lynch, sports editor of the Milwaukee Sentinel, Louie had the following statement.

 

Dear Mr. Lynch:

 

Gordon (MacQuarrie) was here Sunday and found me in none too good a shape Re: the fish. Since Thursday I had taken on a lot of that refreshment that comes in that Black and White package. However, it was a good thing he came along because he woke me up to the fact that Wisconsin as well as myself, had something and since Sunday I have straightened out everything.

 

I now have the fish back and absolutely under control. He will be in my place of business as soon as the mounting is completed. This however was no small job and naturally took a little time.

 

There is still one more affidavit to file and I will send you a copy as soon as I get it executed.

 

Re: these affidavits, they are recorded, but I would like them back if possible.

 

The only decent photograph I salvaged was one with Alton Van Camp holding the fish. Therefore I am sending a snap of myself, (still full of that stuff) if you care to run it along with the other picture. I still haven’t found my Camera containing the best pictures of the thing.

 

As far as this being a Record Fish. I don’t know anything about that, but I guarantee you that the fish is everything we claim it is and it will be here to be looked at by anyone who might be interested.

 

If there is any further information you might desire I will be only too glad to give it to you.

 

Signed, Louie Spray

 

Finally, Louie received a letter from the American Museum of Natural History, then keeper of the records and to whom he had applied.

 

27, September, 1939

Mr. Louie Spray

Hayward,

Wisconsin

 

Dear Mr. Spray:

 

I am returning your affidavits, as you request, of your record muskie. The one thing lacking is your tackle. Would you let us know exactly what it was. It is usual for us to retain the affidavits here, and although I have made copies of them, if you feel you could do so, we would prefer to have you deposit them with us as other holders of record catches have done.

 

We congratulate you on your World Record catch.

 

Sincerely,

F.R. LaMonte

Associate Curator

Fish Department

 

(PS:) It is also customary to have an affidavit from someone who actually saw you catch the fish. Were you alone in the boat, and if not, is it possible for you to get a statement from whoever was with you.

 

There is no indication in the files or my records to indicate whether or not Spray complied with the last two requests. As can be seen, Louie did things his way. It should also be obvious that record keeping requirements were less stringent in the early years of recorded muskellunge history. One thing that must be noted is that this Spray fish was never subjected to world record scrutiny by the American Museum of Natural History since Coleman’s 1939 fish pushed it into second place in the Field & Stream contest. Professional photogrammetry has not been used to analyze the fish that Alton Van Camp is holding.

 

In a Sawyer County Record article by Terrell Boettcher and the obituary of a Mr. Karl Ogren provided to me by Eli Singer, we learn that in 1938 Ogren ...caught a 58-pound musky on Sand Lake [Wisconsin] which he sold to Louie Spray (per obituary), and per Boettcher’s article ...He (Ogren) caught a 58-pound musky in 1938 in Sand Lake, which he sold (mounted) to Louie Spray... Was this the source of Spray’s 1939 record fish as Singer alluded it could be? If already mounted, could this be why there are no photographs of Spray with the fresh 1939 fish? While never publicized other than appearing in a period post card advertisement for “Spray’s Café and Bar,” which also contained the mount known to be Spray’s 1939 fish, this large mount was unlikely claimed by Spray to be his 1939 record, dismissing that hypothesis. In addition, it is counter to others claims of having supplied Spray with his fresh 1939 fish.

 

Spray's%20Cafe%20&%20Bar

The two interior views on this post card show both ends of the “L” shaped bar at Spray’s Bar (now the Moccasin Bar) in Hayward, circa late 1939 or early 1940. In the top view is the mount of an extremely long fish thought to be the Ogren fish. In the other view is the mount of Spray’s 1939 world record.

 

When Eli Singer asked Spray historian John Dettloff about the Ogren story he was told that the Ogren story was fabricated. Singer was aghast at Dettloff’s response. That Dettloff had no interest in checking it out further totally baffled Singer! Although Singer had mentioned the Ogren story to Dettloff multiple times between 1999 and 2001, nothing about it appeared in Dettloff’s rewrite of Louie Spray’s biography.

 

In his In Defense of Louie Spray articles in Musky Hunter, John Dettloff dismissed the Ogren story as ...made up...

 

Two photographs that Louie had sent to me also appeared in his autobiography Looking Back At That Phase Of My Muskie Days written by him and published in 1979.

 

Spray%201924Spray%20pg%20141

24#  from 1924---------Unspecified

 

One photo was captioned in his book on page 7 as a 24-pounder he caught in 1924. The other appeared on page 141 and had no weight or date ascribed to it, but Spray’s shirt, hat and pants are exactly like the ones worn by him in a photo of him with his 1940 record. When John Dettloff purchased the rights to Louie’s book and did a re-write before publishing it in 2002 under the title Three Record Muskies In His Day The Life and Times of Louie Spray, he evidently decided to forsake historical accuracy and took “editorial license” in revising history in Louie’s favor! Dettloff republished both photographs on page 153 of his version of Spray’s life, however the 1924 fish nearly doubled in size as it was captioned as a 41 ½-pound muskie Louie supposedly caught in 1939! The other fish suddenly became another Spray 1939 fish and was dubbed as a 46-pound 3-ounce muskie that was 52-inches long!!

 

When Eli Singer informed John Dettloff what old-timers from Spray’s home area had to say about Spray buying muskies he was dismissed. Singer had told Dettloff what several of the older residents of Spray’s home area had told him with regard to Spray buying and offering to buy record class muskies or any large muskie, including one person that claimed to have sold Spray his 1939 world record fish and that Spray had not paid him. Dettloff reportedly dismissed all accounts. That “person” is still alive and perhaps one day that story will be told!

 

That takes care of the story of Louie’s 1939 fish. Although covered only briefly in the WRMA’s Spray Protest, the WRMA believes this fish is questionable (see Appendix). Professional photogrammetry has not been attempted on the only known photograph of Spray’s 1939 muskie.

 

Sherlock

Where’s the pictures of

Louie with his ’39 fish?

 


John J. Coleman 60-8 Eagle Lake, Ontario – 1939

 

Coleman%2039%20%232Coleman%2039%20%233

Left photo shows Coleman (r) with guide George Perkins (l) and the

  right photo shows Coleman’s fish at Storey Taxidermy in Duluth

 

In as much as Mr. Ellis completely missed Coleman’s world record from Eagle Lake, Ontario in 1939, let us now review the only controversy that I have uncovered regarding Coleman’s fish. The letter that follows was written to the American Museum of Natural History (then responsible for the sanctioning of world records) on March 18, 1940 by Karl W. Kahmann a noted Hayward, Wisconsin taxidermist and the man that mounted Louie’s first two record claims in 1939 and 1940.

 

Dear Miss LaMonte:

 

Purely as a matter of putting your institution on its guard as regards the recording of the largest fish caught on hook and line, I will try to point out several things I have noticed in my many years of mounting fish and particularly in the two large muskellunge recorded for the year 1939.

 

You have all data on length, weight and girth of the fish caught in Grindstone Lake, Wis. by Louis Spray and the one taken in Eagle Lake, Ontario, by J.J. Coleman, so we need not go into this except to call your attention to the fact that the girth of the Spray fish exceeds that of Mr. Coleman’s by several inches - and - girth enters very largely into what a fish will weigh.

 

I have mounted roughly 3000 muskellunge in the past 35 years and naturally can guess the weight of a fish fairly closely, unless it has been filled with sand and gravel, rocks, steel shafting, sash weights, or just plain water, which is too often the case.

 

In the case of the large muskellunge a pound or two difference may depend on whether the fish was “drowned” in landing, or whether it was weighed immediately after landing or hours or days afterwards, even where the “filling” referred to above is not done.

 

I saw the Coleman fish at Marshall Fields Sporting Goods Dept. in Chicago and mounted the Spray fish. I am satisfied that the Coleman fish does not come up to weight or measurements, although it is a fine specimen, certainly a large one, and well mounted.

 

Coleman%20mount

The mount of Coleman’s record muskie by Storey Taxidermy

Photo courtesy J. Peter Haupt

I am afraid that there is too much commercialization, and too much of “Fisherman’s Liberty” in these “Records” for any scientific institution to safely vouch for them. On the other hand. I cannot see how you can do more than to rely on affidavits and scaler’s record stubs, but these do not show whether the specimen was “filled” before weighing.

 

It really makes very little difference whether the record muskie was caught in Wisconsin, Canada or elsewhere, but it evidently does make a lot of difference to the bait and tackle manufacturers and fishing resort owners.

 

All my life I have been interested in exact data in bird study and have belonged to just about every ornithological club including the A.O.U. - at present I am Treasurer of the Wisconsin Society of Ornithology - and - I do not envy your position in regards to attempting to vouch for “Fishermen’s Record Catches.”

 

Although Kahmann’s letter indicated that the girth of Spray’s fish exceeded Coleman’s by “several inches,” the Field & Stream records show that Coleman’s fish was only one inch less in girth than Spray’s claimed girth measurement and Kahmann made no mention of Coleman’s fish being ¼-inch longer than Spray’s.

 

A professional photogrammetric analysis has not been commissioned for Coleman’s muskie.

 

Sherlock

Looks pretty good to me


Percy Haver 62-8 Lake St. Clair, Michigan – 1940

 

Haver%201940%20%232

 

Field & Stream received an undated letter and affidavits from Haver (spelling, capitalization and wording as written).

 

Fishing Contest Editor

Field & Stream.

515 Madison Ave

New York

 

Dear Sir

inclosed is affidavits concerning fish taken by myself in lake St Clair the 56 lb is for a matter of record only. it was one of 5 taken on this day. for a total of 186 lb. the whole catch were presented to the Detroit Tigers after the game June 21 – 40 will send story of catch and pictures as soon as possible.

 

Yours truly

Percy Haver

 

With the letter there was a contest affidavit for a 56-pound muskie with a length of 56 ½-inches and a girth of 29 ¼-inches that Haver caught on June 20, 1940 and a second contest affidavit for his 62 ½-pound muskie and eventual world record.

 

Haver%205%20from%201940

Haver standing next to his 56-0 from 1940, one of

 five totaling 187-pounds he caught on June 20th

 

Next was a letter from a line manufacturer to Dan Holland, a writer for Field & Stream magazine. I discovered this letter in the Field & Stream file. It was as follows.

 

October 15, 1940

 

Field & Stream

515 Madison Ave.

New York, N.Y.

 

Dear Mr. Holland:

 

With further reference to muskies caught by Louis Spray of Hayward, Wisconsin and Paul Haver of Detroit, I have heard quite a bit of unfavorable criticism on the Haver musky catch.

 

But the last word from Karl Kinnear would indicate that while it was caught on very heavy tackle and was not looked upon as a sporting proposition in Detroit, the newspaper was going to recognize the catch, and we are all quite anxious to know whether or not Field & Stream is going to officially accept either or both of these catches in your contest.

 

As soon as you come to a decision, Mr. Holland, we would appreciate your advising us as we are keenly interested in both of these catches. Would also appreciate it if you would let us know what tackle is shown as being used on both of these catches.

 

With much appreciation, we remain

 

Yours very truly

(Line Company unnamed)

(Signatory unnamed)

 

At the bottom of this letter was an internal office note from Bob Bush, the person in charge of the fishing contest, to Mr. Holland. It read.

 

RPH: The tackle on which Haver took his musky would not disqualify him in our contest, even tho it was heavy trolling stuff. But since receipt of this letter, I have received an anonymous letter from a guy in Detroit stating that Haver buys his fish from trappers on the Canuck side of the lake.

 

I don’t like the smell of the Spray affidavit at all, and will declare the entry ineligible if it’s OK with you. I don’t believe we are obligated to accept an entry. BB

 

I found this last comment an interesting sidebar regarding Spray’s 1940 entry.

 

That above mentioned undated anonymous letter from Detroit, also in the Field & Stream file said the following.

 

Detroit Mich

 

Editor of Prize fishing contest.

 

Here is a tip to you. Don’t let Mr. Haver of Detroit put another one over on you and all the muskie fishermen. He don’t catch them. He buys them from the Net fishermen on the Canadian side of Lake St. Clair.

 

He also sells the lures and has a good income from cheap advertisement.

 

Yours truly,

 

I am no muskie fisherman but like to see them play fair.

 

As a result of that letter, Bob Bush of Field & Stream sent the following letter to Mr. Haver.

 

November 7, 1940

 

Dear Mr. Haver:

 

Since receipt of your letter and affidavit by this office in connection with your big muskalonge, we have received correspondence questioning the validity of your catch.

 

This thing is apt to occur when anyone makes an unusual catch, but such complaints must be accepted at their face value. Should your fish turn out a prize winner in our competition – a logical assumption – and if any charges of this nature were to hold up, there would be a possibility of serious repercussion. As you know, our contest is supervised by the United States postal regulations.

 

Our judges will be certain you have all the information and correspondence on your catch under consideration when the competition is closed. I would suggest, therefore, that it would be to your advantage to supply us with additional sworn statements relative to this catch. If there were actual eyewitnesses to the taking of this fish, affidavits from them would fill the bill.

 

Sincerely yours,

Bob Bush

Prize Fishing Contest

 

Mr. Haver’s reply to Field & Stream’s letter, again spelling as written.

 

Mr. Bob Bush                              Detroit Mich

c/o field & Stream                              Nov 22 – 40

 

Dear Sir  inclosed you will find a statement Signed by Several people who Saw the Muskie Entered in Contest you can Check with any of them if you so desire. I also rec’d a letter from a doughting Thomas who did not have the guts enough to furnish his address, but you can rest assured that any of these stories are groundless for I am too well known here on the lake to even think of trying anything that was not on the up and up. As soon as the boys get back from Deer Hunting I will send you a couple of additional sworn statements of some fellows who were with me when the fish was on display at the Detroit news but they did not see the weight and measurements taken and there was no one near me on the lake at the time the fish was caught. The closest boat was probably ½ mile away, and the boat livery man, where I had landed has gone to florida for the winter, so I can’t contact him until spring. I am inclosing a picture of the monster fish, hope this will clear things up for you.

Yours truly,

Percy Haver 

 

Mr. Haver did furnish the promised statement that stated the following.

 

We, the undersigned, do hereby offer testimony that we saw the Muskalonge caught by Percy Haver on June 28, 1940 and that it is our opinion that the weight and measurements are correct as stated, same being 62 ½ pounds, length 59 inches, 32 ½ inch girth and that the stomach of the fish was empty.

 

Dorothy R Spicer WWJ

Ruth Montgomery – Detroit News

Jean McBride – Detroit News

Ella Lincoln Smith – Detroit News

Shields Dierkes – WWJ

Edwin G. Boyes – WWJ

Eddie Arnold – WWJ

(Unreadable)

 

This statement was signed by eight people, several of which were with the Detroit News and several with WWJ radio. That seemed to end it, as Haver’s fish was accepted as the new world record.

 

In 1975, I was following up a lead I had gotten from the late muskie legend Homer LeBlanc and Capt. Hank Bradley on the possible whereabouts of the mount of Haver’s record fish. I received the following undated and excerpted letter from a person that did not wish to be exposed.

 

(Unnamed) Tackle Co.,

(Unnamed address)

Detroit, Michigan

 

Mr. Larry Ramsell,

World Records Sec’y

(Address at the time)

 

Dear friend,

 

...First of all I do not have Percy Haver’s musky or muskies. I have fished with Haver 4 times and never saw him catch a fish. I never fished with a so-called expert who knew less about fishing.

 

I had learned more about Haver from the Province of Ontario Canada game warden who had a personal confrontation with Haver. (Unnamed) told me to ask Haver how he liked (unnamed). I have been out fishing in Lake St. Clair several times and watched anglers buy muskies from the commercial netters who were not allowed to keep muskies but sold them out in the lake to the anglers at $1.00 apiece. The netters were after fish legally netted such as walleyes, carp and other rough fish. I think thousands of fishermen knew the story but libel laws being what they are hesitated to pursue it further. I question that the so-called 62 pounder went near that figure either even if legally caught. (Unnamed game warden) claims he stopped Haver’s musky methods. I was not personally a witness to Haver’s acquisitions. He claims he caught 3,000. Leave the zeros off and there is a remote possibility...

 

Sincerely

(Unnamed)

 

So we have two anonymous letters, basically hearsay, that provides no proof of wrongdoing on Haver’s part. Perhaps it was just a case of “sour grapes.”

 

John Dettloff, in his article, In Defense of Louie Spray in the Dec. 1991/Jan. 1992 issue of Musky Hunter magazine had the following statement about Spray.

 

What you can’t take away from Louie is the fact that he was a diehard musky fisherman, a real musky addict. After listening to a one-hour taped interview with Louie, as well as reading things he has written on the sport, it is obvious that he was no phony because the tips and advice he gave only could have come from a real musky fisherman.

 

That quote can also apply to Haver and others. When you consider that I had the same thoughts when I reviewed the accounts of many other record holders including Haver’s accounts of the captures of his record fish, Dettloff’s taped interview with Cal Johnson’s son Phil  regarding Cal’s record catch and Lawton’s accounts of his fishing days including the story of his world record catch. Apparently, in Dettloff’s mind only Spray’s stories were valid! When he set about trying to discredit Haver’s 1939 and 1940 world record catches in 1995 and Lawton’s 1957 record in 1992 he obviously disregarded their stories.

 

In the January 1996 issue of Musky Hunter magazine, John Dettloff took it upon himself, as Musky Hunter historical editor, to personally “disqualify” Haver’s 1939 and 1940 muskie records in The Saga Of Percy Haver & Louie Spray, Spray really did catch three record muskies in his day! The article attempts to bolster the claims of Hayward and Dettloff’s “hero”, Louie Spray. Dettloff identifies Spray’s 1940 muskie as a world record and claims that Spray should be credited with three world records! The fact is that Louie Spray’s 1939 catch was never listed as the 1939 world record because it was beaten by John J. Coleman in October, 1939. It was, however, the world’s largest angler caught muskie for 68 days during 1939. In 1940, Percy Haver broke Coleman’s record and only the disqualification of Haver could possibly gain Spray the 1940 world record. If Haver’s 1940 muskie were disqualified by an official sanctioning body, Spray’s muskie could only be considered a record if the fact that it did not receive world record scrutiny by Field & Stream is overlooked! Remember, Spray’s 1940 muskie was in second place in the 1940 annual contest when entered, beaten by Haver. To set the record straight, Field & Stream, the record keeping body at the time of Haver’s records, reviewed and accepted Haver’s applications. Since then, the record sanctioning bodies, including Field & Stream, the FWFHF and the IGFA, have not reviewed or disqualified the Haver records.

 

It appears that the primary purpose of Dettloff’s article was to elevate Louie Spray to Babe Ruth status. His article was mostly about Louie and how he was cheated out of two of his world records; one by Haver in 1940 and the other by Lawton in 1957. He begins with a folksy story about Haver’s life before he makes his claims in the last portion of the article.

 

Dettloff, as he did in his Lawton investigation, used amateur photo analysis to determine the size of Haver’s fish. After spending considerable time analyzing photographs using precision measuring instruments, I’ve found that direct scaling of fish size from photographs is generally inconclusive and not repeatable because direct scaling relies on “assumptive points of measurement” and ignores or inadequately addresses perspective. As will be discussed thoroughly in the Lawton section, detailed photo analysis is best left to professional photogrammetrists and their computers.

 

Dettloff did a bit more work on Haver’s 1940 world record from Lake St. Clair, Michigan than he did on the 1938 and 1939 Haver fish, as evidenced in the copy of a report that he sent to me in 1995. It was based on yet another amateur photo analysis, no better than the questionable work he did on Lawton’s fish. He made many assumptions regarding distances in photographs and numerous estimates, including, camera height and angle and angler height.

 

He “determined” Haver’s height from a photograph and even used comments from Haver’s niece as to her “recollections” about Haver’s height. Incredibly, he made a determination of Haver’s height by scaling a photograph to his estimates of the size of various items in photographs! He then pronounced that ...Now we can calculate Haver’s height. Knowing that (Haver’s height) = (height of the bottom edge of the first block is above the floor) referring to concrete blocks in the photograph of Haver with the five muskies; + (height of eight blocks and mortar joints) + (the approximate 2 additional inches that Haver’s head is above the last mortar joint) tells us that Haver indeed was about (3”) + (64”) + (2”) or 69” tall...

 

Dettloff used his estimate of Haver’s height to scale fish lengths in the Haver photos starting with Haver’s 58-pound 14-ounce record caught in 1939. He stated that ...A careful study of the various photos of this fish provides us with adequate evidence illustrating how this musky could have been at most, 54 inches in length. The photos of this musky clearly show the fish to not be nearly as girthy as it would have to be to weigh almost 60 pounds.

 

Amazing! By scaling a photograph Dettloff was able to make a determination that this fish was 54 inches at most. This despite the following facts; he had no real knowledge of Haver’s height and he had no idea of the claimed length of the fish that he crudely scaled because the application is not part of the Field & Stream file. Also, I am at a loss to understand just how Mr. Dettloff could determine that ...The photos of this musky clearly show the fish to not be nearly as girthy as it would have to be to weigh almost 60 pounds from a one-sided view?

 

For the most important fish to him and Spray, Haver’s 62 ½-pound 1940 record, Dettloff chose not to use his previous methods.

 

Dettloff was confident that he had found a Haver “smoking gun” when he discovered the mount photo of Haver’s 1940 record contained a “builder’s ruler” alongside the mount’s left side. He determined from this that the “mount” of Haver’s fish was …approximately 53 ½-inches long, knowing full well that scaling the mount of a fish is not a valid determination of true length of a fresh fish, he made the quantum leap that since Haver had claimed the fish to be 59-inches long, therefore …this constitutes a considerable length falsification on Haver’s part. A “rush to judgment and shallow at best!

 

Haver's%20three%20mountsHaver%201940%20mount

Left mounts of Haver’s three largest muskies. Right

the mount of the 1940 world record 62 ½-pounder

 

Interestingly, similar comparisons between the Spray mounts and fresh fish were dismissed when the WRMA’s Spray protest was considered (detailed later)! He ended the Haver analysis segment with the following.

 

...While he was no doubt one who made the sport of fishing an important part of his life, when it came to his musky fishing, Percy Haver often had a tendency to stretch the truth. Numerous old timers from his home area seemed to know the score, long suspecting Haver of telling tall tales. When Percy made the comment that, “I have caught over 300 muskies of better than 30 pounds apiece in the last four years,” in a magazine article, it should have tipped off most musky men that Percy wasn’t being straight. For such a feat – for any man – is basically impossible.

 

Excuse me! Numerous old timers I guess is two, as that are the number of anonymous letters. And to accuse Haver of stretching the truth is a biased, un-provable and unfounded attack on Mr. Haver’s credibility and integrity and that of his affidavited witnesses, which was obviously something Dettloff was trying to accomplish. I find it ludicrous and unbelievable that Dettloff could make a statement like this about Haver while at the same time ignoring similar truths about Louie Spray’s records. And as for his claim that it, is basically impossible for any man to catch over 300 muskies of better than 30 pounds apiece in the last four years shows his tunnel vision and utter lack of knowledge of what goes on in the rest of the muskie world outside of his home water, the Chippewa Flowage. All of North American muskie fishing simply cannot be gauged by what is caught there. I will prove that this sort of production is indeed possible in Volume II in the chapter on release.

 

In one his columns, the late John Husar had a few things to say about Dettloff’s erasing of historical muskie records in a December 1995 column entitled Dusty muskie records hit dust in the Chicago Tribune. Some excerpts.

 

Those scary purges in muskieland continue as self-appointed “historians” run amok through the sport’s most hallowed lore and records.

 

The latest deceased-and defenseless-icon to bite the dust is Percy P. Haver, who back in the 1940’s claimed four of the heaviest fish in history.

 

According to a lengthy article by amateur historian John Dettloff in “Musky Hunter” magazine, Haver does not deserve recognition for any of those fish. Dettloff says Haver did not catch muskies of 62 ½ pounds, 58 pounds 14 ounces, 56-7 and 56 flat from Lake St. Clair, Mich.

 

At the time they were caught, the larger two were world records. But having eyeballed some old photos of Haver’s fish, Dettloff says he has determined the weights were exaggerated. He said the biggest one mainly served to deny the late Wisconsin angler Louie Spray a third world record. Dettloff happens to own a lodge on the Chippewa Flowage near the spot where Spray is said to have caught one of his record fish.

 

Adding fuel to the flames of controversy was Ted Dzialo of the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, which is located near Spray’s lair in Hayward, Wis.

 

“There were a lot of crap records in the 40’s and 50’s,” Dzialo declared bluntly. “A lot of them were phonied.”

 

Dzialo said none of Haver’s fish would crack the current list of records maintained by his organization.

 

“It doesn’t really affect us,” he said. “That’s why we haven’t said anything about it. But based upon the photographic evidence, they probably would be disqualified if they were records.”

 

He said the main effect will be the scrubbing of Haver’s fish from any recognized list of 50-pound plus muskies-as if they never existed.

 

Dettloff said of Haver’s 56-pounder caught in 1940 prior to his record catch that, it ...proved to be falsified to the same degree after the photo of that fish was analyzed in exactly the same way as with the previously mentioned fish. I guess by the time he got to Haver’s fish, he felt that he need not go into as much detail and work as he did in his earlier Lawton record investigation.

 

Importantly, Haver’s 1939 fish was never subjected to world record scrutiny by the American Museum of Natural History because the Spray and Coleman fish pushed it into third place in the 1939 Field & Stream annual contest.

 

Professional photogrammetry has not been commissioned to analyze any of Haver’s muskies.

 

Louie Spray 61-13 Lac Court Oreilles, Wisconsin - 1940

 

Louie Spray registered his second record claim from Lac Court Oreilles, Wisconsin. This fish was not subjected to world record scrutiny by the American Museum of Natural History, then responsible for the sanctioning of world records, because a larger fish, Haver’s, was caught 52-days earlier and entered in the Field & Stream contest before Spray’s 1940 contest entry.

 

We’ll now go back to Ellis’ search for the truth of Spray records in True magazine regarding Spray’s 1940 fish.

 

...Louie’s record fish became a second best shortly thereafter when Lake St.Clair in Michigan produced a larger ‘lunge (Actually it was the Coleman fish that bested Louie’s 1939 fish, as Louie’s fish had bettered Haver’s 1939 Lake St. Clair fish). But Louie was back out there pitching again in 1940, and sure enough he came up with a muskie that weighed 61 pounds 13 ounces.

 

Wisconsin didn’t know whether to be happy or apprehensive about Louie’s new claims. It wanted the world-record muskie to come from Wisconsin, but it didn’t like the stories then making the rounds.

 

This is a good place to again point out that Field & Stream’s contest editor Bob Bush evidently didn’t like Spray’s 1940 claim either as noted on the internal memo in the Haver section above and repeated here. ...I don’t like the smell of the Spray affidavit at all, and will declare the entry ineligible if it’s OK with you. I don’t believe we are obligated to accept an entry. BB It is assumed that Mr. Bush let the Spray matter drop when the Coleman application was received with a larger fish. Now back to Ellis.

 

Louie said at the time that he had caught the fish on August 19 in Rice Lake. The night previous a man named Jens Jorgensen of Hayward was in Spray’s tavern with a muskie that draped from his chin to the floor. He said he had caught the fish in Lac Courte Oreilles. No one ever heard of, nor did anyone ever see, the Jorgensen muskie after that night.

 

Russ Lynch, sports editor of the Milwaukee Journal, and as honest a newspaper man as can be found despite the fact that he flicks his left out front plenty, duly reported the new developments and Louie’s answer, which was published as follows in part “the old saying is, Once a fisherman always a liar, and a few friendly and harmless jests are welcomed by any sportsman, but that cheap, chippy, chiseling bunch of lousy white lies, insinuations and intimations you wrote in your article could hardly be tolerated by anyone.”

 

Louie continued to maintain he had caught a world-record fish and in some circles he made his claims stick.

 

Just across Lake Michigan, however, that man Haver from Detroit was rowing like mad, and not long after the ducks came back the next year, Percy came up with a 62 ½ pound ‘lunge and there went the world-record back to Michigan again.

 

Let us now review the rest of Louie’s story.

 

...When we got him in the boat we put on the tape and it appeared to be around five feet long. We headed straight for Karl Kahmanns taxidermist shop. He had a fairly accurate scale that showed the fish over 60 pounds, but he advised me to go where there was an inspected, sanctioned scale and weigh in. It was weighed at the Pufahl Hardware with Johnnie Moreland, insurance man, Herb Simonson, city clerk, and Ray Ingersol, Pufahl Hardware employee, as the weighing committee. By now I had learned, no more bathroom scales! The weight was 61 pounds 13 ounces, which was a record. That fish was also placed on display in Spray’s Bar and again a prize offered for the nearest weight, length and girth with the weight being the major factor.

 

Here once again, I have the book before me. There were 607 guesses, and six ties. The local Hayward people who tied were: Sigure Tonstad, Henry A. Larsen, manager of the trout pond, Bill Marquardt, golf pro at the Hayward course, Nester Gaden, blacksmith, Gail W. Davis, plumber, and Earnest F. Rice. No one guessed the exact weight, but were within an ounce of it. Nester Gaden, the blacksmith guessed 61 7/8 pounds.

 

Louie, who had been through it all the previous year, expected an onslaught from reporters and prepared himself with many affidavits, as seen below.

 

AUGUST 23, 1940

 

AN AFFIDAVIT TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

 

We the undersigned Committee representing the Chamber of Commerce of the City of Hayward, Wisconsin, hereby state and declare under oath that we weighed and measured a muskellunge caught by Louie Spray of the City of Hayward, Wisconsin, at the Pufahl Hardware. That the weight was Sixty One Pounds and Thirteen Ounces (61 lbs. 13 oz.) That the Length was Fifty Nine and One Quarter inches (59 1/4in.) That the Girth was Thirty Two and One Half inches (32 1/2 in.).

 

Signed by Committee,

John O. Moreland

Herbert Simonson

Karl W. Kahmann

 

AUGUST26, 1940

 

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

 

I, Louie Spray of the City of Hayward, Wisconsin, herein depose, state and declare under oath, that on the 19th day of August 1940, I, in company with Mr. T.W. Campbell of West Palm Beach, Florida, caught and landed a huge muskellunge in Couderay Lake near Hayward, Wisconsin.

 

That said muskellunge was weighed and measured in public by a Committee representing the Hayward Chamber of Commerce of the City of Hayward, Wisconsin, and that said muskellunge weighed Sixty One Pounds and Thirteen Ounces (61 lbs.13 oz.), was Fifty Nine and One Quarter inches in length, (59 1/4 in.) and had a Girth of Thirty Two and One Half inches, (32 1/2 in.).

 

Further, that said muskellunge was on display in the City of Hayward, Wisconsin, for a period of three days during which time a guessing contest as to weight was conducted. That 607 persons registered their guess and that the total average guess was 62 1/4 pounds.

 

Further, that said muskellunge is being Mounted by Karl W. Kahmann of the City of Hayward, Wisconsin, and will be on display as soon as completed. That said weights and measurements are Recorded in the Court House in the City of Hayward, Wisconsin.

 

SEPTEMBER 5, 1940

    

AN AFFIDAVIT

 

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

 

This Affidavit concerns two Newspaper articles, namely, the Rice Lake Chronotype of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, in their issue of August 21st, l940, and the Milwaukee Journal of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in their issue of Sunday September 1st, 1940.

 

In each of the two mentioned issues of the two mentioned Newspapers, my name, Jens Jorgensen, was used and mentioned in connection with a Sixty One Pound Thirteen Ounce, (61 lb.13 oz.) muskellunge caught August 19th, 1940, by Louis Spray, of Hayward, Wisconsin, intimating and insinuating that there might be something irregular or fictitious concerning and regarding the muskellunge in question in the Newspaper articles mentioned above.

 

Therefore, I, Jens Jorgensen, of the City of Hayward, Wisconsin, first being duly sworn on Oath, depose, say, state and declare, that I know nothing about the Spray 61 lb.13 oz. muskellunge, except that I saw it on display at Spray’s Cafe & Bar, Hayward, Wisconsin. Further, that I had nothing to do with catching or helping to catch the muskellunge herein mentioned.

 

Signed Jens Jorgenson

 

SEPTEMBER7. 1940

 

AN AFFIDAVIT

 

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

 

I, Ray Ingersoll of the City of Hayward, Wisconsin, being first duly sworn on oath, depose, say, state and declare, that I am employed at the Pufahl Hardware Co. of the City of Hayward.

That on the 22nd day of August 1940, a muskellunge was brought into the Pufahl Hardware Store to be weighed by John O. Moreland, Herbert Simonson and Karl W. Kahmann, a Committee in charge and Louie Spray, the owner, all of Hayward, Wisconsin.

 

That I weighed and measured the muskellunge in the usual manner. That the Weight was Sixty One Pounds Thirteen Ounces, (61 lbs. 13 oz.) That the Length was Fifty Nine and One Quarters inches (59 1/4) That the Girth was Thirty Two and One Half inches (32 1/2 inches).

 

Signed Ray Ingersoll

 

In addition to these affidavits I had in my possession and now have a photocopy of the book Louie mentioned with the guesses of weight for the fish. It was exactly as stated.

 

In their 2005 protest to the NFWFHF of Louie Spray’s record the WRMA discussed the 1940 Spray fish in considerable detail. Rather than fragment the protest synopsis, I refer you to the Appendix for the pertinent details regarding Spray’s 1939; 1940 and 1949 records. Professional photogrammetry was used to analyze the 1940 and 1949 fresh fish and mount photographs.

 

Brad Latvaitis, in a July 1998 Musky Hunter article titled, How Big was that Musky, discussed an advertisement postcard of Spray holding a muskie captioned as 42-pounds. Brad stated ...the muskie captioned as 42-pounds has the proportions for a musky of this weight. He noted that the 42-pound muskie is the same fish captioned in a second postcard as 61-pounds 13-ounces and Spray has the same clothes on in each postcard photo! Brad’s article documents that he queried John Dettloff on the matter and Dettloff agreed that comparative analysis shows each picture is the same fish. Dettloff was aware of the postcard with the 42-pound caption but advised he had a letter from Spray indicating the photo caption was a printer’s error.  However, when Brad reviewed the letter, sent by Spray to Larry Ramsell in 1979, only a switch of the captions for Spray’s 61-pound 13-ounce and 69-pound 11-ounce muskies was noted.

 

Spray%20unaltered%2042%20pounderSpray%2040%20altered%2042%20pounder

The post card on left is the referenced card.

The post card on the right is yet another altered version

 

When I went through my post card collection things got even messier! The four-card series above and on the next page explains why. Shown are the cards referenced by Brad. The card on the left above clearly shows by the split on the fish’s cheek, that it was indeed the same fish claimed to be the 61-13 record on the correctly captioned card below. The card on the right above had clearly been altered to remove this cheek split! Apparently Louie had realized this discrepancy and decided to do something about it.


Spray%2040%20corr%20capSpray%2040%20misprint%20PC

61-13 post card on left has correct caption and

the one on the right is the incorrectly captioned version

 

Spray’s letter said in part ...The mix-up came when I ordered out 50,000 assorted Post Card photos of myself and muskies, to sell in the place at Rice Lake (Spray’s Bar). In order to get a price, it was necessary to order that many. However, somehow the L.L. Cook Company of Milwaukee, got the weights of the 61 and the 69 pounder switched, and we never noticed it until a customer at the Bar told the bartender who told me. So long as I had all the prints made up, and since both fish were my property, I just let the thing go at that, until I heard from you some time back on the matter, that the weights were wrong, so I had them corrected... Interestingly, the 42-pound caption and postcard was not mentioned! The caption reads, Louie Spray with a 42 pounder and half stiff (intoxicated). World Record Muskies at Spray’s Bar, Rice Lake, Wis. Spray’s stationary captions this same fish as being, A 43- pounder! That stationary is shown on the next page. Due to the small type and resolution loss of clarity you may be unable to read it, but I assure you that the caption under the photo on the lower right side says “A 43-pounder.”

 

Spray%20letter%20head

 

When Latvaitis was preparing his article, he contacted fellow fisheries biologist Art Oehmcke who confirmed in a January 7, 1998 letter (copied to Dettloff) that, These two photos show the same fish which should have the same body proportions. Being 6 feet, 1 ½ inches in height myself, it’s easy for me to calculate the length of the musky in the photo of the “42 pounder” that reached from the tip of Spray’s nose to a point halfway between his knees and the ground. Since Spray’s height was approximately 6’2” (note; as documented below, Spray was much shorter), comparing my dimensions, the measurement comes to a minimum of 52 inches, which would possibly allow 52 ½ inches for Spray’s height. The photo of “the World’s Largest Muskie” was not a “59 ½ inch” fish (The 61-pound 13-ounce muskie postcard is captioned, “The World’s Largest Muskie”).

 

Oehmcke then relates an inquiry with John Dettloff who, concurred with the contention that both muskies pictured are the same fish. However, he directed my attention to the copy of a letter from Spray to Larry Ramsell in which Spray gives an explanation of the “mix-up” of the photos (As detailed above, the letter notes that a printer’s error switched the picture captions of Spray’s 61-pound 13-ounce and 69-pound 11-ounce muskies. The 42-pound muskie caption is not mentioned). John will be writing to you and will provide copies of the photos he has in his possession, besides the letter from Spray.

 

Interestingly, Dettloff promptly visited Oehmcke and as a result Brad received a call from Art asking that he not share his thoughts in the article. In a letter dated January 9, 1998 (copied to Dettloff) Oehmcke said After reviewing my letter of January 7 to you, John Dettloff called me to point out some possible flaws in the calculations I used in comparing Louie Spray’s physical height to mine. John correctly states that aging has the effect of reducing one’s stature, and I find he is right in my case. My present height is 72 ½” in stocking feet, not 73 ½.” That gives the Spray “42 pounder” another inch but we are still about 6 inches short of 59 ½ inches. I could be off 6 inches on my measurement from ground level to the point midway between the knees and the ground. This is an unknown factor and I’ll have to concede to that—particularly after seeing the sworn, notarized affidavits of reliable witnesses for the photo of the 61 pound, 13 oz – 59 inch fish. I feel John has substantial proof that both photos show the same 61 pound, 13 oz-59” fish and will supply you with the necessary back-up material. However, try as I might, it is hard for me to visualize that “42 pounder” as same as a 59 ½” fish. But so be it.

 

Latvaitis was not swayed by the persuasive Dettloff and stated, I disagree with any (Dettloff’s) perspective calculations from these photos. I’ve never been a big proponent of perspective calculations and distortion analysis (Dettloff’s) because camera angle and distance between the camera and object are somewhat speculative and complicated calculations. Brad adds, As stated earlier, the musky captioned as 42 pounds has the proper proportions for a musky of this weight based on simple comparison’s (sic) of Spray’s 6-foot-2 height to the musky’s length (and as later learned, Spray was only 5-11!). I believe that the musky in Louie’s “smoldering gun” photo is in the mid-50 inch range. Latvaitis concluded, Spray’s 61-pound 13-ounce musky was extensively displayed and very well documented. I’m just not convinced that we have an appropriate photo of it.

 

In light of the recent discrepancy discovered between a professional photogrammetric comparison of the proportions of Spray’s fresh caught fish and mounts (discussed later), “extensive displaying” of Spray’s 61-pound 13-ounce mounted muskie may have been a deception.

 

Spray%2040%20mount

 

The photo of the 1940 Spray mount on the previous page shows how it appeared at Spray’s Bar in 1951 and was provided to me in 1998 by Jerome J. Sloboda.

 

Edward Walden 61-9 Eagle Lake, Ontario - 1940

 

Walden%20%232

 

Edward Walden’s Eagle Lake, Ontario fish was kind of an afterthought in 1940 since it finished 3rd in the Field & Steam contest, but it became the new Ontario and Canada record maskinonge. There seems to be little doubt regarding the size of Walden’s fish, however, note that the Walden fish was never subjected to world record scrutiny by the American Museum of Natural History since the Haver and Spray fish pushed it into third place in the Field & Stream contest. Despite accurate newspaper accounts at the time of Walden’s catch, there was some confusion within the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests up until 1953 on just where it had been caught. In the late 1980’s I received a copy of two letters from Ministry files from Bernard Lebeau which he had found under “Maskinonge Lake” at the Sioux Lookout District Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources office. The first letter follows.

 

Div. Fish & Wildlife

 

Sioux Lookout, Ontario

October 20th, 1953

 

Dr. W.J.K. Harkness

Chief, Div. Fish and Wildlife

TORONTO, Ontario.

 

Attention: A.B. Young

 

Dear Sir:

 

I have investigated the question of Ontario’s record maskinonge caught by angling, one of 61 lbs. 9 oz. previously credited to Cliff Lake in the Sioux Lookout District.

 

Herman Schultz of Cedar Lake, long-time resident, trapper, and guide in the Cliff Lake area, claims that the largest maskinonge ever caught in Cliff Lake weighed 35 pounds.

 

Sam Carter of Dryden, who has guided in the general area for 27 years, says that the largest maskinonge he know of from Cliff and Cedar Lakes was a 45 pound specimen from Cedar Lake.

 

Arne Bratland of Vermilion Bay, formerly a tourist outfitter on Cliff Lake, told me that the largest Cliff Lake musky he knew of weighed 35 pounds. Furthermore, Mr. Bratland knew that Department records credited Cliff Lake with a 61 lb. 9 oz. fish, caught in 1940, and suspected that this fish had actually been caught in Eagle Lake, by a tourist guided by Mr. George Titze.

 

I next interviewed Mr. Titze. In 1940, he guided for Andy Meyers (sic), who is still outfitting on Eagle Lake. One of his guests, Mr. Ed. Waldon (sic), then of Chicago and now of Florida, caught a 61 lb. 9 oz. maskinonge in Eagle Lake. The fish was weighed by a taxidermist of Waldhof, Ontario, who is now dead. The fish caught while casting with a “Muskie Houn” bait (#12 Pflueger Muskill per Field & Stream). Mr. Titze had no photograph of the fish.

 

Finally I visited Mr. Meyers (sic), in search of a photograph. He had none, but I did learn that Mr. Waldon (sic) had had the fish mounted.

 

In consideration of all the evidence, I think there is almost no doubt that the 61 lb. 9 oz. maskinonge caught in 1940 was Mr. Waldon’s (sic) fish from Eagle Lake, and not a fish from Cliff Lake, and that the record should be changed accordingly.

 

I hope that this is a satisfactory check on the record.

 

Yours very truly,

A.T. Cringan,

District Biologist

 

Mr. Cringan received a roundabout reply to his letter as follows.

 

Toronto, Ontario

October 28, 1953

 

Mr. H.N. Middleton,

District Forester,

Department of Lands and Forests,

SIOUX LOOKOUT, Ontario.

 

Dear Sir:            Attention: Mr. A.T. Cringan

 

Many thanks for your report on “sleuthing” on the Ontario record maskinonge. In consideration of the evidence that you collected the Department is accepting your recommendations.

 

We are, therefore, altering our official records accordingly. Your help is greatly appreciated.

 

Yours very truly,

H.H. MacKay

For, W.J.K. Harkness, Chief,

Fish and Wildlife Division

 

And so ended the confusion of the location of Walden’s Ontario and Canada’s record catch. His record stood for 48 years.

 

A Professional photogrammetry analysis has not been commissioned to analyze Walden’s muskie.

 

Alois Hanser 64-8 Favil Lake, Wisconsin - 1947

 

Hanser%20on%20ground


Haver’s 1940 world record stayed intact until 1947, when Alois A. Hanser claimed a new record from Favil Lake, Wisconsin. But revisionist history would catch up with him too as will be noted following Hanser’s documentation.

 

The photo on the previous page appeared in Field & Stream magazine in 1948 and in a Heddon lure advertisement. Note the small Heddon Vamp in the fish’s mouth and the nice touch of Haver’s 1st place Field & Stream award pin superimposed upon the photograph.

 

First, let’s take a look at the Hanser affidavits. On May 17, 1947, the date of the capture of his record fish, Hanser had two affidavits prepared. One was the official Field & Stream entry blank and the second, a general affidavit. Both were duly sworn, witnessed and notarized.

 

Hanser’s Field & Stream affidavit was witnessed by James A. Stewart and Louis Gauthier of Lac du Flambeau and notarized by Ben B. Gauthier.

 

The general affidavit read.

 

May 17, 1947

 

I, Alois Hanser, of Lac du Flambeau, Vilas County, Wisconsin – on May 17, 1947 caught a Muskellunge weight 64 pounds 8 ounces. Length 58 inches, circumference 24 inches. The Muskellunge was caught in Favil or Halfway Lake situated in the Western part of the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation.

 

Signed

Alois Hanser

 

Witness to weight of fish;

Signed: James A. Stewart, Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin

        Louis S. Gauthier, Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin

        William Yeschek, Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin.

 

State of Wisconsin

Vilas County

 

Personally came before me, this 17 day May A.D., 1947 the above named, Alois Hanser, Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin to me known to be the person who executed the foregoing instrument and acknowledged the same.

 

Ben B. Gauthier

Notary Public, Lac du Flambeau, Vilas County, Wisconsin

My Commission expires 1/28/1948

 

Then there was a July 15th affidavit from Hanser’s taxidermist.

 

STATE OF WISCONSIN

County of Vilas.

 

Warner P. Norlander, being first duly sworn on oath says that he is a taxidermist, living and operating in the Town of Lincoln, Post Office, Eagle River, Wisconsin; that on or about the 20th day of May, A.D. 1947, one Alois Hanser of Lac du Flambeau, Vilas County, Wisconsin submitted to him for taxidermy on 64 ½ pound Muskallounge, caught by said Alois Hanser on Favil (Half Way Lake) in Vilas County, Wisconsin, on opening day of fishing season, to wit: May 17, 1947: that there was no illegal weight in said fish or any foreign matter whatever.

 

Warner P. Norlander

 

Subscribed and sworn to before me

This 15th day of July A.D. 1947

Frank W. Carter

County Judge, Vilas County, Wisconsin

 

On June 27, 1947, Hanser then obtained a picture and number of the scale that the fish was weighed on and attested to the facts on that photograph.

 

Hanser%20scale

 

This is the scale on which the Muskellunge was weighed, as per affidavit dated May 17, 1947.

 

Signed: Alois Hanser

 

After that, Hanser then had the witnesses to the weighing attest to the following on that same photograph.

 

We, the undersigned, residents of the Town of Flambeau, Vilas County, Wisconsin, attest that we were present at the time the Musky above referred to caught by Alois A. Hanser was deposited on the Continental scale bearing the number and being the type as hereinbefore set forth and that it did weigh 64 ½ pounds.

 

James A. Stewart

Louis J. Gauthier

William Yeschek

 

Ben C. Gauthier

Notary Public, Vilas County, Wisconsin

My commission expires January 28, 1948

 

Then on the 8th of July, 1947, Hanser went one step further, with yet another personal affidavit to wit.

 

STATE OF WISCONSIN

VILAS COUNTY,

 

ALOIS A. HANSER being duly sworn, upon oath deposes and says that the Musky described in that certain communication with Field & Stream, a national publication, was weighed on a Continental scale, being model AN3CB folding scale, and that the weight was correctly taken on said scale at 64 ½ pounds, which computation was examined and found correct by three witnesses who were present at the time the fish was placed on the scale in a normal manner and said weight computed.

 

That this affidavit is made for the purpose of informing said magazine of the true status of said fish, which affiant caught in the manner and form set forth in the previous affidavit now on file with said publication.

 

Alois A. Hanser

 

Subscribed and sworn to before me

This 8th day of July, 1947

Ben C. Gauthier

Notary Public, Vilas Co., Wis.

My commission expires January 28, 1948

 

Contained also in the Field & Stream file was an undated letter from the photographer. It listed the weight, length and girth and that the fish had been caught by Hanser from Halfway or Favel (another spelling) Lake at Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin and described the tackle used. It further said:

 

...Hanser has affidavits duly recorded and approved by 3 Town officials and wardens. He no doubt will forward one to you soon. Lives quite a distance from me. My interest was only as the photographer. Would like to see you use it in Field & Stream.

 

N.C. Ehlke

Rhinelander, Wis

 

Needless to say, Hanser had his act together. No wonder, as Ellis stated in his True magazine article ...no one made any great effort to discredit Hanser’s prize catch... That is until John Dettloff in 1995, although Louie Spray did comment about the size of Hanser’s fish in a letter to me in 1976 when he wrote ...I know I can prove that the Hanser Fish was... a fake and a farce from start to finish... If you don’t believe it, go over in the Minocqua-Woodruff, Mercier (sic) Country and take a look at the mounted fish itself...

 

Ellis also said The muskie crown rested uneasily on Hanser’s brow for two years...but no one came near the world-record fish caught by Hanser.

 

In the October/November 1995 issue of Musky Hunter magazine, Dettloff, as Musky Hunter historical editor wrote an article entitled, Hanser Musky Disqualified. Once again, this self-appointed selective history revisionist of muskellunge world records discredits yet another non-Hayward area record muskie. So, here we go again. Dettloff starts in to the Hanser fish with the following statement ...it should come as no surprise that many folks there (Vilas County, Wisconsin) take their musky fishing very seriously. Whenever any “tom foolery” surfaces regarding anybody’s huge musky catch it is a concern of many to get to the bottom of such matters.

 

Such is the case with the Al Hanser musky from 1947...

 

...Because there have been persistent rumors among numerous local fisherman and guides that Hanser’s fish had been netted and not legally caught on hook and line, the catch had never been taken completely seriously by the locals. While, I have discovered facts...that do make this a strong possibility. Because Hanser’s world record title was short-lived, the matter of the legitimacy of his catch was never aggressively pursued.

 

So, while as Dettloff also wrote …this must be regarded as nothing more than a rumor… Dettloff wrote as if it wasn’t. His comment that …the legitimacy of his catch was never aggressively pursued… because Hanser’s record was …short-lived… rings hollow. Two years is plenty of time for Field & Stream to conduct an investigation, if indeed they would have had reason to do so. There was nothing in the Field & Stream files of any nature against the Hanser record fish. They had no reason to investigate it further. Dettloff continued.

 

Aside from the fact that circumstances indicate that the Hanser musky may not have been taken by conventional means, there is even more damning evidence against the legitimacy of this fish: With the documented dimensions of the Hanser musky being 58 inches in length and only 24 inches in girth, it is simply beyond the realm of possibility that this long, but thinly-built musky, could have weighed anywhere near its reported weight of 64 ½ pounds.

 

Let’s analyze the above paragraph in two parts. First the circumstances that supposedly indicate the fish wasn’t caught by angling. When Dettloff was working on discrediting this fish, he taped an interview with the late Art Oehmcke a retired Wisconsin DNR employee known as Mr. Musky. His responsibilities included Vilas County when the fish was caught. It is from this interview and a subsequent Oehmcke affidavit that Dettloff’s supposition came about. The affidavit contained second-hand information regarding the supposed netting previously referred to by Dettloff. That statement from Oehmcke’s affidavit.

 

...On March 4, 1993, I wrote Harley McKeague asking him what he had discovered about the Hanser musky. After checking his personal diary from 1947, McKeague replied by letter to me on March 23, 1993 stating the following about the Hanser musky: “I did notice that the upper and lower jaw were all skinned. And the soft rays in the caudal fin were all split, indicating confinement in a holding net for a long period of time, possibly waiting for the fish to ripen or for sale...

 

While credible people are here involved, there is nothing in McKeague’s statement that could be construed as proof. In fact in the taped interview Oehmcke said that McKeague had talked to the District Attorney about it but that there was no case. McKeague’s claims were merely his unsubstantiated opinion.

 

The next thing we must address is the seemingly small girth for a fish that weighed 64 ½-pounds. What Dettloff failed to concede, as did Oehmcke as you will soon see, was information that 12-pounds of spawn had been taken from the fish. In The Rhinelander Chronicle a photograph titled Here’s Hanser and His Record Muskie, the following information was spelled out in that photo’s caption ...It had been stripped of 12 pounds of spawn before the above picture was taken in Rhinelander this week. While Dettloff was aware of this fact and stated so in his article, he was unable to learn more about its accuracy, so he summarily dismissed it.


Haver%20Rhinelander%20pic

The Hanser Rhinelander photo

 

In a letter to Bob Kutz at the NFWFHF in 1980, Louie Spray had the following to say about the spawn in the Hanser fish ...If ever a Muskie was recorded on a “Wing And A Prayer” it was the Hanser fish of 1947. It is still on display over at Mercer, and if it weighed a lick over 45 pounds, I’ll eat it, regardless of their claim of 12 pounds of spawn in the fish.

 

Oehmcke in his affidavit, confirmed the fact that Hanser’s fish was thin and that he was certain that it was ...beyond the realm of possibility for the Hanser musky, having a length of 58 inches and a girth of only 24 inches to weigh anywhere near 64 ½ pounds. However, I contend due to the above fact that 12-pounds of spawn had been removed from Hanser’s fish, likely unknown to Oehmcke as he made no mention of it, does indeed have a great bearing on the girth measurement. In fact it is everything!

 

The fish was taken the opening day of the season, May 17th. In Wisconsin, at least some muskies are in pre-spawn condition in early May as evidenced by the 12-pounds of spawn that were removed from Hanser’s muskie. Wisconsin later changed the opening of the season to the end of May to protect pre-spawn muskies.

 

It is a scientific fact that a large female muskie can contain as much as 20% of her body weight in eggs/spawn. In Dettloff’s “report” of the Hanser fish he stated that Oehmcke had said that a 45-pound fish would contain up to 6-pounds of eggs but there was no mention of egg weight for a fish weighing near 65-pounds such as claimed by Hanser. Egg weight for Hanser’s fish could have been as much as 12-pounds in a mid 50-pound fish. Dettloff summarily dismissed the possibility of Hanser’s fish weighing 64 ½-pounds with spawn despite these facts.

 

Dettloff tried to make something out of the possibility that Hanser’s fish wasn’t caught from Favil Lake but it has no bearing on the size of the fish. Similarly, the catch location of Spray’s 1949 fish was also questioned, as you will soon read. Dettloff reported that Hanser’s daughter-in-law Molly Hanser said ...that Hanser’s musky did not come out of Favil Lake...she remembered seeing Al Hanser coming to shore of the lake his home was on – Mitten Lake – with the fish in the bottom of his boat...

 

This recollection 48-years after the fact flies in the face of a factual Hanser statement at the time of the catch that ...I put the fish in my car and went home.

 

John Dettloff in the January 1996 issue of Musky Hunter magazine said ...Upon studying the photograph of Hanser with his musky, it is clear that in comparing the length of his fish to Hanser’s own height of 73 inches to 74 inches, that musky was about 16 inches, or more, shorter than Hanser...

 

Dettloff did concede in his Hanser investigation that the stated length of Haver’s muskie was correct.

 

Dettloff then went on to intimate that “artificial weight” had been added to Hanser’s fish by quoting from Oehmcke’s affidavit, which stated in part ...Upon arriving in Rhinelander we learned that the fish had been taken to Norlander’s Taxidermy in Eagle River, Wisconsin. As documented in my personal 1947 diary, G.E. Sprecher and I examined the newly mounted Hanser musky on the morning of June 4, 1947 at Norlander’s Taxidermy...Norlander then showed us evidence of many items added to produce false weight that he had personally removed from numerous muskies he had mounted (sash weights, Shorty beer bottles, rocks, etc.) He didn’t come right out and say it, be he inferred that “something” did come out of Hanser’s fish...

 

Dettloff used the above to help make his case but as can be noted above in taxidermist Norlander’s affidavit …that there was no illegal weight in said fish or any foreign matter whatever. By the time Norlander got the fish to mount, it had already been stripped of 12-pounds of spawn. It therefore should be considered that Oehmcke’s impression of Norlander’s inference that …“something” did come out of Hanser’s fish… was likely incorrect!

 

Incidentally, fish were loaded in those days as will be chronicled by Len Hartman in Volume II.

 

In closing, consider an interesting fact included in Dettloff’s article, Hanser was ...A former constable of Lac du Flambeau.

 

To set the record straight, Field & Stream, the record sanctioning body at the time of Hanser’s record, reviewed and accepted Hanser’s contest application. Since then, the record sanctioning bodies, including Field & Stream, the FWFHF and the IGFA, have not reviewed or disqualified the Hanser record.

 

Professional photogrammetry has not been commissioned for Hanser’s muskie.

 


Cal Johnson 67-8 Lac Court Oreilles, Wisconsin – 1949

 

Johnson%20%232

 

Let us now move on the Cal Johnson’s 1949 record from Lac Court Oreilles, Wisconsin. This fish was never subjected to world record scrutiny by Field & Stream because it was beaten by Louie Spray before year’s end.

 

Johnson was highly respected and it was so written by Tom Davis in his article Fakes, Frauds, and Fallen Idols The Biggest Muskies That Never Were in the September/October 1995 issue of Sporting Classics magazine. That article contained the following excerpt.

 

Cal Johnson: Muskie fishing’s “Mr. Nice Guy.” Well-liked and highly respected, he was a champion caster with both fly and bait tackle, a consultant to presidents Coolidge and Hoover on angling matters, and a widely published outdoor writer who was for many years the freshwater fishing editor for Sports Afield. Indeed, Johnson was one of the first to write knowledgeably – and factually – about muskies and muskie fishing techniques. He was also the first to take a hard look at the myriad anecdotal accounts of muskies weighing up to 110 pounds and conclude they were all based on “guesstimation” and hearsay.

 

This Johnson information and article were written as a result of information provided to the writer by John Dettloff. The main article was based on work by Dettloff discrediting all but the Hayward world record muskies. But all may not have been as seemed with regard to Johnson’s “Mr. Nice Guy” status if any stock is placed in two confidential letters from Sports Afield to Ben East, March of 1940, who was being considered to replace Johnson as Sports Afield angling editor. The first contained …confidentially, I am not satisfied with the service, from the standpoint either of copy or of correspondence, which I am getting from my present angling editor… and the second …To be entirely frank with you, though confidentially, (unnamed) and I have for some time been dissatisfied with the work being done for us by Cal Johnson and with his disregard for his correspondence with our readers… (Unnamed) and I have had some long talks with him…if he can hold himself together he will probably be all right… …if we get in a jam with Johnson it is very far from impossible that I shall wire you. Evidently things worked out in the end. Ben East later went on to become a field editor for Outdoor Life magazine.

 

So let us begin with the Cal Johnson record controversies. Again we will quote Ellis’ True magazine article regarding the Cal Johnson 1947 record muskie.

 

The resort business on the muskie lakes boomed right after the war, and then business began to fall off, until by summer of 1949 it was labeled as far from good in many areas. There was no doubt that the resort business needed a shot in the arm.

 

Another world-record muskie would be nice and it might do the job, so on July 24th of that summer Cal Johnson of Teal Lake accommodated by beaching a 67 1/2 pound fish. It was caught in Lac Courte Oreilles, Johnson said.

 

In the beginning, everybody was pretty happy about that muskie. Cal Johnson is a professional fisherman and an outdoor writer of many year’s standing. It was fine to have a man who had taken thousands of muskies to be catching a world record fish.

 

Johnson told how he and his son, Phil, and Jack Connor, an outdoor writer for a Minneapolis paper, got out on the lake just as a thunderstorm was grumbling its way off into the distance. He told this story:

 

“It was still raining a little and there were some lightning flashes in the east and the thunder was still rumbling. But it was a musky morning, I said, “You can smell muskies. If we don’t connect this morning, we never will.

 

“I took the stern position in the boat. Connor went to the bow and Phil, who was guiding, stayed at the oars.”

 

Johnson tells of how they trolled and how the big fish latched on and how it felt as if he was tied to a log.

 

“For thirty minutes he stayed right down just bulldogging and then he started to tire. I knew it would be impossible to lift him on a gaff into the boat, so I told Phil to row slowly to shore. It took us another thirty minutes to coax him to shore.

 

“Phil jumped over the side then, raincoat and all, into waist-deep water. The big fish was rolling by this time, so Phil set the gaff beneath the gill cover and began running. The head of the fish was under his fanned-out coat, and the big tail was churning. Phil didn’t stop running until he was thirty feet back on dry land.”

 

Johnson then told how the fish was weighed and the witnesses’ statements notarized, and Wisconsin and especially resort owners around Hayward celebrated and almost everybody was dandy about the whole thing until - wham! bang! blooey! - like some of that lightning that had been playing around on the morning of the big catch - Connor suddenly announced that he had not been in the boat with Johnson and did not see the fish caught.

 

So another world record ‘lunge became just a little tainted, because both Johnson and Connor stuck by their stories. Later, however, Johnson admitted that Connor had not been in the boat nor did he see the fish landed.

 

Johnson’s enemies immediately said, “He had it tied out in the woods fattening it.” His friends said “Johnson knew no one would believe he had caught a world record muskie, so he said Connor was with him just to bolster his story. You can’t blame him, the way things have been in Wisconsin lately.”

 

Johnson’s muskie was first recognized as legitimate by Outdoors, a magazine which has since been combined with Outdoorsman, (which in turn combined with Hunting and Fishing), and the prize of a new automobile was awarded to Mr. Johnson.

 

The Milwaukee Sentinel had a vital interest and stake in the Cal Johnson fish, and went to great lengths to clear the mess up as is evidenced in Sentinel Outdoor Editor Lew Morrison’s columns in 1949.

 

What’s the low down on the big muskie? What’s back of certain rumors that are bringing discredit to the state and to the Hayward area in particular? Yes, what is really behind all this fuss and what does it really amount to?

 

The Sentinel is vitally interested in this world’s record muskie, because it represents a most valuable asset to the state’s recreational interests. Any shenanigans should be exposed.

 

But likewise, if the catch was on the up and up, as the real facts reveal it to be, unwarranted rumors can bring irreparable harm to the entire state. In view of what transpired lately, the Sentinel moved into action, determined to get to the bottom of things. As a result of a very careful and thorough investigation, here are hard, cold facts that cannot be denied.

 

Facts Prove Legality of Big Catch

 

All of the facts, without a single exception, clearly and conclusively prove beyond the slightest shadow of doubt that the world’s record muskie taken by Cal Johnson in Lac Courte Oreilles on the morning of July 24, was legally caught, accurately weighed and measured, witnessed by reputable citizens and the papers officially certified by notary John Moreland, well known member of the Wisconsin Conservation Commission, who inspected the fish personally.

 

It might clarify several things if it is pointed out here that the Sentinel made an agreement with Cal Johnson on the Monday forenoon following the catch whereby the Sentinel obtained the exclusive rights to exhibit the fish in Wisconsin.

 

Johnson%20and%20Spray%20mounts

Johnson’s mount (l) along with Spray’s 1940 (c)

and 1949 mount (r) at the 1950 Sentinel Outdoor Show

 

The first showing of this world’s record muskie in Wisconsin therefore, will be at the Sentinel Sports and Vacation show next April, except for the Hayward celebration referred to later in the story.

 

In the interests of clarity, let’s start at the beginning of this memorable fishing trip.

 

On the evening of July 23, Cal Johnson, his son Phillip and Jack Connor, outdoor editor of the Minneapolis Star, drove to Moccasin Lodge on Lac Courte Oreilles to do some fishing the next day.

 

But when the morning alarm called them it was raining and Connor, at the last moment decided to try for bass in another boat.

 

Cal and his son started to troll immediately after leaving the dock. In less than half an hour the big fish hit.

 

The battle lasted about an hour and ended when the fish was beached.

 

Before returning, Cal moved out to where Connor could see him and waved him in, both boats arriving a few minutes apart.

 

Word Flashed of Record Muskie

 

The hour (6 o’clock) was early for most Sunday morning vacationists, but as word of the world’s record musky spread, the place was soon overrun with people.

 

The first story out of Hayward, said Connor, Cal and his son were fishing together. Another had it that Connor had caught the fish. In this, all three are equally responsible for allowing this impression to remain. But before passing judgment, it might be well to consider that in the excitement, “toasts” certainly were in order for an event of this kind. They might have been coming pretty fast and things might have been said in the spirit of the moment without giving much thought to them.

 

And even if it might have been agreed at the moment that Connor was to share in the glory of the catch, what of it? Any way you look at it, it is trivial. But let’s give Cal credit for standing by Connor when the latter later reversed his position.

 

Did Johnson say Connor was in the boat with him knowing that an affidavit from him would add credibility to his record claim? Did Connor tell Johnson that he would not falsify an affidavit and later say he wasn’t with Johnson to prevent himself from being involved in Johnson’s record claim? Johnson’s son Philip confirmed and made the point that Connor was not with them in the following 1993 affidavit.

 

I, Philip Johnson, son of the late Cal Johnson, attest that on the 24th of July in 1949 I accompanied my father Cal and was present in the boat with him when he caught his 67-1/2 pound world record muskellunge out of Lac Court Oreilles, near Hayward, Wisconsin. I was 23 years old at the time and remember that this fish was caught early in the morning after a storm. No one else was present in the boat at the time of the catch.

 

I attest that my father hooked, played and landed this muskellunge fairly and by legal means and, once the muskellunge was played out and the boat was worked close enough to shore, I jumped out of the boat, gaffed the fish, and pulled it up onto the beach. Rather than shooting the muskellunge – which was legal and customary at that time – the fish was subdued with the gaff handle.

 

In addition to witnessing the actual catching of this 67-1/2 pound muskellunge, I was also witness to the weighing and measuring of this fish. I attest that this muskellunge was weighed in my presence on an accurate, beam-type platform scale at the Moccasin Lodge by its proprietors, Mike Solo and Serge Bagny. This muskellunge measured 60-1/4 inches in length, 33-1/2 inches around its girth and weighed in at 67 pounds eight ounces. The weight and measurements were double checked on taxidermist Karl Kahmann’s scale and the two scales gave the same reading and were subsequently state inspected.

 

I, Philip Johnson, attest that the above mentioned details regarding my father’s 67-1/2 pound muskellunge are all true and I was a witness to the catching, weighing and measuring of this fish.

 

(Signed) Philip Johnson

 

Barbara L. Combs

Notary-Public State of Nevada

Appointment Recorded in Washoe County

MY APPOINTMENT EXPIRES APR. 4, 1994

 

The Journal article continues Facts Available for All to Verify

 

Really the only pertinent factors in this affair are whether the fish was legally taken, and whether weights and measurements were accurate and properly witnessed.

 

The facts are available for anyone to verify.

 

Here is one clinching fact that proves the legality of the record catch:

 

The fish was immediately turned over to Karl Kahmann, Hayward taxidermist, who is not only an expert on muskies, but is a man who bears a most enviable reputation.

 

Before coming to Wisconsin, Kahmann practiced taxidermy in Chicago for some 25 years. He has done work for leading museums, as well as individuals, during which time he and his staff handled close to 5,000 muskies. He, therefore, speaks with more than passing authority.

 

Kahmann%20w%20Johnson%20mount

Taxidermist Karl Kahmann shown putting

the  finishing touches on Cal Johnson’s mount

 

We asked Karl if, in his examination of the fish prior to preparing it for mounting, he had found any evidence of disease. His reply was “No.”

 

That disposes of the question of whether the fish was “found” as some rumors had it.

 

Fish Not Penned, Netted or Trapped

 

We next asked him whether there were any abrasions on the nose or tail that would definitely show up if the fish had been penned, netted or trapped?

 

His answer was “No.”

 

Asked whether any marks on the jaw might show that the hooks had been freshly removed, he replied “Yes.”

 

When asked how he was sure the fish was freshly caught, he answered:

 

“It certainly was a freshly caught fish because rigor mortis had not set in when the fish was delivered to me about 6:30 on the morning of July 24.”

 

Karl further stated that the weights were double checked and that two scales gave exactly the same reading...67 pounds, 8 ounces. Both scales are now being state inspected. Measurements, he said, were taken with a steel tape.

 

Note: It is unknown if the two scales were state inspected despite Philip Johnson’s 1993 affidavit stating that they were. If inspected, their disposition is unknown and undocumented.

 

Now forgetting for the moment that Cal Johnson is a sportsman of national reputation, and that his writings over the years portray his character better than anything we can say about him. Karl Kahmann’s statements definitely eliminate all possibility that the fish might have been speared, netted or trapped.

 

The fish didn’t die of disease or old age. It did not carry so much as a bullet mark because the fish was gaffed. The fish was still limp when weighed and measured. With all this evidence clear and above board, just where, we ask, can there be any deception?

 

An article by Pete Maina in the summer 2002 issue of Esox Angler revealed an interesting comment attributed to Johnson. Johnson supposedly had no idea his muskie was a world record until it was weighed, however; Hayward legend says Cal “called his shot” the evening before in a Hayward area tavern saying, Tomorrow I’m going to catch a world record muskie. When I queried Pete further I learned the following with regard to Johnson’s fish ...all what I was told rather than first hand... (the dam keeper), ...who you know watched the dam (on the West Fork of the Chippewa River at the outlet of Moose Lake), said he saw a big fish below the dam himself. Didn’t claim any particular size, just said “real big,” and one day decided to go back, get the gun and shoot it – to see just how big it was. Was gone...anyway he (the dam keeper) said Cal had “a ...guy rowin’ him around – saw that several days.” SO, he was definitely fishing there.

 

Of course the other thing I heard from several of the locals, old guides, was that Cal eventually took (the dam keeper’s) idea, since word was Cal too, predicted his fish: in the old Shawville tavern (the) night prior (Cal said) “gonna catch a WR tomorrow...”

 

...I recall the prediction was supposedly pretty common knowledge, but really not certain who to even ask. All dead.

 

Pete’s summer Esox Angler article was followed by a companion article in the fall issue questioning Hayward area muskies. At the time, I was quite upset. I had yet to acknowledge that the Spray and Johnson muskies have been given preferential treatment. However, the WRMA’s Spray Protest, their use of professional photogrammetry to analyze the Spray and Johnson photographs, and Dettloff’s unprofessional reaction to the WRMA protest collectively caused me to seriously question the sincerity of Dettloff’s efforts to revise muskie record history. My questions were answered through an exhaustive review that identified numerous inconsistencies in the treatment of the Spray and Johnson muskies compared to muskies caught outside of the Hayward area. It’s now clear to me that Dettloff’s obsession with Hayward area muskies not only seriously jeopardized his NFWFHF responsibilities, his revisionist history is self-serving and violates his fiduciary responsibility as a muskie historian. Historic records should be left alone! They were sanctioned, often by prestigious committees after thorough review, and at a minimum reflect record history during the era in which they were sanctioned! Accordingly, my chronological list of world record muskies is revised in Part I. Further, I apologized to Pete for any unkind things I said in the past regarding his opinion of Hayward’s record muskies.

 

Pete presented the following proposal and a Spray and Johnson protest (excerpted) to the NFWFHF in December of 2002.

 

...to be fair, but yet to be able to recognize all claimed record fish for what they are (still big fish), and to protect and maintain the Hall’s credibility, I propose two groupings of record class muskies...One grouping would be fish that withstand any and all scrutiny. Fish that are verified with no doubt according to FHOF standards. And, these would be the official record (Modern Day) fish.

 

Another group would be for any fish that have any evidence against their validity. Rather than totally eliminating these fish from listing and lore, have a group called (a name that Ron Lindner coined) ...“Apocryphal records”...or just historical records. Apocryphal does best fit the bill... (Apocryphal: of doubtful authenticity: spurious; Syn. Fictitious).

 

As noted at the start of this Chapter, the NFWFHF chose not to go this route despite the 2003 recommendation of NFWFHF record advisor Brad Latvaitis and the strong 2005 recommendations of their two record advisors Latvaitis and Ramsell. Further, the NFWFHF, which, regretfully I was involved with at the time as World Record Advisor, rejected Maina’s records protest.

 

Maina’s protest contained a section of ...independent photo analysis...on all fish in question, (although only the Spray final analysis was submitted) comparing fish length to known height of captors. In every case this analysis pointed to the fish being significantly shorter than claimed lengths.

 

...Because there is more than sufficient evidence to-at the very least-strongly doubt the validity of these fish, and that other muskies have been taken off the official record list per similar evidence (that reference is to Dettloff’s “disqualification” of the two Haver records, the Hanser record and the Lawton record), I proposed that the Spray and Johnson fish be removed from the official list.

 

The Journal article continued In his column in the Minneapolis Star, July 25, Connor writes: “So it’s no wonder Cal Johnson is wearing that ear to ear smile for his world record muskellunge - 67 pounds, 8 ounces of it.

 

Johnson%20%233Johnson%20%234

 

“His feat climaxes two years of effort to nail this particular fish, which measures 60 1/4 inches long, 33 1/2 inches in girth.”

 

And Charles Johnson, sports editor of the Minneapolis Star, had this to say:

 

... “Today comes an official looking affidavit from Cal Johnson with the signature of a member of the Wisconsin conservation commission along with others as proof of the catch.

 

Sherlock

Let me have a look at this

Johnson%20Affidavit

What should be a note of interest from this affidavit is that the

weight witnesses did not all witness weight on the same scale

 

“More power to you, Cal. We never had any doubts. The only thing that makes us mad is that we weren’t on the receiving end ...”

 

There is only one exception to the Sentinel’s exclusive Wisconsin showing of Cal Johnson’s world’s record muskie. This exception will be at Hayward when a celebration befitting the occasion is planned for around Labor Day, depending on how soon the fish can be mounted. The muskies permanent home will be in Hayward.

 

It is planned to have Gov. Rennebohm to do the honors, assisted by Conservation Commissioner John Moreland and other conservation and civic leaders.

 

Johnson%20and%20GovJohnson%20mount

Johnson (l), Moreland(c) and the Governor (l)  with mount

 (left photo) and the mount at the Moccasin Bar (right photo)

 

In a July 28, 1949, Sawyer County Record article Johnson was making the mount of his fish available to Hayward and he was quoted as saying ...The musky will be displayed in Hayward at all times...where it will be of more publicity value to Hayward and Sawyer County...

 

Of course Johnson had no control over the mount’s future disposition. In one of his books Eli Singer interviewed Bernie Tworek of Hayward and related that Tworek was the owner of the mount of Johnson’s record fish which came with the Moccasin Bar in Hayward when he purchased it.

 

This fosters the question “why would Cal Johnson ‘give away‘ the valuable record mount if it was legitimate? Had he “created” the record to benefit Hayward and Sawyer County tourism? In an article written by Johnson shortly after his catch in the March, 1950 issue of The Outdoorsman entitled Hayward’s Famed Fishing Waters Johnson wrote profusely about the Hayward lakes area. Two-thirds of one full page within the article contained several Hayward resort ads, a Hayward real estate ad, a Hayward Lakes promotional tourism ad and a promotional tourism ad for the Indian Head Country.

 

Did tourism need a boost shortly after World War II? Did Cal, who knew that he was dying after a medical diagnosis, risk his life’s vaunted career and reputation to help his beloved Hayward? You will have to decide for yourself.

 

A write-up from the Hayward paper of August 25, 1949.

 

Governor Rennebohm plans to unveil record muskie Sunday at Hayward.

 

The world’s record musky will be unveiled to the public by Governor Oscar Rennebohm Sunday August 28th, 3:00 p.m. at the Hayward fairgrounds. Cal Johnson, outdoor sports writer and long-time fisherman will be the honored man, with “Old Evil Eye” the record musky.

 

Program

 

The program will start with a parade from the Legion Cabin up Main Street to the Fair Grounds led by the Hayward City Band.

 

An Indian Pow-wow will be given in honor of the governor. This will be the first “Musky Carnival” held in the area, and can be scheduled as an annual event (now known as the “Musky Festival”).

 

Headlines of the Sept. 1, 1949 Sawyer County Record indicated that over 7,000 packed Hayward to glimpse the world’s record musky. This write-up included a large photo of Johnson holding his catch.

 

The Journal article continued Cal will make his first Wisconsin appearance at the Sentinel Sports and Vacation Show next April in his famous bait casting act. Sports Show director, Charles D. Collins, plans also to have Cal show how he lands a world’s record muskie in the big tank in the main arena of the auditorium.

 

The world’s record muskie will be on display in a special booth at the Sentinel Show and Cal will be on hand every day and evening to give anglers the benefit of his rich experience.

 

And here’s something else about Cal I want to clarify. He is not the “poor” boy some have pictured. Neither does he run a resort. Instead, he has a lodge and one guest cottage for his friends on Teal Lake. He writes for a number of magazines and manufacturers of outing equipment and was recently retained by the Chicago International Sports and Outdoor Show in Chicago to handle its public relations. His muskie will be exclusively shown in Chicago at the Amphitheater Show.

 

You don’t hire a brass band to accompany you on a muskie trip. Neither do you set up a standard to check your movements. And you don’t just snag into a world record muskie every day either.

 

The result is that in taking a record fish there is always a doubter. But Cal Johnson’s record breaking muskie has been documented by the most reputable men in Wisconsin’s north country. We’re completely satisfied that everything is on the level.

 

In photographs of Johnson with his fish it looks huge, although as in many problematic record photos, the fish is held in front of Johnson. So just how tall was Cal Johnson? In 2006 at the Minnesota Musky Expo, George Will asked Johnson historian John Dettloff the Johnson height question. He was told ...Cal Johnson was 5-feet 7-inches tall. I’m the only one that knows and has that information and if anybody else tells you anything different they don’t know what they are talking about.

 

When Will broached the subject again at the Expo in 2007, Dettloff’s previous story changed. Will had made some comments to Dettloff about some photo and measurement comparisons he had done based on the height information Dettloff had given him the previous year, when he told Dettloff he didn’t think the Johnson fish measured up based on Johnson’s height. Dettloff then said ...He may have been 5-8 or maybe even 5-9 ...Photos are deceptive...! Will then, caught off guard, did a double take and changed the subject knowing Dettloff had just lied to him. He knew there was no point in pursuing it further.

 

Spray%20Haag%20and%20Johnson

This photo shows (left to right) Louie Spray,

Cedric Adams, Ted Hagg and Cal Johnson


Johnson%20w%20Haag

The photo above shows Adams (l),

Johnson (c) and Hagg (r). Photos

 were sent to me by Louie Spray

 

When one looks at these two photographs, Johnson is clearly at least 4 inches shorter than Hagg which is particularly obvious in the second photo. Hagg was about the same 5’ 11” tall as Spray. Until positive evidence surfaces with Cal Johnson’s height we just won’t know for sure.

 

Spray%20and%20Haag%20at%20Pastika's

This photo shows Hagg (r) beside Spray with Charlie

Pastika (l)  in front of Pastika’s Bait Shop in Hayward, 1949

 

 

One thing that must be noted again is that Johnson’s fish was never subjected to world record scrutiny since Spray’s 1949 fish pushed it into second place in the Field & Stream contest.

 

To set the record straight, Field & Stream, the record sanctioning body at the time of Johnson’s record, reviewed and accepted Johnson’s contest application. Since then, Field & Stream and the FWFHF have not reviewed or disqualified the Johnson record. The IGFA lists the Johnson fish as their all-tackle world record in their World Record Game Fishes, 2007 Edition. It is also listed as the “Unlimited” line class record in the Muskie Conventional Angling Subdivision of the NFWFHF Official World Fresh Water World Records, 2007 Edition.

 

Professional photogrammetry was commissioned by the WRMA in 2006 and completed in 2007, and is conclusive. They are currently working on the balance of their report to submit to the IGFA. The final report was not completed before this book went to print.

 

"UPDATE NOTE: the following article and rebuttal took place during December of 2009 and January of 2010." - Click Here

 

 

 

Sherlock

Hmmm, seems as if a few inches

are missing from that fish

 

 

 

 


Louie Spray 69-11 Chippewa Flowage, Wisconsin – 1949

 

Spray%2049%20%232Spray%2049%20%233

These photographs are the others of

only three known originals of Spray’s

1949 record. The one on the right is

 the most obsecure and rarely seen

 

After Johnson caught his record muskie in late July, a brash claim echoed forth from none other than Louie Spray. Dettloff covered it in a Musky Hunter article entitled, In Defense of Louie Spray in the Dec. 1991/Jan. 1992 issue ...The third strike against Sprays musky involved a comment he made following Cal Johnson’s 67 1/ 2-pound world record musky catch. Cal was a frequent Hayward area visitor, sportswriter, and well liked by the area residents who greatly accepted and embraced his record catch. Now enters Louie Spray, and at a celebration thrown to honor Cal Johnson’s catch a gag telegram sent by Spray was read to the crowd:

 

DON’T GIVE AWARD YET. I WILL CATCH A NEW WORLD RECORD MUSKY THIS SEASON. SIGNED LOUIE SPRAY.

 

Low and behold if Spray didn’t come up with a bigger musky like he said! Cal was upstaged by Louie’s catch and many people couldn’t believe it. Not wanting to see Johnson’s fish dethroned so quickly, they were very receptive to believing and spreading rumors discrediting Sprays catch. Spray’s comment is not surprising though, for he had known about and spotted a record-class musky during the past several seasons on the Chippewa Flowage. His comment was probably half jest and half very serious, knowing that he did have a chance to better Johnson’s catch.  

 

Well, here you will have to make up your own mind. Dettloff calls Spray’s telegram a gag and says that it was probably …half jest...but there is nothing in archives of Spray’s claiming it was a gag. One has to find it very curious that Spray’s 1939 record was caught less than one month after Haver’s record catch, his 1940 fish was caught less than two months after Haver’s record catch and conveniently in 1949 he tops Johnson’s record catch less than three months after it was caught! Again a Dettloff comment ...Keeping bogus records on the books diminishes the standing of all the great angling achievements that have honestly been made.

 

I have no clue as to how Dettloff reconciles one of his idols usurping the other.

 

Last, Ellis challenges Spray’s 1949 world record in his True magazine article.

 

Spray said he caught his new record fish on October 20 between 5:30 and 6 p.m. with an 18-inch sucker off Fleming’s bar in the Chippewa Flowage. He said that in the boat with him were Ted Hagg, a tavern keeper from Sarona, Wisconsin, and a Hayward guide, George Quentmeyer. There was the usual story of how the fish was finally boated, but then shortly after the news got around, along comes one Tony Burmek, another Hayward guide, who said: “I was fishing on Fleming’s bar and Pete’s bar, right near it, from three o’clock until dark on October twentieth, and Spray was not there. Nobody else was there. Spray wasn’t on Fleming’s bar the day before either. Fleming’s bar is only two blocks long, and I don’t see how I could have overlooked another boat, especially if it spent forty-five minutes landing a fish as big as that one.”

 

Right away Nathan W. Heller of the Lie Detector Laboratories in Milwaukee announced through The Milwaukee Journal that he would examine free of charge any muskie fisherman who might want to prove his stories. His offer still stands, but he has received no takers.

 

Burmek came in for considerable criticism from resort owners who wanted to know whether he was for or against Hayward. “You are one of Hayward’s leading guides,” they said, “and you should be proud of Hayward.”

 

Burmek, in a long letter to the press, explained that he was proud of Hayward, but added that he certainly would like to see this muskie mess cleaned up.

 

And so would a lot of people in Wisconsin, and in some other states that claim the ‘lunge as a headliner in their resort advertising.

 

But what is done is done, and both Johnson’s fish and the one Spray said he caught have been recognized in some circles as world record catches. Considering the notarized statements these men submitted, the judges had no other choice.

 

Could Ellis’ article be considered sensational journalism? I don’t believe so. Rather, he was performing his journalistic responsibility and seeking out the truth. The circles he refers to are the record sanctioning bodies. Let us return now to Louie Spray’s story after the catch.

 

...We headed for Herman’s Landing where the grog flowed freely for a few minutes - then to Hayward to weigh it, but the stores were closed.

 

We stopped at Charlie Pastika’s Bait Shop, but he had no scales. We stopped at Stroner’s Store, but his grocery scales would not weigh it either, so we went down Highway 27 and on out to Karl Kahmann’s, the taxidermist, whose scale I thought would weigh it, but Karl had had his fill of world record muskies, with the Cal Johnson catch that had beaten me not too long before.

 

Charlie%20Pastikas%20bait%20shop

Charlie Pastika (r) with son Leon. Photo courtesy Leon Pastika

 

It should be noted here that Spray’s account of when they went to Kahmann’s place didn’t mesh with the affidavited account given by Ted Haag (see below) and was different from what published reports of that day said. What Spray himself said had them going directly to Karl Kahmann’s taxidermy shop. This was further supported in a letter from Spray to me in December of 1979 when Spray related that the original photos of him and his record fish were taken ...in back of Karl Kahmann’s Taxidermy Shop. With darkness coming early in late October, it would have been impossible to take the photos later after the weighing unless done the following day! Why would they go back then if Kahmann had refused to mount the fish? Back now to the completion of the story.

 

He showed us how they had to get a bulldozer in to make a road from his shop back to the main road, because the narrow road into his place from the Town Road had become so plugged with cars when the word got around that Cal’s fish was out there, that they, nor anyone else, could get out of the yard. They tore up his lawn: they backed over his shrubbery and did untold damage to his grounds. Karl said, “Get it out of here and don’t come back.” I reasoned with him that due to our long and continued friendship that I was quite perturbed by his attitude toward me. He calmed down and said that he was not angry with me or anyone else but just did not want to be bothered with the mob again. I was sure down in the dumps because, who could I get to mount such an important fish, should it be a Record? When we got to Stone Lake, Ted said he was thirsty for a drink of water. (Imagine Ted drinking water!) So we stopped at Smock’s Tavern to get it and show off the fish. We were asking about scales and someone mentioned that Jack Reinke, the postmaster, might come down and weigh it. The post office was alongside of Smock’s Tavern and Jack did come down to weigh it. It was 69 lbs. 11 oz. ...a new world record. We set up some whoopee then and there, and Ted had had enough “water” (on the side), we headed on for home but I was very worried about who would mount that fish.

 

It was late when I got home so I carefully packed the fish in ice in the basement and got busy on the phone looking for a good qualified taxidermist. Les Fossum, a bait and tackle salesman, told me about a man in Wausau, Wisconsin, whom I called. He said he wanted to look at it before making any decision, so early the next morning I was on my way over there. His store and shop was located out of Wausau a ways, at Schofield. He asked me why I did not have Karl Kahmann mount it and I told him why. Then he was afraid of a mob busting into the place and informed me that he was not equipped to handle a multitude of curiosity seekers. However, after some coffee and get-acquainted talk, he promised to do the job, providing I kept it strictly confidential. I left the fish with him and didn’t even tell my wife where it was. Because of this, the fish was not placed on display before it was mounted, as had the other two record muskies I had caught. All in all, I was very disappointed because I could not display it or even tell where it was, so naturally, once again I got some very unfavorable publicity from sports writers and such, but good old Hugh Lackey, the taxidermist, went right to work and I soon had the fish on display, and the gossip, rumors, and “you gotta show me” attitude, narrowed down to the fact that someone must have caught the critter because there it was. I finally got the gang off my back.

 

Now that we have the rest of Louie’s story, let’s look at his documentation. The first bit of evidence he obtained immediately after the weighing of the fish on a United States postal scale. On United States Post Office stationary was the following.

 

10/20/49

 

69 lbs. 11 ounces muskie weighed, above date.

63 1/2 inches in length

31 1/4 inches in girth,

Witnessed by -

J.C. Reinke (Postmaster)

George Quentmeyer (Spray’s fishing partner)

T.A. Hagg (guide – with Spray on a “day off”)

Louis Spray (Spray is witnessing his own fish size – not allowed)

 

A short time later, Louie got busy and obtained affidavits from everyone involved; from the people with him right on through the taxidermists. Following are those affidavits.

 

STATE of WISCONSIN

County of Barron

 

Ted Hagg, of Sarona, Wisconsin, being first duly sworn, on oath says that he accompanied Louis Spray of Rice Lake, Wis. on October 20th, 1949, on a fishing trip, and was present in the boat with him and George Quentmeyer, licensed guide of Hayward, Wisconsin. That the three of them fished together from the same boat near Herman’s Landing on the Chippewa Flowage near Hayward, Wisconsin. That at about 4:00 p. m. on that date he saw Mr. Louis Spray hook and land on rod, reel and line, a muskellunge weighing 69 lbs. 11 oz. and measuring 5 feet 3 1/2 inches long. That although he did not time the actual fight he would estimate that to the best of his knowledge, it took approximately 45 minutes to land said fish. That Mr. Spray fought and landed the fish without any assistance except that the guide George Quentmeyer shot the fish twice.

 

That to the best of his recollection the fish was landed at approximately 4:00 p. m. That he went with the said Louis Spray and George Quentmeyer from Herman’s Landing on the Chippewa Flowage where they got the boat and where they landed with the fish, to Pastika’s Bait and Tackle Shop to obtain ice, thence to Stroner’s Store at Hayward, Wisconsin to have the muskie weighed. That the scales at Stroner’s store were not large enough to weigh the fish so they proceeded to the Stone Lake, Wisconsin post office where the fish was weighed in my presence by Jack Reinke, local postmaster, on the governmental post office scales. That the said fish weighed 69 lbs. 11 oz. That I was present when Mr. Reinke measured the fish with a steel tape and that it measured 63 1/2 inches in length and 31 1/2 inches in girth. That the said fish was weighed at the Stone Lake post office at approximately 6:45 p.m. on that date. That thereafter they proceeded to the shop of Karl Kahmann, taxidermist at Hayward, Wisconsin, and inquired whether or not he would mount the fish. That Mr. Kahmann said it would be impossible for him to get at the job for from 60 to 90 days so it was taken to another taxidermist.

 

Ted Hagg

 

Subscribed and sworn to before me

This 28th day of October, 1949.

Margaret Mesang

Notary Public, Barron Cty., Wis.

My comm...expires 11-23-52

 

STATE OF WISCONSIN

Sawyer County

 

George Quentmeyer, of Hayward, Wisconsin, being first duly sworn, on oath says that he is a licensed guide and that on the 20th of October, 1949, he was employed by Louis Spray of Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Again we have conflicting reports. Quentmeyer says above in this affidavit that he “was employed by Louis Spray” and below says; while accompanying Mr. Spray,” whereas Spray said in a taped radio interview On that particular day, George Quentmeyer, a guide who was off duty, joined Ted and myself for a fishing expedition. A minor point at best, but since it is highly likely that Spray prepared this affidavit, which was notarized by his wife, one has to wonder which it was, “employed” or “off duty.” Back to the rest of Quentmeyer’s affidavit.

 

That he accompanied Mr. Spray together with Ted Hagg of Sarona, Wisconsin on a fishing expedition on the Chippewa Flowage near Hayward, Wisconsin. That they put out from Herman’s Landing and fished for several hours. That while accompanying Mr. Spray on this occasion Louis Spray did hook and land with rod, reel and line a muskellunge weighing 69 lbs. 11 oz. and measuring 63 1/2 inches long. That your affiant shot the fish twice but that otherwise the fish was hooked, played and landed by Mr. Louis Spray without any assistance, except that this affiant also helped lift the fish into the boat. That he was present in the boat with Mr. Spray as was Mr. Hagg at all times above described. That he would estimate that it took Mr. Spray approximately 50 minutes to land the fish. That the bait used was a sucker minnow, and that the fish was finally landed at about 4:00 p.m. of that date. That they then proceeded to Herman’s Landing where they showed the fish to the proprietor and his wife. That from there they proceeded to Pastika’s Bait and Tackle Shop to obtain ice. Then to Stroner’s store at Hayward to have the fish weighed. That when it was discovered that Stroner’s scales were not large enough to weigh said fish they proceeded to the Stone Lake post office where the fish was weighed in the presence of this affiant and in the presence of Mr. Spray and Mr. Hagg by Jack Reinke, Stone Lake postmaster. That the fish was weighed on the official post office scales and that it weighed 69 lbs. 11 oz. That after the fish was weighed Mr. Reinke measured the same with a steel tape. That from the tip of the tail to the tip of the snout the fish measured 63 1/2 inches and around the girth that the said fish was 31 1/4 inches. That the said fish was so measured in my presence.

 

George Quentmeyer

 

Subscribed and sworn to before me

This 28th day of October, 1949.

Inez Spray (Spray’s WIFE!)

Notary Public, Sawyer County, Wis.

My comm. expires March 2, 1952

 

STATE OF WISCONSIN

Sawyer County

 

Herman Ceranske and Edna E. Ceranske, his wife, being first duly sworn, on oath do each for themselves say that they are the proprietors of a resort known as Herman’s Landing located on the Chippewa Flowage near Hayward, Wisconsin. That they were present at their resort on the 20th of October, 1949. That they, of their own personal knowledge, know that Mr. Louis Spray and Mr. Ted Hagg fished the Chippewa Flowage in a boat rented from them in the company of each other and in the company of Mr. George Quentmeyer, licensed guide, of Hayward, Wisconsin. That at about 4:15 p.m. of said day, they were present when the above named parties landed at Herman’s Landing with the same boat they had rented from them and that Mr. Spray had in his possession the largest muskellunge that either of them had ever seen. That the muskie had been freshly caught and the parties told them Mr. Spray had just caught it. That present with them at the time that Spray, Hagg and Quentmeyer landed was one Mr. Nixon Barnes, a carpenter of Hayward, Wisconsin. That Mr. Barnes measured the fish in the presence of all the above named people and claimed it measured 5’4” long. That this is by far the largest muskellunge that we or any of us had ever seen. That we did not have a scale at our resort strong enough to weigh said fish and it was not weighed in our presence.

 

Edna E. Ceranske

Herman Ceranske

 

Subscribed and sworn to before me

This 28th day of October, 1949.

Inez Spray (Spray’s WIFE!)

Notary Public, Sawyer County, Wis.

My comm. expires March 2, 1952

 


STATE OF WISCONSIN

Sawyer County

 

Nixon Barnes, being first duly sworn, on oath says that he is by occupation a carpenter and that he was at Herman’s Landing on the Chippewa Flowage on the 20th day of October, 1949 at about 4:15 p. m., when Louis Spray, Ted Hagg and George Quentmeyer landed at said resort and had with them a muskellunge which they all said Mr. Spray had caught in the Chippewa Flowage. That it was by far the largest muskellunge I had ever seen. That I measured the same and found it measured 5’4” long. That there was no scale at Herman’s Landing sufficient to weigh the fish so it was not weighed there. The fish was undoubtedly freshly caught at the time we had seen it.

 

Nixon Barnes

 

Subscribed and sworn to before me

This 28th day of October, 1949.

Inez Spray (Spray’s WIFE!)

Notary Public, Sawyer County, Wis.

My comm. expires March 2, 1952

 

STATE OF WISCONSIN

County of Sawyer

 

Charles Pastika, being first duly sworn, on oath says that he is the owner of Pastika’s Bait and Tackle Shop near Hayward, Wisconsin. That he was present in said shop at approximately 6:00 p.m. on October 20th, 1949 when Mr. Louis Spray, Mr. Ted Hagg, and Mr. George Quentmeyer came to said shop to obtain ice with which to pack a large muskie. That I saw said muskie and that it was undoubtedly the largest muskie I had ever seen. That I did not weigh or measure said muskie. That I did observe that it was freshly caught and that Hagg, Spray and Quentmeyer all said that Mr. Spray had just caught it from Herman’s Landing on the Chippewa Flowage. That the parties did not stay at my shop very long as they were in a hurry to have the fish weighed and measured.

 

Charles Pastika

 

Subscribed and sworn to before me

This 28th day of October, 1949.

Inez Spray (Spray’s WIFE!)

Notary Public, Sawyer County, Wis.

My comm. expires March 2, 1952

 

STATE OF WISCONSIN

County of Sawyer

 

Jake Jordan of Hayward, Wisconsin, being first duly sworn, says that he was at Pastika’s Boat & Tackle Shop at about 6:00 p.m. on October 20, 1949, when Mr. Louis Spray, Mr. Ted Hagg and Mr. George Quentmeyer came in said shop for ice. That Mr. Spray displayed a large muskellunge which he had just caught in the Chippewa Flowage. That the muskie was undoubtedly the largest that he had ever seen and that it was obviously freshly caught. Mr. Spray stated in the presence of myself and Mr. Pastika and the others that he had caught the fish on Fleming’s Bar in the Chippewa Flowage on a large sucker minnow.

 

Jake Jordan

 

Subscribed and sworn to before me

This 28th day of October, 1949.

Inez Spray (Spray’s WIFE!)

Notary Public, Sawyer County, Wis.

My comm. expires March 2, 1952

 


STATE OF WISCONSIN

Sawyer County

 

Milton Stroner, says, being first duly sworn on oath, that he is the proprietor of Stroner’s Store at Hayward, Wisconsin. That on Thursday, October 20, 1949, while we were having our evening meal, Mr. Louis Spray, Mr. Ted Hagg and Mr. George Quentmeyer called at the store and showed us the largest muskie that I have ever seen. Mr. Spray had just caught the same in the Chippewa Flowage near here and wanted to have it weighed and measured. However, the scale I had in my store would not weight anything over 35 pounds so it was impossible to weigh the fish. Mr. Spray then brought some gas at my store and the three of them again departed with the fish.

 

Milton Stroner

 

Subscribed and sworn to before me

This 28th day of October, 1949.

Inez Spray (Spray’s WIFE!)

Notary Public, Sawyer County, Wis.

My comm. expires March 2, 1952

 

STATE OF WISCONSIN

County of Sawyer

 

Jack Reinke, of Stone Lake. Wisconsin, being first duly sworn on oath, says that he is the postmaster of the Stone Lake, Wisconsin post office. That about 6:45 p.m. on October 20, 1949, he was called upon by Mr. Louis Spray, George Quentmeyer and Ted Hagg. who had in their possession the largest muskellunge that he had ever seen. That all of the parties said that Mr. Spray had caught it that afternoon in the Chippewa Flowage near Hayward. That at their request we proceeded to the post office where I personally weighed the fish on the post office scales. That the fish weighed 69 lbs. 11 oz. That thereupon I measured the fish with a steel tape and it measured 63 1/2 inches long. That I measured the girth of the fish and that the same measured 31 1/4 inches. That Louis Spray, George Quentmeyer and Ted Hagg were present when I weighed and measured said fish.

 

Jack Reinke

 

Subscribed and sworn to before me

This 28th day of October, 1949.

Inez Spray (Spray’s WIFE!)

Notary Public, Sawyer County, Wis.

My comm. expires March 2, 1952

 

STATE OF WISCONSIN

County of Sawyer

 

Karl W. Kahmann, being first duly sworn, on oath says that he is a taxidermist at Hayward, Wisconsin, and that in the evening of October 20, 1949, Mr. Louis Spray called at his shop with a muskellunge which Spray claimed weighed 69 lbs. 11 oz. and was a new world’s record. That I personally saw said muskie although had not measured or weighed it. That I saw the same was freshly caught and was undoubtedly one of the largest muskies I had ever seen. That Mr. Spray requested me to mount said muskie but that I advised Mr. Spray it could not be done by me within the next 60 to 90 days and that I advised Mr. Spray that if he wished the muskie mounted sooner he should attempt to get some other taxidermist to do the same.

 

Karl W. Kahmann

 

Subscribed and sworn to before me

This 28th day of October, 1949.

Inez Spray (Spray’s WIFE!)

Notary Public, Sawyer County, Wis.

My comm. expires March 2, 1952

 

Spray must have had the whole gang in to do affidavits on October 28th and it sure kept his wife Inez busy typing them all up and notarizing them. She even prepared the next one for Lackey but it was notarized elsewhere.

 

STATE OF WISCONSIN

County of Marathon

 

I, Hugh A. Lackey, being first duly sworn on oath, says that he is a taxidermist at Schofield, Wisconsin, and that on Saturday, October 22nd, 1949, Mr. Louis Spray of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, delivered to him a very large muskie to mount. That Spray told him it was a world record muskie. That a price was agreed upon and that he would mount the muskie, provided such information was kept from the press and public until after the mounting was completed. That examination of the muskie disclosed that there was nothing inside or out to add artificial weight. That I am mounting the muskie and it will be ready for delivery about November 20th, 1949.

 

Hugh A. Lackey

 

Subscribed and sworn to before me

This 5th day of November, 1949.

Gertrude Sarges

Notary Public, Marathon Cty., Wis.

My comm. expires Sept 3-1950

Sherlock

Hmmm, mount ‘peers a bit long vs. the fresh fish!
Spray%20w%2049%20mount

Spray shown in front of Lackey’s Sport Shop w/completed mount

 

Spray%2049%20mount%20%233

Spray with the mount at his Bar in Rice Lake in 1952


Spray%2049%20mount%20%232

A third early photograph of Spray’s mount surfaced in 1992,

 obtained by Klaus Winkler from the owner of Buds Sport Shop

 in Richfield, Wisconsin, where it was displayed for a short time,

 likely after Spray sold his Bar in Rice Lake.  He sent it to Joe

Bucher or ‘Musky Hunter’ who forwarded it to me. Mr. Winkler

stated that it was “…perhaps a pleasant find of Musky angling

 history for all musky anglers and Historians to enjoy.”

 

One glaring point to me, regarding the Spray affidavits, is the fact that the affidavits were not prepared by the affiants, for example; several of the affidavits begin with I and later in the same affidavit use the second person. It appears quite obvious they were all formatted and prepared by Spray’s wife Inez and merely signed by the affiants.

 

Now for a moment let’s review the statement and subsequent newspaper articles surrounding the Burmek allegations regarding the location where Spray’s fish was supposedly caught. First, is the newspaper article written by R.G. Lynch, sports editor of the Milwaukee Sentinel. This one was dated November 12, 1949.

 

Where Was Louie on the Afternoon of Oct. 20?

 

Louis Spray, Rice Lake tavern keeper, says his latest world record musky was caught about 5:30 or 6 o’clock on the afternoon of Oct. 20 off FIeming’s bar in the Chippewa Flowage.

 

Now comes Tony Burmek, a Hayward guide, who says: “I was fishing on Fleming’s bar and Pete’s bar, right near it, from 3 o’clock until dark on Oct. 20, and Spray was not there. Nobody else was there.” Spray has two witnesses to his catch - another tavern keeper, Ted Hagg of Sarona, and a Hayward guide, George Quentmeyer, who say that they were in the boat with him.

 

Quentmeyer has said: “Several of us knew there was a big fish on Fleming’s bar. Spray and Hagg had been after it for three weeks. I worked with them the last three days. Thursday, we worked from noon until 5:30 or 6. There was quite a fuss when Louie hooked the big one, then it went down and Louie gave him plenty of time before he brought it in and I shot it. About 45 minutes, I think.”

 

Now Burmek says: “Spray wasn’t on Fleming’s bar the day before, either. He was hanging around the Dun-Rovin resort. That was Wednesday. On Thursday, I didn’t see him at all. Fleming’s bar is only two blocks long and I don’t see how I could have overlooked another boat, especially if it spent 45 minutes landing a fish as big as that one.”

 

Suggests Lie Test

 

Spray’s muskie weighed 69 pounds, 11 ounces. It surpassed a record fish of 67 pounds 8 ounces brought in July 24 on Lac Courte Oreilles by Cal Johnson, a Hayward outdoor writer.  Spray had told Johnson that he would beat Johnson’s fish before the season ended.

 

Cal was cussing Spray all over Hayward,” reports Burmek, who has returned home to 4173 N. 15th St. for the winter. I told him it was up to him to challenge Spray’s fish. I said, “Challenge him to a lie detector test, Cal. Tell him you’ll take the test if he will.” Cal thought that was a good idea, but the next time I saw him he didn’t think so much of it.

 

The sports editor can understand why Johnson might not think the lie detector test such a good idea, in view of the fact that he first said that Jack Conner, Minneapolis newspaperman, was in the boat when he landed the fish, next called Conner a liar after Jack denied having been with him, and finally admitted that Conner had not been along.

 

The lie detector test is a good idea. We pass Burmek’s suggestion along to Field & Stream and the American Museum of Natural History. Before they authenticate the muskies of either Johnson or Spray as world record rod and reel catches, why not, in view of the conflicting stories, ask these men to submit to the lie detector? Wouldn’t that be something? A lie detector test for fishermen!  

 

The following letters were received and published in the Milwaukee Sentinel after Lynch’s column appeared under the heading Free Lie Detector Tests Offered Muskie Men

 

Mr. Lynch: I read your column which contained Mr. Burmek’s suggestion of lie detector tests for the men who caught the record muskie. To my knowledge, the polygraph (lie detector) has never been used to test the veracity of a fisherman. The idea is novel and in this instance meritorious, considering that a world record is involved. I have never engaged in fishing, nor do I know of any of the individuals named in your article, and therefore I can have no personal bias in the dispute. In the interest of good sportsmanship, I offer to examine free of charge as many of the individuals involved as will submit willingly to a lie detector test.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Nathan W. Heller,

Lie Detection Laboratories

632 N. 2nd St.

 

P.S. And The Journal will pay the expenses of Louis Spray and Cal Johnson, who caught the controversial muskies, if they will come to Milwaukee for such tests. This would get Hayward more national publicity than it ever has had before.

 

Burmek Explains

 

Mr. Lynch: Since you printed in your column my statement that I was on Fleming’s bar in the Chippewa Flowage Oct. 20 from 3 p.m. to dark and did not see Louis Spray who claims he caught his world record muskie there late that afternoon and my suggestion of lie detector tests for both Spray and Cal Johnson, who caught a record muskie some weeks before, I have received many letters from resort owners and friends in Hayward, who ask, “Are you for or against Hayward?” They add, “You are one of Hayward’s leading guides and should be proud of Hayward.” Certainly, I am proud of Hayward, but I am also a sportsman and will answer honestly and to the best of my knowledge any question put to me about these fish. Since I returned to Milwaukee, many persons have said, “You’re a Hayward guide. What’s the dope on those record fish?” How many of those Hayward folks can honestly say that they have not been asked the same questions?

 

Everyone knows there have been some things, confusing to the public, about how and where these fish were caught If, through my suggestion to you, pressure is brought to bring out the true stories about these fish, then I will be of service to Hayward.

 

Nobody doubts that the record belongs to Hayward. Cal Johnson is a personal friend of mine and I honestly believe he caught his muskie. But I was on Fleming’s bar at the time Spray claimed he caught his fish there and I did not see him. Because of that, and because many doubted Cal also, I suggested the lie detector test.

 

Julien Gingras, editor of the Hayward paper, suggested on the same page that Spray’s record fish was announced, that the conservation commission should set a time limit for a full report of a record catch to a game warden, county official or licensed taxidermist. He said:

 

“In any other sports field, the requisite for a world record is very rigid and I believe fishing records should be given the same standards by which to qualify for a world record.”

 

Boosts Hayward

 

Hayward enjoys a reputation as one of this country’s finest fishing areas. I have chosen to guide there for that reason, having fished all over northern Wisconsin.

 

Hayward shipped more fish out of the state in 1947 than any other city in Wisconsin. The conservation department reported that of a total of 3,348 shipments, 432 went from Hayward. Woodruff was second with 287. In 1948, more than 670 muskies with a combined weight of over six tons were taken from the Chippewa Flowage, according to an article in the Wisconsin Conservation bulletin.

 

More muskies are caught in the Hayward area, I believe, than anywhere else. Such lakes as the Chippewa, Couderay, Grindstone. Callahan, upper and lower Twin, Tigercat, Spider, Teal, Lost Land, Round and others are very productive muskie waters. Nelson Lake (Totogatic flowage) is famous for fine pike fishing. The area also abounds with good trout streams.

 

Yes. I am proud of Hayward and will sing its praises, but always honestly, because I believe as a guide that one of the major requisites is to teach our fellow fishermen good honest sportsmanship.

 

Yours sincerely,

Tony Burmek

4173 N. 15th St.

 

The foregoing articles were sent to me by Tony Burmek in the late 1970’s, and had the following note …I was the only one who showed up for the lie detector test. Neither Spray or Cal showed up.

 

I then wrote to Louie Spray to get his version. On January 14, 1980, I received the following comment On the matter of the Burmek thing, that he said I wasn’t on Fleming’s bar at all that day, see pages 4 and 5 (of affidavits) or there about. And to this day I have never met either of these fine gentlemen. And they even paid the attorney fees to make the affidavits.

 

Oops, seems that this may not be exactly true. In his article In Defense of Louie Spray in the Dec. 1991/Jan. 1992 issue of Musky Hunter magazine, John Dettloff reported otherwise saying that Spray may have given a Martin motor to Germanson.

 

...one source told me that Germanson was given an outboard motor by Spray in exchange for making affidavits negating Tony Burmek’s statement, thus leaving Fleming’s Bar location uncontested. This certainly is very plausible because Spray did receive two Martin outboard motors in consideration for appearing in a Martin motor advertisement with his 69 lb. 11 oz. musky.

 

Yes, Spray did receive two motors from Martin Motors to use the photo of his ’49 record. He detailed it to me in a letter in 1979.

 

...I am hoping that you will cooperate with me on the matter of the No. 2 photo in your folder, showing my 69 pounder. This photo Larry, is a simulated picture that came about in the following manner. Long after the fish was mounted and on display at my Bar, the Martin Motor people came to me and said if I would pose holding an oar, like I did in the original photo, that they would fashion their Martin Motors in there with me and the fish, for advertising purposes. (I used their motors for years, and was using them at the time I caught the last one.) And for and in consideration of such, that they would give me Two new Martin Motors... ...They didn’t give the fish the credit the other photos did... ...So I (am) wondering if you would discontinue the use of this (Martin Motor ad)  photo and replace it with one like I am enclosing, or the original one with me holding the fish in back of Karl Kahmann’s Taxidermy Shop...I would like the old ones sent to me to destroy myself personally. I would consider it the above a personally (sic) favor Larry.

 

Spray%20Martin%20Motors%20photo

The Spray-Martin Motors superimposed photo

 

Spray didn’t like the Martin Motors photo as he felt it made his record fish look smaller. However, if you look at the photo comparison by Scott Hayes in part VI of the Appendix it becomes obvious the reason Spray’s record appears smaller in the Martin Motors photo is that all of his feet are showing, whereas in the original photos his feet are almost buried in grass making the fish appear longer.

 

The affidavits referred to by Spray were from anglers who disagreed with Burmek. The affidavits were as follows.

 

Elmer Germanson, being first duly sworn, on oath does depose and say that he is a resident of Hayward, Wisconsin, and that on the 20th day of October, 1949, he was fishing on the Chippewa Flowage with Carl Haag, also of Hayward, Wis. That he and Mr. Haag were fishing at Pine Point which is located about 3/4th of a mile from Treeland Pines Resort, and approximately four miles north of Fleming’s Bar on the Chippewa Flowage. That they commenced fishing at about 8:00 in the morning and that they fished at this location all day until sundown. That they did not leave the water to eat but just pulled their boat over to shore and ate the lunch they brought with them. That while they were so fishing and after they had started fishing, one Tony Burmek. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was fishing near them in an aluminum boat from the Dun-Rovin Lodge. That he is personally acquainted with Tony Burmek. That he knows that Tony Burmek is a licensed guide. That on October 20. 1949, Tony Burmek was guiding a fishing party fishing crappies and sunfish. That Burmek fished in the same vicinity with your affiant and that they carried on conversations back and forth during the afternoon. That Burmek did not leave the spot where they all were fishing near Pine Point until he quit fishing in the evening.  That Burmek quit fishing before Carl Hagg and this affiant did: and when he quit, he proceeded in an easterly direction directly toward the Dun Rovin Lodge from which he had brought his boat.

 

That he knows of his own personal knowledge that the said Tony Burmek couldn’t have been anywhere near Fleming’s Bar on the Chippewa Flowage during the afternoon of October 20th, as he was always within our sight and was always near Pine Point, which is at least four miles from Fleming’s Bar by water. That it has recently come to the attention of your affiant that said Burmek has since made statements to the effect that on the 20th day of October, 1949, the said Burmek was fishing on Fleming’s Bar, and that he had fished there all afternoon. That he had not seen Louis Spray there, and therefore inferred that Louis Spray could not have caught the world’s record muskie on that date.

 

That your affiant specifically remembers that he was fishing near Burmek on the 20th of October because of personal conversations had with Burmek and with Carl Haag on that date, and because he remembers specifically that he heard on the next day about Louis Spray having caught the world’s record muskie. That both dates stick firmly in his mind and he knows there is no confusion about them.

 

That your affiant has no personal interest in making this affidavit. That he is not a personal friend of Mr. Louis Spray, and that he is making this affidavit for the sole purpose of bringing the truth to the public.

 

Signed, Elmer Germanson

 

Carl Haag, being first duly sworn on oath says that he is a resident of Hayward, Wisconsin. That he was fishing on the Chippewa Flowage with Mr. Elmer Germanson on the 20th day of October, 1949, at a place known as Pine Point which is located near the Treeland Pines Resort. That he knows of his own personal knowledge that said Pine Point is at least four miles from Fleming’s Bar on the Chippewa Flowage, which is the spot where Louis Spray caught the world’s record musky on October 20th, 1949.

 

That he and Mr. Germanson commenced fishing near Pine Point at about 8:00 in the morning and that they fished continuously at that spot until sundown. That they did not leave the water even to eat lunch but ate their lunch from the boat. That in the afternoon of said day while they were fishing, he saw another boat fishing near them. That Elmer Germanson and one of the occupants of the other boat carried on a great deal of conversation during the afternoon. That he asked Elmer Germanson who the other man was, and that Germanson told him he was Tony Burmek of Milwaukee. That this was the first time that your affiant had ever seen Tony Burmek to his own knowledge and that he recalls specifically the man and his characteristics. That he knows that said Tony Burmek fished near Germanson and himself until just before sundown. and that when Burmek left, he proceeded directly east back to the location of the Dun-Rovin Lodge from where he had gotten his boat.

 

That thereafter he saw in the Milwaukee papers an article written by Lynch in his column known as “Maybe I’m Wrong” in which one Tony Burmek claims to have been fishing on Fleming’s Bar on October 20, 1949, and also claimed that he did not see Louis Spray in the neighborhood of Fleming’s Bar on that date. That immediately upon seeing the article he remembered that this was the same Burmek from Milwaukee that Germanson had talked to on the 20th of October, 1949. That this was the first time he had ever met Tony Burmek and that he recalls the day specifically because the next day he heard about Louis Spray having caught the world’s record musky at Fleming’s Bar and had commented to many people that he was only four miles from the spot when it was caught and remarked about the fact that they had been fishing in the wrong place. That he immediately brought this article to the attention of Elmer Germanson and that Mr. Germanson suggested that the two of them make affidavits of the true circumstances.

 

That your affiant has no personal interest in the affair other than the establishing of the truth. That he is not a personal friend of Louis Spray. That he makes this affidavit of his own free volition and not at the request of any other person than Elmer Germanson.

 

Signed, Carl Haag

 

Spray commented further to me regarding these affidavits and it appears he put words in the mouth of George Quentmeyer, his guide, and Tony Burmek. Since the accounts of Burmek’s were well published in the media, it seems hardly likely that Burmek would tell Quentmeyer he didn’t say it. Spray’s comment.

 

On the matter of the affidavits, pages 4 and 5 of this Album, some of the news media splashed all over the front page. that Tony Burmek claimed that he had fished all day on Fleming’s Bar, where I caught the fish, and that I was never on that Bar, that day. But George Quentmeyer, a guide. who was with I and Ted Hagg when I caught the fish, jumped Burmek about the matter, and Tony denied saying it. The above has to do with the 69 lb. 11 oz. muskie I caught on Fleming’s Bar, October 20, 1949, in the Chippewa Flowage, Sawyer County, Wisconsin.

 

And so it went. Let’s one last time return to Mr. Ellis, who wrote in the Wisconsin Sportsman, July/August 1980 issue, where he utilized the information from his earlier story in True magazine, renamed it, The Great Musky Hustle and began again. This article included many of the truths of before, along with some of the same inaccuracies. In addition, he added a couple of important statements that had not been in his earlier article. First a statement about Johnson’s fish.

 

I was on the scene two hours after Johnson’s announcement. He would not see me, nor would anyone permit me to see the fish.

 

And this in regard to Spray’s 1949 catch.

 

This writer was on the spot within hours after the announcement. Again no interview. When told the fish was at the taxidermist’s I went there. The road was barricaded to the house. I walked in. I was turned away at the door.

 

Well, it is logical that he was turned away from seeing Spray’s fish, as Karl Kahmann had refused to mount the fish and didn’t have it. At any rate, Louie Spray received a copy of Ellis’ 1980 article and responded in a letter to the editor of the January/February 1981 issue of Wisconsin Sportsman magazine.

 

A Voice From The Past

 

This letter is in answer to an article written by Mel Ellis and appearing in this magazine in the July/August issue of 1980.

 

First, I cannot see for the life of me, why a writer of Mr. Ellis’s ability could not have covered the same ground he did without tearing someone apart. Second, he went off half cocked in many places that are actually of public record, should he have cared to avail himself of the facts.

 

Referring to my catch of 59 1/2 pound muskie in 1939 he said. “Spray at the time said he caught the fish in Rice Lake August 19.” Ellis had to know better than that, or else his memory is not very good at going back 41 years. Actually, the fish was recorded with the American Museum of Natural History, New York, as being caught July 27, 1939, in Grindstone Lake, Sawyer County, Wisconsin.

 

Then he goes goofing-off about a Jens Jorgensen who caught a large muskie about the same time and used phraseology such that he asked his readers to believe that I, somehow, used Jorgensen’s fish to record my catch.

 

With reference to my catch of a 69 pound 11 ounce muskie caught in 1949, Ellis claims that I was not at the spot where I said I had caught the fish at all that day, because a Tony Burmek said that he was fishing at that particular spot all that day and that I was not there, which was October 20, 1949.

 

It just so happens that Burmek on October 20, was fishing all day in the Chippewa Flowage, at a place known as Pine Point, and a Carl Haag and Elmer Germanson also fished there all day October 20. Burmek never left the area that day, and Haag and Germanson talked with Burmek many times during the day. And further, that evening Burmek left in the direction of Dunn-Rovin Lodge, so that it was impossible for him to have been at Fleming’s Bar, where I caught the fish at any time on October 20. Fleming’s Bar is some four miles south of Pine Point.

 

The above is not just hearsay, as the facts are documented in affidavit form by Mr. Haag and Mr. Germanson. Mr. Petrie, publisher of this magazine, has in his possession said affidavits.

 

Oops again, but we covered this previously when Dettloff said that this may not exactly be true. In his article In Defense of Louie Spray in the Dec. 1991/Jan. 1992 issue of Musky Hunter, Dettloff reported otherwise saying that Spray may have possibly given a Martin motor to Germanson.

 

Since I am now nearing 81 years of age, and won’t be around too much longer, I ask one favor of publishers and writers. All of my record muskies are recorded in the Recorder’s Office, Hayward, Wisconsin: some 24 affidavits. For a very small fee, he will supply you with a photostat copy of those affidavits. Be sure to mention the facts on which fish you want and enclose a stamped and self addressed envelope so he can reply, stating his fee for same. And one other request, pick on someone else for a while, I’ve had 41 years of it, and I believe I have served my time.

 

Lou Spray, Morristown, AZ

 

There are those that would say that the Ellis articles were sensational journalism and those that would say that they weren’t sensational journalism but rather retaliation for not being given the scoop as he seemingly inferred in his 1980 article. I don’t know...you be the judge!

 

While the dispute over where Louie actually caught his fish was never satisfactory settled during 1949 and 1950, the puzzle was to be solved in 1991, as new information surfaced as a result of further examination of Spray’s fish after several newspaper articles, including the Chicago Tribune, which questioned the credibility of the late Louie Spray and his 1949 catch. The articles inferred that Spray’s 69-pound 11-ounce world record was a fake and not a legal catch. One of the articles in the Chicago Tribune by John Husar was a claim made by an alleged former head of a Chicago mob, Joey “The Doves” Aiuppa. He claimed that he had caught the muskie while illegally fishing below the Winter Dam on the Chippewa River at night. He said he sold the muskie to Spray for $50 and that Spray had used the fish to claim the world record. I’ll cover this shortly, and will include more new Joey “The Doves” information from 2005 and 2006.

 

In a two-part article series written by John Dettloff in the December 1991 and February 1992 issues of Musky Hunter, entitled, In Defense of Louie Spray, Dettloff attempted to counter those charges by dusting off all the old Spray affidavits and coming up with a few new ones of his own in an attempt to justify Spray’s record claim while at the same time clarifying the location of Spray’s claimed catch. In my second edition with Dettloff’s permission I reprinted those articles in their entirety. Since a considerable amount contained in those articles has already been covered above I will just use some excerpts. First, clarification of where Spray’s fish was supposedly caught. We covered above what Dettloff learned from Tony Burmek. Here is a bit more.

 

...Two other people were in the boat with Spray on that fateful day - George Quentmeyer, the guide, and Ted Hagg, a Sarona restaurateur. Since both are deceased, I contacted the offspring of both men hoping they could shed additional light on the catch. Upon asking Ted Hagg’s daughter, Ann Amour, if she remembered much about Louie Spray’s musky or if she knew where it was caught, she responded:

 

“My dad was very proud to be involved with the catching of the fish and had saved lots of newspaper clippings and photos. I was a young girl at the time of the catch and don’t remember much about the fish. I don’t know where it was caught but do remember hearing that the spot that they gave out to the public wasn’t the spot where they caught the fish. They wanted to throw everyone off track as to where it was caught so they could keep the real spot secret and to themselves.”

 

Hoping to learn something from the Quentmeyer clan, I contacted George Quentmeyer’s son-in-law, Harry Tyler, who confirmed what Ted Hagg’s daughter had told me. Harry also didn’t know many details of the catch either, but did tell me:

 

“My father-in-law, George, took me right to the spot where they had caught the world record musky just a short time before. We were driving by, on the way to a walleye spot, and he pointed it out.”

 

When asked if he remembered where on the flowage it was, he said he wasn’t real familiar with the flowage and it would be hard to say. I told him Louie had reported it was caught on Fleming’s, which is within a half-mile from Herman’s Landing, and asked him if that could have been the spot. He replied:

 

“Oh no, it wasn’t near Herman’s Landing. At the time, we were heading south and the bar was on our right. The land around there was desolate and wild. Also, to our left was a lot of open water.”

 

After contacting a totally different source, a Tom Jandrt, he documented a notarized statement regarding Spray’s 69-pounder...

 

Dettloff published a copy of the Jandrt affidavit in his article but discussed it no further in his text. It is nothing more than hearsay and it doesn’t really have any merit, but in fairness I would like to excerpt the key part from it.

 

...When I asked Louie Spray where in the Chippewa Flowage he caught the 69# 11 oz muskie, he told me he caught it 3 or 4 miles from Herman’s Landing...

 

Since Herman’s Landing is only a quarter-mile from Fleming’s Bar, the Jandrt statement sets the stage for further knowledge of where. Back to Dettloff’s article.

 

Now this doesn’t prove that Spray caught his musky, but it is certainly substantial evidence that the 69-pounder was not caught on Fleming’s Bar as Spray reported. (Amen on both counts!)

 

Then where was it caught? Enter Bruce Tasker, a close friend of George Quentmeyer’s, who documented what he knows about Spray’s catch in his notarized statement.

 

Here once again we have another notarized statement to hearsay. A key element from long time Flowage guide Bruce Tasker’s affidavit regarding a question he had asked Spray’s guide George Quentmeyer.

 

...When I asked George if they really got the muskie off Fleming’s Bar, George hesitated and said with a grin, “Well......, not really. We caught it a little further south...”

 

And more from Dettloff’s article.

 

Paul Albrecht, a close friend and confidante of Louie Spray’s for many years and publisher of Spray’s book, Looking Back At That Phase Of My Musky Days, said Louie had told him that the 69-pounder was caught in the area of the old Trading Post. That just happens to be where Graveyard Point is located and it just happens to be 3 to 4 miles from Herman’s Landing.

 

New Witnesses

 

My research recently produced three additional witnesses to Spray’s record musky catch. Besides Quentmeyer and Hagg, three other individuals witnessed Spray not only catching the 69-pounder, but also observed him fishing the area around Graveyard Point during the whole month of October of that year, 1949. The three witnesses, Don Hendee, John Bennett, and Chick DeBrot, are all deceased now but did pass down to close relatives what they had seen. These relatives are all upstanding, reliable people and documented these notarized statements as to exactly what they were told by each individual witness...

 

DeBrot also passed on this in formation about Spray’s musky to an Elsie Hornewer, the next owner of Indian Trail Resort after Don Hendee. Indian Trail Resort is located within a quarter-mile of Graveyard Point. The reason the three witnesses were able to observe Spray fishing this area so often and catching his musky was because they were on the resort premises nearly at all times that fall. A boat such as Spray’s, spending every single day in the same area, quickly drew attention. Mrs. Hornewer documented and had her statement notarized as to what she was told as well.

 

We won’t get into those affidavits because they involve 2nd and 3rd hand hearsay statements and as such have little merit. Spray did not spend the “whole month” of October at Graveyard Point, rather the first two-thirds. Also, one has to wonder how “witnesses” at Indian Trail Resort could see someone “catch” a fish when Spray was out of sight around the corner according to Dettloff’s determination of just exactly where Spray’s fish was landed! I also find it amusing and convenient that all the record catching action and witnessing took place at and near the resort now owned by Dettloff.

 

At any rate, it appears that Louie, like most muskie anglers of then as well as today, was trying to protect his hotspot, but as Dettloff stated above ...this doesn’t prove that Spray caught his musky...

 

Then too, there is the matter of the weather that fateful day. Spray said Upon waking up on that Thursday of October 20th it was still warm, but the weather made a sudden change and a major cold front had moved in. Mostly it was chilly and damp with temperatures in the 40s, sometimes a slow drizzle, and a strong N.E. wind had blown up - generally nasty weather. Spray is also quoted as saying: ...a miserably cold, damp (occasional drizzle), and windy day at about 5:00 P.M...

 

Louie’s boat partner, Ted Hagg also made a comment about the weather in the Hayward paper on October 21, 1949, …We set out on our fishing trip about 1:30 Thursday afternoon. It was windy and chilly. The water was pretty rough…

 

Newly found evidence collected in 2007 by George Will disputes part of these claims as Hayward DNR records for 10/20/49 indicate that the wind at 5 P.M., Spray’s reported time of catch as noted above, was NE at 5 m.p.h. and the temperature was 52 degrees with a relative humidity of 93%, .09 inches of rain had fallen and it had been 9 days since the previous rain. At 8 A.M. the temperature was 59 degrees with a 7 m.p.h. north wind and 94% humidity.

 

The battle was supposedly over only 40 minutes after it started, and that may well be, but a review of the time-line of that afternoons events from the published records of the day (not to mention discrepancies in the actual time of the catch) by the WRMA in their rebuttal to the NFWFHF rejection of their protest, report that things just didn’t add up. Their findings, from page 36 of that rebuttal, are presented here.

 

The entire 49 page WRMA rebuttal as well as the complete protest can be found on their web-site at www.worldrecordmuskiealliance.com  The WRMA protest synopsis and the entire rebuttal may be found in the Appendix.

 

I recommend that you read the complete 93-page WRMA protest on their web-site, and the WRMA rebuttal there or in the Appendix. The NFWFHF’s decision to reject the protest may be found at: www.freshwater-fishing.org/spray/ and a synopsis may be found in the Appendix.

 

The WRMA excerpt quote regarding the time-line follows.

 

Asserts the physically impossible: “That he would estimate that it took Mr. Spray approximately 50 minutes to land the fish...and the fish was finally landed at about 4 p.m.” (George Quentmeyer) “At about 3:30 p.m., I knew Ted was freezing as he was not dressed for the cold, so I suggested we go in and have some warm drinks and get warm at a nearby resort...the battle lasted about 40 minutes and we finally landed the fish at around 4 p.m.” (L. Spray)

 

You’ll have to make up your own mind. This “time-line” is covered completely in the WRMA rebuttal.

 

Another thought comes to mind regarding photographs of Spray’s record muskies...why are there so few? For his 1939 record, there is only one photograph known to exist and that isn’t even of Spray holding the fish it is a friend of Spray’s, Alton Van Camp. The 1940 fish doesn’t fare much better with just a couple from Spray (one labeled 42-pounds) and one from an individual in Rice Lake found later. For his 1949 record there are only three “original” photographs known to exist and the two most common originals are superimposed on three different backgrounds!

 

Spray%20in%20river%20boat

This is an early photo from a sequence photos of Spray

 Poling a gear (and guitar) laden boat on the Flambeau

River. It is from this series of photos the background for

 the most common Spray 1949 record photograph was chosen


Spray%20common%20superimposed

This is the most commonly known and seen Spray

“photograph” with the “best” of the three originals

 superimposed on the water background. Interestingly,

Spray is in this photo twice! The background photo

 shows Spray poling a boat on the Flambeau River

 

A fourth “messed with version” is one where Hagg and Quentmeyer were superimposed shaking hands on the already superimposed third version with a pine trees background. This was the superimposed photo that resurfaced during the 2005 WRMA Spray protest, when Scott Allen rediscovered it in Dettloff’s archives. Spray had sent me a copy of it long ago and I resurrected it from my vast files. It is the same superimposed photograph that the NFWFHF provided to at least three math professors with a request for a direct scaling analysis to bolster their decision to uphold the Spray record. This photograph is shown below and the “math version” is shown and covered in detail in the WRMA rebuttal in the Appendix.

 

Spray%203rd%20superimposed%2049

The 3rd superimposed version of

Spray’s  1949 record fish with the

 second most common original used

 

Reference to a quote by Leonard Dorazio from the Dettloff Spray articles, makes me wonder why more photographs haven’t shown up. Dorazio’s quote also suggests that a big muskie did in fact exist. That quote was a result of a telephone interview of Dorazio by Dettloff.

 

I was about 14 years old and heard about the fish by phone...I got to Herman’s as quickly as possible and remember seeing Spray and his two friends and Herman. The musky was outside near the old dock (where the boat house is now) hanging from a pole or an oar. The musky was as long as I was tall (no mention of his height at the time). Its tail wasn’t much off the ground but I still had to look up at it. People were taking pictures...

 

Dettloff was also quoted in a 1991 Sawyer County Record article by Terrell Boettcher as saying ...Once Spray reached Herman’s Landing around 4:30 p.m. that day, the story is well-documented as to the many people who saw the freshly caught fish and snapped pictures of it...

 

In a June/July 2003 Musky Hunter article titled, A Dilemma of World Record Proportions, Brad Latvaitis notes …In my mind, St. Louie’s halo becomes tarnished when photographic documentation is explored.

 

So, just where are these “pictures?” Why are there only three known original photographs of the 1949 record? And why are there three additional “photographs” of the two most commonly known poses of Louie and fish superimposed on other backgrounds? If Spray had that sophisticated technology available to him in 1949, certainly most other folks at least had cameras at the time as alluded to above! Where are all of those photographs?

 

Have other photos been found and not made public because they don’t support the claimed size of Spray’s fish like the known photos where Spray is on an incline? In these photos Spray’s fish is out in front of him with him pushing the fish out away from his body as much as possible (that is why the head is tilted back in those photos). One has a right to wonder!

 

And what about those math professors utilized by the NFWFHF to direct scale the Spray muskie? Dr. Douglas N. Arnold Ph.D. on behalf of himself, Joseph Gallian Ph.D. and Dorian Goldfeld Ph.D. sent to NFWFHF Executive Director Emmett Brown a letter dated February 1, 2006 after the NFWFHF rendered their decision to uphold the Spray record. The first two paragraphs say volumes.

 

We are writing you concerning the recent validation of Louie Spray’s 1949 world record musky, on which you sought photographic analysis from each of us. It is our impression that there is not complete understanding of the results of the analyses we sent you, and we wanted to clarify this.

 

We want to stress that there is no disagreement among the three of us. Moreover, none of us is willing to say, based on the limited information and investigations we have made up to this point, whether or not we believe the record is valid. However, we feel that it is important that the analysis we have contributed be correctly understood...

 

The balance of that letter is a ‘must read’ and may be found in the Appendix.

 

Let us now go back to the John Husar 1995 column in the Chicago Tribune. ...Dzialo (Hall Director Ted) didn’t say if any of those phonied records also might apply to the deified Spray, who currently sits atop the Hall of Fame’s official list with a 1949 fish that weighed 69-11...

 

...There certainly are enough skeletons in Spray’s closet, including allegations that he bought at least two of his record fish-one from an Indian, another from a Chicago mobster who was hiding out. Recent efforts to extol Spray’s sterling character only clouded the situation, having been built upon useless third-hand testimonials from hearsay witnesses and distant relatives of his contemporaries (Husar is referring to Dettloff’s two-part article, In Defense Of Louie Spray.

 

Spray’s ascendancy came about when Hall of Fame record-keepers were dazzled by a controversial-and still unproven-method of forensic photo analysis, which is now being used to knock down all of Spray’s competitors from that era... (Husar was referring to Dettloff’s “Lawton Investigation” which will be covered later in this section and the subsequent discrediting of the two Haver records and the Hanser record which were covered earlier).

 

Now let us review more of the published information on the Joey “The Doves” connection to Spray’s 1949 record.

 

It first started in John Husar’s column in the Chicago Tribune when he wrote ...A dark and glowering man, Spray said he caught his muskie on Fleming’s Bar in the Chippewa Flowage. The fish was mounted and displayed for a few years in a couple of taverns until it was destroyed in a mysterious fire. Spray collected $25,000 insurance.

 

Spray%2049%20mount%20%234

This 4th Spray mount photograph was taken at Spray’s Bar in Rice Lake in 1951 and was “…donated…” to me “…for…” my “…muskie research projects” by Jerome J. Sloboda after he had heard me talk for the second straight year at the Chicago Musky Show. It is noticeable in this shot that the skin in the center of the fish is starting to wrinkle for reasons unknown

 

Decades later, a friend of mine was fishing for crappie on a private lake in northeast Illinois. He encountered another party on the lake and the groups later met on shore.

 

My friend was impressed with the authoritative manner of one of those strangers. In fact, both were impressed when they learned the other’s name. That’s how Spence Petros, editor of Fishing Facts magazine, met Joey “The Doves” Aiuppa, then alleged to be head of the Chicago Crime syndicate.

 

Aiuppa was accompanied by his bodyguard and gofer, a man called “Pepsi.”

 

They were both in their upper 70’s...Spence recalled the other day. “Then Aiuppa mentioned he would rather fish for muskies than anything else.”

 

...They chatted...and Aiuppa gave a little shrug.

 

“There was a pause,” Spence recalled. “Then Aiuppa said, “You know I caught the world-record muskie.”

 

“Oh yea, sure,” Spence grinned, thinking this was going to be some kind of joke. But Aiuppa was serious.

 

“No, I mean it. I caught the world-record muskie. I sold it to Louie Spray for $50.

 

Spence gave a sigh.

 

“When a man like him says in that way that he did something, it’s pretty hard not to believe him,” he said.

 

Aiuppa said he caught the fish beneath the Winter Dam, where the Chippewa Flowage begins (actually ends), “But that is a restricted area,” Spence said.

 

“I know. That’s why I was fishing there at night,” Aiuppa said.

 

Spence asked why he didn’t keep the fish and register it himself, even say he caught it somewhere else.

 

Aiuppa gave a pained look and raised his hand, fingers touching.

 

“Do you know what ‘on the lam’ means,” he asked.

 

Larry Ramsell..., is the premier historian of muskie lore and has heard many stories about Louie Spray. He and Bob Kutz, who founded the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, remember Spray as a gun-toting Prohibition rum runner who ran a gambling casino, dabbled in prostitution and hung around with mobsters. Kutz said Spray even wrote a book glorifying his associations with crooks.

 

Ramsell said Spray was known to frequent Hayward’s Al Capone hideout, now a restaurant south of town. He said he talked with an acquaintance who remembers sitting in a meeting at the Capone hideout when the topic was what to do with a big fish...

 

…”I knew Spray, and he was a cantankerous, ornery, old goat,” Ramsell said. He characterized Spray as far from honest, a man who enjoyed talking about his outlaw days.

 

“I suppose the Aiuppa thing is plausible,” Ramsell told me. “It’s just one more shadow on Spray’s record, which has many shadows already.”

 

Kutz said he got along with Spray, despite the man’s reputation.

 

“I liked him. You knew where you stood with him,” Kutz said. “The only thing I didn’t like was his ego, which filled the room. He wanted to be No. 1 in fishing, no matter what it took to be No. l...

 

...Unfortunately, Spray cannot defend himself. Ill with cancer, he put a shotgun in his mouth and blew the top off his head a few years ago in Arizona. All other principals are dead, except for the 83-year-old Aiuppa, who sits in the federal prison hospital in Rochester, Minn.,...

 

“At his stage, he had nothing to gain by telling me,” Petros said. “It didn’t seem all that important to him.”

 

Ironically, Spray left $25,000-the amount he got form his muskie’s insurance-to the fishing Hall of Fame.

 

John Husar too, passed away, and one of muskie histories staunchest protector’s was gone. Of course John Dettloff wasn’t going to take this charge sitting down. Some excerpts from the aforementioned newspaper article in 1991 regarding the “Joey ‘the Doves’ Aiuppa claim.

 

...It also cast doubt on one of the two giant muskys on which Hayward built its reputation: the other was Cal Johnson’s 67 ½-pounder... That made Dettloff angry. “It’s real important to document the real story about Spray’s fish and slam this tabloid journalism that’s being shoved down people’s throats,” he said.

 

They took this tale and sought to write a story around it without any more proof than the old man’s word.”

 

Dettloff already knew that Aiuppa’s tale was not true, based on what eyewitness to Spray’s catch had told him.

 

“I wanted to set out and gather all possible information surrounding the catch and present it to the public because it’s important for Hayward, and Wisconsin as well.”

 

Dettloff wanted to “contact sources before they were gone” and “my goal as a historical society director is to document history,” he added.

 

Dettloff then proceeded to write the two-part In Defense of Spray articles noted above. An envelope I received from Dettloff entitled Packet Of Documentation Supporting Louie Spray’s 69-pound 11 oz. muskie, merely contained one page with the most common of Spray photos, a copy of Spray’s Field & Stream application and Dettloff’s hand-written note detailing the fish’s size and his estimate of Spray’s height. The balance of the packet contained only copies of the Spray affidavits. A photo analysis of fish size was not included!! This was certainly a far cry from the lengths he went to in his massive report attempting to discredit the Lawton record.

 

But this story doesn’t end there. When the Spray flap began anew in 2005 with the WRMA’s protest against Spray’s 1940 and 1949 records, and the subsequent Hall’s upholding of that record, Dale Bowman, Staff Reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, picked up where Husar left off. In his June 11, 2006 Times article Picture worth thousand words in never-ending fish story, Bowman dug further into the Joey “The Doves” story and I will quote some excerpts of that article here.

 

Inside the cool darkness of Capri DiAmore...on Tuesday, James “Pepsi” Buonomo looked at the photo of his longtime pal, the late Joey “Doves” Aiuppa, and a big muskie.

 

Then he quickly said, “That’s not the fish.”

 

The spry 91-year-old just as quickly followed that with, “Where did you get the picture?”

 

Joey%20The%20Doves%20Auippa

The Joey “The Doves” Auippa

 photograph with Spray insert that

Bowman ran in the Chicago Sun Times.

Photo courtesy Dale Bowman

 

Let’s start somewhere near the beginning. If nothing else, its one more piece in our most notorious fish story (he then referenced the stats on Louie’s 1949 fish)...

 

...“On Oct. 20, 2005, the Illinois-based World Record Muskie Alliance filed a damming 93-page protest (to the NFWFHF), based primarily on photographic and other scientific analysis, that Spray’s fish was nowhere near as large as claimed.

 

On Jan. 16, 2006, the Hall made the ill-fated decision to deny the protest and began a counterattack, defending Spray’s muskie as the All-Tackle record (as recognized by the NFWFHF and not the IGFA).

 

In the aftermath of that decision, Hall of Fame angler Spence Petros, the best-known fisherman in Chicago, reminded me of the story of Aiuppa...

 

...Petros suggested I find Buonomo, who was Aiuppa’s hunting and fishing companion for some 70 years. With the help of many readers, I was able to track down Buonomo, who told his memories of Aiuppa and the muskie in the March 26 edition of the Sun-Times. But he had no photos of Aiuppa with the muskie.

 

Enter Chris Jankowski, who...has long connections to alleged Chicago crime lords, dating to Al Capone.

 

Jankowski remembered a photo that hung in the home of Peter and Arlene Ansani Jakstas...I figured it was a wild-goose chase, but considering all the twists and turns of this story, I ran up to Fox Lake to see.

 

This twist of the story has even New Yorkers noticing. “CBS Sunday Morning” was in town last week to do a follow-up with Bill Geist...

 

Then the Jakastases showed me the photo, and I began to wonder: Could it be the photo?

 

In most of the photos of Spray with his muskie, he has it turned broadside to show the heft of the belly. Aiuppa – a very young Aiuppa, dressed very formally – has his big muskie turned more to the side, so it is hard to tell how fat the fish is.

 

The length looked about right, somewhere in the range most of us think Spray’s fish actually was – around 55 inches, give or take a couple of inches...

 

...Buonomo said he is certain that it’s not the big muskie, though he did say, “Tell her I want a photo of it too.”

 

Really big fish stories never end. This one is far from over.

 

Indeed. Now to Dale’s CBS News reference. CBS News got involved and the story was covered by Bill Geist and it even appeared on their Sunday Morning TV show. On the CBS News Internet web-site a news story about the matter was published and we’ll excerpt from it. It was under the dateline of HAYWARD, Wis. Oct. 8, 2006

 

The people of northern Wisconsin take their muskie fishing seriously...the local man who caught the biggest muskie ever is a legend. In the Hall of Fame museum, the man, the late Louie Spray has an entire room. It showcases his wool fishing pants and shirt, fishing shoes and his old motor.

 

“He reminds me of the Babe Ruth of Muskie fishing both people had the same type of personalities,” John Dettloff, a resort owner and county historian, who authored a book on Louie Spray told Sunday Morning correspondent Bill Geist. “They both were flamboyant. They both were good time Charlies.”

 

...But now a group called the World Record Muskie Alliance has filed a 93-page challenge to Spray’s world record, a document brimming with modern professional forensic analysis.

 

“We decided to apply some modern scientific processes to a lot of these old fish stories we hired an independent expert in the field of photogrammetry – it is the science of trying to determine measurements from photographic evidence with some high level mathematics,” Rich Delaney, president of the Alliance, said. “It’s a technology that I believe NASA used to determine the size of objects on the moon. If you put length times girth the weight of the fish couldn’t possibly approach the claim of Mr. Spray, 69 pounds 11 ounces.”

 

Rather, Delaney says the fish would have to be about 38 to 40 pounds. The report charges local favoritism, outright cheating and even unethical taxidermy. Delaney said evidence shows that the taxidermist augmented the fish by 10 inches to match Spray’s story.

 

To rebut, the Hall of Fame contacted distinguished mathematicians like professor Doug Arnold of the University of Minnesota.

 

“This is a problem in projective geometry you really need more information than is sitting in this photo to tell me how long that fish is,” Arnold said. “It depends on the placement of the fish and the placement of the camera. It’s no longer than 63 inches they were claiming but it could be a lot shorter.”

 

Then another bombshell dropped; a Hall of Fame inductee and guide, Spence Petros, said that Chicago mafia capo Joey “The Doves” Aiuppa told him on a fishing trip that he caught Spray’s fish...

 

...This fish tale is confirmed by Aiuppa’s constant companion Jimmy Buonamo (sic), also known as Pepsi or Jimmy Bananas.

 

“Yes, he caught that fish,” Buonamo (sic) said. “And he wouldn’t lie to anybody he caught the fish. That’s one thing about him. He was true. He caught the fish.”

 

Emmett Brown of the Hall of Fame says Spray’s world record stands, supported by notarized affidavits from the other two men in the boat with Spray, and man who measured it and a local postmaster who weighed it.

 

“They’ve kind of voted to uphold this fish in the face of modern scientific research,” Delaney said.

 

In his later years, in an apparent effort to bolster his ego and keep his muskie records in front of the public, Spray developed a couple of different collages of his record fish photos and sent them to me and various establishments in the Hayward area. In so doing, Spray repeated his mix-ups and incorrect photo captioning. This included a “head-shot” of a head-shot muskie (the huge bullet hole is quite obvious), supposedly of one of his record fish; the 61-13 from 1940 in one and the 69-11 from 1949 in the other.

 

Spray%20fish%20head%20shot

Spray%20collage%20%232Spray%20collage%20%231

The “head-shot” head and the two collages

 

The Pete Maina protest to the NFWFHF regarding the Spray fish was partially covered above in the Johnson section. It included a somewhat amateur photo analysis. The analysis used various camera angles and a professional photographer to calculate potential fish lengths ranging from 53.4 to 56.1 inches based on six estimates of the camera’s distance from the fish. These length estimates were similar to professional photogrammetric solutions by DCM Technical Services of Toronto, Canada in the WRMA protest; 53.6 to 55.1 inches maximum length. As noted previously, Maina’s protest was rejected by the NFWFHF. I find it interesting that these independent photo analyses found the 1949 Spray fish to be, at best, in the mid-50-inch range!

 

Eli Singer did a comparison of the measurement in the photos of the fresh fish and the mount and the vast difference in the length, fin placement and distances between the fins. His conclusion was that they cannot be the same fish. It was his opinion that Spray’s 1949 record should be disqualified. Singer also suggested that perhaps Spray’s mounts had burned to assure they would never be examined or closely scrutinized!

 

The sordid details of the Spray controversy are provided in; a) a synopsis of the WRMA’s Spray Protest, which includes a professional photogrammetric analysis on the 1940 and 1949 Spray fresh fish and mounts, as well as, a taxidermist’s analysis of the three Spray mount photos, b) a synopsis of the NFWFHF’s rejection of the WRMA protest, c) the WRMA’s rebuttal to the NFWFHF’s rejection, d) Dr. Arnold’s letter, and e) Brad Lavaitis’ letter of admonishment to the NFWFHF Directors, in the Appendix.

 

Finally, before we depart our discussion of Louis Spray we must address one of the more talked about details regarding Louie Spray; his height. Just how tall was he?

 

In the April/May 1996 issue of Musky Hunter magazine Spray’s height was claimed by John Dettloff to be 6-feet 2-inches. In that same article about Louie’s 1940 record, Was Louie Spray’s Musky Really That Big, this Compender echoed that height and a supposed Spray weight based on what Dettloff had told me at the time and which I accepted as fact. I learned later that this information was incorrect. A packet of material that I received from Dettloff after I had expressed some concern to him about the size of Spray’s 1940 record included a height “estimate” of Spray. All of a sudden, Mr. Spray seemed to shrink! Or did he? Dettloff used ...Spray’s 6-foot 2-inch height and broad lumberjack’s frame... in the article. Following are some notes that he included in the packet to me.

 

...So I sent you info on his height – 6’1” I would say... On all photo’s the 59 ¼” length calipers correctly against Spray’s 72” to 73” height... (by “direct scaling,” an improper method).

 

Dettloff then claimed that the photo of Spray with this fish labeled 42-pounds was in error and tried to justify the appearance in that photo that the fish did look to be in that size range by saying that Spray’s right hand was ...pulling the fishes head inwards – towards him just a bit. This makes the fishes’ end of its lower jaw tilt slightly away from the camera, making the fishes’ head appear a bit shorter (maybe one inch) than it really is, and that a ...high camera angle is always unflattering when taking fish pictures (on that photo Dettloff drew a line showing his estimate of the ...Approximate camera level and true horizon… and also noted, ...Once you blow up this picture, the fish suddenly looks a little more impressive than it does on that little picture).

 

On a later discovered photo of Spray’s 1940 record, dubbed the “Rice Lake photo,” Dettloff did further estimations and showed his calculations justifying the claimed fish length by subtracting his direct scaling fish length estimate from his newer claim of Spray’s height of “73” inches.

 

Dettloff also included a photograph of Louie Spray standing beside his wife Inez. It is from this photo that Dettloff apparently came up with his new Spray height estimate. His note on that photo said ...I figure – in Spray’s prime he was approximately 6’1” or 73” tall... He also noted ...Spray may have stood an inch or so taller when he was a young buck. So it could be possible he may have been as large as 6’2” when he was young – but 6’1” would be a good safe conservative height for him. Spray was stocky in build and I bet weighed 220# or so when he was young. I am just shy of 6’ and am 200# at times and Spray was a bit larger than me in both height and weight.

 

Spray’s actual and true height of 5-feet, ll-inches, was confirmed by a “Statement of Injuries Received” medical report dated June 18, 1934 found by Dettloff in the microfilm records at the Sawyer County, Wisconsin Court House!

 

Spray%20medical%20report

So the mystery of Spray’s “real” height has finally been settled negating all the incorrect information previously published in Musky Hunter magazine and in other venues as well!

 

Dettloff went on to say in his note to me ...As far as Alton Van Camp holding Spray’s 59 1/2#er 58” long. Alton was the same height as Louie... In his 2004, Musky Chronicles III Eli Singer related had learned from Alton’s son Alvin that Alton was only 5-feet 10-inches tall. When Singer discussed Spray’s true 5-foot 11-inch height with Dettloff he was reportedly told by Dettloff that this new found information about Spray actually being shorter than he had long reported was not to be made public and that he wanted it kept quiet! One has to question why?

 

In the professional photogrammetry analysis commissioned by the WRMA, they gave instructions to DCM Technical Services’ Dan Mills to make his analysis assuming Spray’s height as 6-feet or 72-inches. This was done because Dettloff claimed Spray’s height on the medical exam was 5-11 without shoes, which is unproven, and with his shoes on Spray was therefore 6-feet tall in the photo of his 1949 record. The WRMA gave Spray the benefit of the doubt and the DCM analysis still found Spray’s fish considerably lacking in actual vs. claimed length!

 

In Latvaitis’ letter to the NFWFHF Director’s regarding their assessment of the Spray protest (see Appendix), Brad makes an important point regarding Spray’s height and its application in attempting to scale from photographs …Importantly, the Hall gives no consideration to the fact that height measurements are taken with feet together and head straightly aligned with the spine (as during a medical exam) in contrast to the reduced height that would occur when Mr. Spray’s head is cocked and his feet are spread off-center as in his photographs with muskies.

 

To set the record straight, Field & Stream, the record sanctioning body at the time of Spray’s 1949 record, reviewed and accepted Spray’s contest application. Since then, Field & Stream has not reviewed the Spray record. The IGFA obviously conducted, at least a minimal review because they refused to list the Spray 1949 fish as their all-tackle record after the Lawton disqualification. Spray’s record was not recognized by the IGFA because it was shot during landing; which although legal at the time, is at odds with their record protocol. The NFWFHF reviewed Spray’s muskie in conjunction with the WRMA protest and upheld the Field & Stream record.

 

In summary of the previous two records, I am not advocating that the Johnson and Spray records be disqualified. My position on historic records has been made clear. I am advocating that ALL historic records be treated equally by current record keepers and historians, and that they give serious thought before overturning records sanctioned by others as far back as almost 70-years ago. Since the esteemed sanctioning committees which were involved in the original acceptance of historic records are no longer in existence, this is the prudent course.

 

Sherlock

Two pretty gals coming up!

 


Dolores Ott-Lapp 50-4 Lac Vieux Desert, WI/MI – 1951

 

Ott%20Lapp%20%232Ott%20Lapp%20%233

Left photo another great shot of Dolores and her beautiful hybrid.

The right photo was in color and became a post card. Courtesy

J. Peter Haupt & Doug Lenicheck-Muskellunge Club of Wisconsin

 

The only confusion surrounding the Dolores Ott-Lapp hybrid caught from Lac Vieux Desert, Wisconsin/Michigan, was discussed in the Knobla section above. Had the first scale her fish was weighed on been pursued and certified at 52-pounds, she would reign as “top dog” in the hybrid world record category of the NFWFHF. However, the Ott-Lapp hybrid would not be recognized by the IGFA because it was shot during landing; which although legal at the time, is at odds with their record protocol. The NFWFHF thoroughly reviewed Mrs. Ott-Lapp’s hybrid muskie and upheld the 1951 Field & Stream contest sanction. Mrs. Ott-Lapp’s fish was entered in the muskellunge category finishing third in 1951. Her fish is the Unlimited line-class record in the NFWFHF Hybrid Muskie Conventional Angling Subdivision, although it was caught on 40-pound test line.

 

Ott%20Lapp%20orig%20mountKnobla%20mount%20w%20Haupt

Dolores and her original mount in 1975 (l) and J. Peter Haupt shown

admiring Knobla’s original mount. Both had been repainted by Aman.

Ott-Lapp photo by the author and Knobla photo courtesy J. Peter Haupt

A Professional photogrammetry analysis has not been commissioned to analyze Mrs. Ott-Lapp’s hybrid.

 

Robert Malo 70-4 Middle Eau Claire Lake, Wisconsin – 1954

 

One of the more controversial fish stories in muskie angling history took place in 1954. It was early morning June 6, 1954, when Robert Malo of Port Arthur, Ontario, fishing with George Cruise of Chicago, reported hooking a huge muskie on a sucker. Ultimately the fish was reported to weigh 70-pound 4-ounces and was taken from Middle Eau Claire Lake, Wisconsin. After beaching and shooting the fish, people at the resort were alerted. The fish was then taken to a taxidermist in Duluth, Minnesota where it was weighed and skinned for mounting. At the weigh-in, the fish was thought to weigh 69¾-pounds. When opened for mounting, the fish had rolls of fat, a partly digested 5½-pound northern pike and 8¼-pounds of eggs. The next day, the Minnesota Department of Weights and Measures was asked to verify the scales and the inspector found the scales to be 8 ounces “slow.”

 

Like other record muskies of the day, there is concern about there being a dearth of photographs of Malo’s muskie. Other than the one known photo of Malo and George Cruise taken with the fish when brought in, the only other known photographs are of the fish during the mounting process and after the mount was completed.

 

Malo%20mount%20drying

Malo mount during initial mounting stage. Taxidermist

Flaim (l), Malo agent Baroo (c) and Malo partner Cruise (r)

 

Malo%20taxidermist%20Flaim

Taxidermist Flaim working on Malo mount

 

For a year and a half around 1977, the late Peter Haupt and I investigated and researched this fish. Peter and I spent several evenings burning the midnight oil, as we carefully went over every aspect of the case. In all, over 225 man hours and several hundred dollars were spent on the review. Also, many hundreds of miles were driven and all available key persons were interviewed in order to get their story. When I made a visit to the Eau Claire area to interview some of the people who also lived there at the time of Malo’s catch, there were nearly as many versions of the facts in 1977 as there were by reporters covering the story in 1954.

 

During my visit I talked with Wilbur Smith who has been a muskie guide in the area for over 30 years. Wilbur had gone to Madison the day the fish was caught and didn’t get to see the Malo fish. For a time, he said that he doubted a fish that size had come from Middle Eau Claire Lake. It supposedly was not a natural muskie lake. Then in a following year, after the Malo fish scenario, Wilbur saw a muskie several times in Mid Lake that he thought would go nearer to 80 pounds! Later, he said Someone broke a spear off in the fish and it was never seen again.

 

While there I took the opportunity to view the mounted fish before it was put on public display in 1986.

 

When Peter Haupt interviewed the taxidermist he was told Ugliest muskie I ever saw. This taxidermist, at the time, mounted at least one a year over 50 pounds, sometimes up to 55 pounds from Lake of the Woods and also mounted the first 60-pounder in history, which came from Eagle Lake in 1939. Peter’s statement after visiting with the taxidermist was At this point I’m convinced Malo’s fish weighed 70 pounds 4 ounces.

 

Myself, I’m convinced a tremendous muskie was taken but the one thing that was uncertain was the accuracy of the weight measurement. A weigh-in discrepancy kept Malo’s muskie from being accepted as a new world record by Field & Stream. There seemed, at the time, to be no disputing the fact that a big muskie had indeed been produced. Field & Stream’s letter to Malo agent Hank Baroo came from Hugh Grey, then Field & Stream Editor. That letter of rejection indicated the scale was indeed the key item. The utility bathroom scale that had been used was marked only in pound increments with no ounce marks according to scale owner George W. Flaim. The estimate at the time of the original weighing ranged from 69½ to 69¾-pounds, but of course there was no way to know for sure. Malo and Baroo, the resort operator, believed the fish tipped the scales at the 69¾-pound mark when first weighed. Taxidermist Flaim thought it 69½ pounds. When the scales were determined to be ½-pound slow, Malo and Baroo added this to the 69¾ and came up with 70¼-pounds.

 

After our research, I drew a conclusion against the Malo fish which went into the 1st Edition of my book A Compendium of Musky Angling History. In looking back at that review, I was guilty of being in sympathy with the then-recognized world record holder, the late Art Lawton. Lawton was at that time, a friend and excellent muskie angler. Robert Malo, in my opinion, hardly knew what a muskie was. Of course, that shouldn’t have made any difference. Fortunately, I felt that Malo’s muskie should be recognized into a prominent place in muskie history. Thus, I placed it third on my all-time list of big muskies at 69-pounds 8-ounces.

 

During the 1970’s there were a couple of major changes in freshwater world record keeping from private to public organizations. The NFWFHF became involved in record keeping in 1970 and in 1978 Field & Stream turned over all of its freshwater records to the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), salt water record keepers since 1939.

 

When Dun Rovin Lodge owner Denny Johnston of Hayward, Wisconsin purchased the Malo mount in 1986 and notified the press, the Malo stories were dusted off and again made news. I again reviewed my 1977 notes about the Malo fish and realized how incomplete my previous search had been. As a muskie historian, representative of IGFA and Chairman of the World Record Board of Review for the NFWFHF, I felt perhaps I had an obligation to re-open the Malo case and do an intense and more thorough job of fact finding.

 

Prior to publication of my 1st Edition Compendium in 1982, I became privy to all correspondence between key persons involved with the Malo muskie and Field & Stream magazine editor, Hugh Grey. Of course, Field & Stream was the official sanctioning body and steward of all fishing world records.

 

In re-opening the Malo case, my sole intent was to determine if, in fact, the Malo muskie had received its just dues. Peter Haupt echoed my sentiments, when he said We must address the matter of Malo’s fish now in 1987 and not turn our backs on it as did the keepers of records 33 years ago.

 

My approach to the investigation was to first review the vast amount of data I had accumulated, list all discrepancies, and from this, develop literally dozens of questions on all aspects surrounding the catch and subsequent events, i.e., transporting the fish to the taxidermist, measuring, weighing, skinning the fish, weighing stomach contents and having the scale checked. Once these questions were developed, I set about trying to resolve them. This was done by cross referencing the discrepancies against the affidavit facts.

 

Suffice it to say, a book could be written about this fish. In fact, I wrote a booklet on our late 70’s investigation and my later findings in 1986. It was published in 1987 and was used to make a case for the recognition of Malo’s fish by comparison of all of the misinformation vs. the facts. That case was subsequently, rightly rejected by both the IGFA and the NFWFHF, again based on incorrect scale verification protocol. That booklet Is This The World Record Muskellunge is reproduced, nearly completely, in the Appendix.

 

In retrospect, the only acceptable “scale reading interpretation” for the Malo muskie by record protocol could be 69-pounds 0-ounces by rounding down to the lower of observed readable scale increments with the needle resting between two. Even though the scale was proven to be weighing “8-ounces slow” at 70-pounds, official scale protocol was violated when the weights and measures tester “readjusted the scale to zero,” and tested the scale at the weight of the muskie rather than the weight of the muskie plus the weight of the board it was placed on.

 

Malo%20scale%20testing

Weights and measures tester Axell making

the “fatal” scale adjustment to zero

 

When Eli Singer interviewed the taxidermist that he said remounted the Malo muskie prior to it being put on display again in 1986 he learned, as reported in his Musky Chronicles III that the skin had not been pulled together in the back side of the mount and the inside fins were lower than the outside fins.

 

Singer then asked this second taxidermist what exactly he had done in reworking the mount. The taxidermist said that included in the remount he had made the tail fin longer. Singer also learned that the hide was in one piece.

 

In looking at the before and after photos of the Malo mount, there appears to be no obvious difference in the look of the mount. To clear up the matter I contacted the second taxidermist and he related to me that he didn’t “remount” the fish. He told me he did remove and replace the rear paired fins, repaired all fins and repainted the mount. He also related that there was a huge gap in the skin on the backside of the mount indicating girth enhancement. He did confirm that it was a ...big fish.

 

Orig%20Malo%20mountRepainted%20Malo%20mount

Original finished Malo mount (l) and repainted/repaired mount (r)

 

In March of 2006, I had two different people tell me quite a different story about the Malo fish. Both stories were similar. The stories, from local folks, were about the area where many big muskies had been “poached,” below the Winter Dam on the Chippewa River. They related that this particular fish (the Malo muskie) had been taken illegally during April and frozen solid in a block of ice to keep it fresh looking. Supposedly, the story goes, that poachers took the fish to Spray’s Bar in Rice Lake the following spring and placed it in his freezer while he was sleeping. When Spray awoke and discovered the fish he explained to the bearers that he couldn’t bring this fish out as he was still getting “heat” over his 1949 fish. It was then said that since Spray owed Hank Baroo, lodge owner on Middle Eau Claire Lake, a favor, he gave the fish to him. The fish surfaced during the muskie season. This “claim/story” is in direct conflict with reports at the time of the Malo catch, wherein two witness accounts claimed that the fish ...still had life... and ...its gills were still moving... Then there is taxidermist Flaim’s statement that he was sure ...it was fresh... made in 1954, although this latter statement was countered by him in a November 4, 1987 Sawyer County Record article by Terrell Boettcher who wrote ...When presented to him, the fish, “…looked dead a couple of days, all dried out. The skin was cracked. It could have even been in a freezer for a while, improperly wrapped (Flaim quote)!”

 

Louie Spray protested the Malo fish to Field & Stream and was supposedly at a loss to why Malo hadn’t tried to claim his $2,500 reward. Was this “protest” merely a “smoke screen?”

 

Spray%20reward%20poster

Spray’s reward poster. No one ever collected

 

Of course Spray may not have known that the fish had been immediately skinned for mounting and therefore couldn’t fulfill his rule of being …weighed, examined and measured at SPRAY’S BAR by Lou Spray of Rice Lake, Wis., but he knew the fish couldn’t fulfill another of his rules of being …at least 5 ft. in length or over (this for obvious reasons) …

 

In March of 1987 I received a letter from “Peteresox” ‘The Duluth Sleuth’ (Peter Haupt) with a change of mind after he had done some more digging into Malo’s fish. Peter related this.

 

At this time I cannot endorse the Malo (fish) as 100% clean.

Upon broaching the subject with some area old timers (perhaps 6 or 8) all but one claimed the fish came from elsewhere. Most said the Winter dam...My own gut feeling is that it came from elsewhere. My reason is color. All photos & Flaim’s statement indicate a dark, drab fish. The fish in M.E.C. (Middle Eau Claire Lake) are as vividly marked as any I have seen anywhere in Wis. Even large ones. I saw a photo of a 47 ¾ lber at the...resort I mentioned & it was bright as a young fish – like a 30”er...Again –- it’s the color that bothers me the most...I feel far more unsettled about it then I did 10yr ago when we began snooping around & when I began fishing the lake.

 

Perhaps Field & Stream had been correct in rejecting the fish but for the wrong reason! However, this new information that the Malo muskie was taken illegally during the off-season and frozen, while plausible, must be dismissed until such time as an eyewitness or participant comes forward with a notarized affidavit, which according to my sources is still possible.

 

Another popular story related by Peter Haupt in his 1987 letter, said (a former game warden) ...went to see it (Malo’s fish) & was suspicious of a float plane parked at the resort dock for several days. Others swear that Malo had taken his fish illegally, elsewhere, and was on an obscure muskie lake to make the pick-up from the plane and bring the fish in. It sounds far-fetched but so goes the stories of big muskies.

 

Malo’s muskie was listed by the NFWFHF as an “Unofficial” record at 70-pounds in the conventional angling division from 1987 to 2007, when it was removed from their record book without explanation. When queried about this by Dale Bowman, outdoor writer for the Chicago Sun Times the NFWFHF told him Malo ...is no longer being listed because it is unofficial. Was this yet another move by John Dettloff to leave Louie Spray alone at the top of the list and not diminish the aura of the claimed weight of Spray’s record vs. the higher claimed Malo fish weight of 70-pounds? And if this is so, he didn’t even need an “investigation” to get rid of Malo’s fish from the record book! I’ve been told that Dettloff interviewed one of the “poachers,” which explains to me why he has had little to say about the Malo fish over the years…he knew of Spray’s involvement with this fish and the supposed poacher…the same one said to have provided Louie Spray with his 1939 record…and didn’t want the connection made!

 

Arthur Lawton 69-15 – 1957

 

1957 ... And now to the heart of the matter, Art Lawton’s 69-pound 15-ounce world record from the St. Lawrence River caught September 22, 1957. Controversies began shortly after its capture. Later, in 1992, an investigation by John Dettloff led the NFWFHF to disqualify Lawton’s record despite many shortcomings in his investigation; a lack of professional photogrammetry as recommended by NFWFHF attorneys, a questionable witness recant not pursued further by the NFWFHF even though recommended by their attorneys and complete disregard for the original weight witnesses, including interviews by Dettloff with those still alive. The IGFA set-aside Lawton’s record due to the uncertainty of a valid photograph required by their retroactive record protocol for challenged Field & Stream sanctioned records.

 

When I reviewed the Field & Stream file after it had been turned over to the IGFA in 1978, some questions immediately arose. One of the questions was why wasn’t the fish mounted? As we proceed, this question and several others will be answered. In fact, even before Lawton’s entry was received by Field & Stream the following anonymous letter was sent.

 

November 12, 1957

 

No doubt, a Mr. Arthur Lawton will enter a 69 lb. 15 oz. world record muskie caught in the St. Lawrence River.

 

My husband is a traveling salesman and very frequently covers the territory where this muskie was caught. For business reasons, I prefer to withhold my name; however I would suggest checking into these prize fish. The same thing also applies to the 60 lb. muskie caught by Mrs. Lawton, his wife, last year. Two or three guides (one of which was his) claims this fish did not weigh 60 lbs.

 

As a matter of fact, Mr. Lawton is not having the “world record” mounted!: his reason being that he already has two and room for no more. This really sounds fishy to me.

 

For the sake of good sportsmanship, this is respectfully submitted.

 

An Avid Fisherwoman.

 

P.S. Could clever photography make the 60 lb. fish of last year look like this year’s 69 lb. one?

 

Subsequently, the Lawton affidavit form, properly completed and witnessed, was submitted to Field & Stream. Soon Louie Spray, then current record holder, sent the following letter to Field & Stream.

 

11-18-57

 

Field & Stream,

New York, N.Y.

 

Gentlemen:

 

I understand that a record muskie is supposed to have been caught last September. And that they are now trying to enter it with you as such. Seems kind of late.

 

The enclosed clipping shows a string of muskies including the supposed record (referring to the Lawton group photo of nine muskies). Either the fish (5th from left) weighed more than 49 pounds, or the next one to it, didn’t weigh 69. And it’s funny that he didn’t apply to me for his $2,500.00.

 

Spray was referring to a “reward” he was offering to the first ONE that could beat his record. His requirements were ...The fish must measure at least 5 ft. in length or over (this is for obvious reasons) and have a girth of 31 inches or more and must not have swallowed just previous to the catch any lead, rocks, old iron or other artificial weight. The fish must be weighed, examined and measured at SPRAY’S BAR by Lou Spray of Rice Lake, Wis. Method of measuring to be same as used by Field & Stream Contest. FISH CAN BE TAKEN BY ANY LEGAL METHOD IN ANY WATER IN THE WORLD! –NO QUESTIONS ASKED! FULL PAYMENT GUARENTEED!

 

Will you please return clipping for my files.

 

Sincerely,

Louis Spray

 

Kind of late?” Hardly! Sounds like sour grapes to me. And interestingly, Louie did not infer that the largest fish in the referenced photograph couldn’t have been 69-pounds!

 

My review found that On November 29, 1957 Lawton sent the following letter to Field & Stream.

 

“Last October we sent you our entry for the 1957 Field & Stream Fishing Contest. As yet we have not received any acknowledgement of this entry.

 

Would you please check your records and see if this entry has been registered.”

 

On December 6, 1957 F&S contests editor, Mike (actually Mary, the name “Mike” was used for contest purposes) Ball responded.

 

“Replying to your letter of November 29th please be advised the picture and affidavit for your muskellunge have been received.”

 

Later, another anonymous letter arrived at Field & Stream.

 

Rochester, New York

December 21, 1957

 

Field and Stream

Fishing Editor

530 Fifth Avenue

New York City

 

Dear Mr. McClane

 

I hope this letter will be of help to Field & Stream as I understand a thorough investigation is being made regarding the weight of Mr. Lawton’s world record muskie. I am very active in game and fish clubs and, as a result, have received many questions and newspaper clippings about his catching this fish near Clayton. I am there all summer. I can understand Mr. Lawton’s idea of keeping secret his fishing spots.

 

By coincidence, I have an Indian who is janitor of a building I own and he supplied the following information.

 

Mr. Lawton has fished out of Hoogansburg for many years. He stays at a motel owned by David Benedict who sometimes guides for him. However, his more frequent guide is Mr. Bush. Both Mr. Benedict and Mr. Bush are Indians and my janitor knows them very well. They claim the fish did not weigh 69 lb. 15 oz.: In fact, they claim that the largest fish ever caught in that section during the past 35 years weighed 52 lbs. and Mr. Lawton was not the one who caught that one.

 

My janitor was there in the middle of October, I was there the last week in October looking over the SeaWay project. Being so near, I drove over and, in asking many questions around the section, found out the information my man gave me was true.

 

I realize that Whele accepted Mr. Lawton’s entry, but being here in Rochester, I also realize that their business is advertising their beer and that they are not as particular as Field & Stream about weight being authentic.

 

Please, out of respect to Mr. Lawton, keep his fishing place a secret.

 

Sincerely,

A subscriber to Field & Stream

 

In March of 1976 I received a letter from Louie Spray claiming that in early 1958, he had received a letter from Field & Stream editor Hugh Grey ...asking me to contest the Lawton catch. But I can’t put the finger on that right now... The Grey letter was never produced. Louie went on ...Regarding the Hugh Grey letter, I called him and advised that I would look like a poor sport if I contested it and that I believed that it was up to who ever was in charge of the authenticity of the application on recording the catch. I received no reply.

 

I stand willing to cooperate with anyone and will spend up (to) $500.00 of my own money to have the Lawton Fish Disqualified...

 

Louie related he just couldn’t understand why Lawton didn’t apply for his $2,500 reward for a new record, evidently not realizing that Lawton had likely been unaware of same and that the fish had been disposed of shortly after the weighing as had been Lawton’s past practice. Spray even claimed that he had sent Lawton a telegram but got no reply. There was no record of such telegram in the Lawton archives. Spray further said ...I always have, and still do believe, that the Lawton fish should be disqualified from the Record... While I am in no position to do, I don’t think it would take much pressure if it came from Hayward Area, where the World Record rightfully belongs.

 

Why I wonder, did Spray think the record belonged in Hayward? Was it because he wanted his ’49 fish to be the record? In another letter to me dated March 30, 1976, Louie had more to say about Lawton’s fish. ...I want to explain to you, why I believe that Lawton Fish, was a fake and a farce from start to finish... Have a look at the Lawton Fish. Notice the peak of the roof of the building in the background. If the camera was held in a somewhat horizontal position, you would never have seen the roof of the building. But instead, the camera was held close to the subject, and at an angle of perhaps around a 45 degree upward (angle) giving the fish in front of the man an appearance of being much longer than it was. Also, compare the Lawton Fish ...and if you care too, have a look at any of my World Record Fish on this stationery. Note the background showing that the camera was held mostly horizontal. Yep, not to argue, but the...Lawton Fish... (is) FAKE...

 

Well, I couldn’t let that challenge pass! So I responded to Lou on April 6, 1976. I’m afraid I must take exception with your last letter. First let us discuss the pictures. As I look at the Lawton picture I see only a slight angle, perhaps eyeball to shoulder. As I look at the pictures on your stationery; top left (Spray’s 1940 record mislabeled as his 69 lbs. 11 oz. 1949 record), and top right (Spray’s 1939 record), I feel as though I am looking at your knees... The 59 ½ picture makes you look ten feet tall! Note: actually I was in error as it was Alton Van Camp holding that fish since there are none known with Spray holding it, but Alton was very close to the same height as Spray.

 

...let us examine very closely the pictures on your stationery of the 69-11 (mislabeled as the 69 lbs. 11 oz. 1949 World Record when in fact it was his 1940 record photo) and (the photo of the fish labeled as) 43 pounds. First the angle on the 43 seems to be on a normal (camera) level. Second, I submit that these two pictures ARE ONE AND THE SAME FISH!! A) The clothes and the hat are identical: B) Here is the real clue... It appears that the fish was clubbed on the side of the head, as the cheek is torn. I have examined hundreds of muskies and pictures and none had the marks on the cheek that this fish has! Further examination of the fish shows identical marks in other places. Yes, camera angle and closeness can (and did) make a difference... I am sorry if calling a spade a spade makes you mad, but I felt that it need be said.

 

In January of 1979, Spray sent another letter to (former) Field & Stream editor Hugh Grey. It asked, I am wondering if you can remember writing me a letter back in the Fall of 1957, asking me to contest the Lawton Muskie catch of September of that year...

 

I told you in my reply to your letter, that if I contested the Lawton Catch, that I was afraid of the ribbing I would encounter from Muskie Anglers, for poor sportsmanship I displayed, especially since I held the record so long myself. And also, at the time, I was unaware that Lawton did not have his Catch mounted.

 

For years I had been offering a Prize of $2,500.00 to anyone breaking the Record, and since Lawton did not contact me on the matter, I suspicioned (sic) that the catch was somewhat doubtful as a Record, and especially so now that I had (sic) your letter at hand. But for reasons above mentioned, I chose not to favor you with a Contest. But now I wish I would have...

 

About a month later in February of 1979, Hugh Grey responded. I’m afraid I can’t be of much help to you in response to your letter of January 23rd which was forwarded to me by FIELD & STREAM. I have not been associated with the magazine since 1975 and have no access to correspondence files.

 

We were always having controversy over the musy (sic) record, it seems to me, and I can’t confirm or disavow the letter you refer to...

 

So, returning to the letters received by Field & Stream, we have two “anonymous” letters, with only first and second hand “hearsay” information. Hardly conclusive or acceptable but the two anonymous letters and the Spray letter likely contributed to an extensive and intensive investigation by Field & Stream, which supposedly included the use of the Pinkerton Detective Agency.

 

The use of Pinkerton was reported by John Dettloff in his 1992 Investigation of Arthur Lawton’s World Record Muskie. Unfortunately I cannot include the investigation in its entirety, as the report is Mr. Dettloff’s copyright material. We will however, use excerpts from it since it is an unpublished public record and part of the IGFA and NFWFHF files, both public institutions. I was supplied a copy by Dettloff and the IGFA in 1992.

 

Dettloff’s investigation includes an unsigned A.J. McClane affidavit that Dettloff prepared after talking to McClane, a Field & Stream Contest Judge at the time of the Lawton record catch and an employee of Field & Stream magazine as Fishing Editor. This unsubstantiated affidavit is discussed below. Dettloff later was quoted by Shawn Thompson in the November 7, 1992 issue of the The Whig-Standard newspaper of Gananoque, Ontario.

 

...Mr. Dettloff recounts an intriguing but unsubstantiated story that Field & Stream hired the Pinkerton detective agency to look into the Lawton fish and the agency found the fish had been bought. According to that story, the magazine was too embarrassed to take away a title it had already given.

 

But Mr. Dettloff, after publishing this story along with his steamy findings in Musky Hunter Magazine, says there’s no evidence for it and that he doesn’t believe it himself.

 

Interestingly, Dettloff used the unsubstantiated story regarding Field & Stream’s use of the Pinkerton Detective Agency as part of his diatribe to discredit the Lawton record. Dettloff’s recant regarding the use of Pinkerton certainly doesn’t support the comment in his investigation that McClane …displayed an excellent memory of the details associated with the Lawton muskie. Dettloff’s reference to Pinkerton begs the question, If he didn’t believe it, why then did he use it? Was it used to add false credibility to his investigation? Was his dedication of the Lawton investigation to the critically ill A.J. McClane calculated to add credibility and possibly gain sympathy and support?

 

Perhaps Dettloff changed his position on the unsubstantiated statement attributed to McClane regarding the Pinkerton Detective Agency when the, you-know-what, hit the fan after Lawton’s record was removed and he had to face the scrutiny of media interviews.

 

In the Whig-Standard, Dettloff’s claim, that …the magazine was too embarrassed to take away a title it had already given, is false based on Field & Stream’s files because their investigation was concluded before they awarded Lawton the record, i.e.; despite what Dettloff claimed in the unsigned McClane affidavit and in his magazine articles, the correspondence time-line in the Field & Stream record files ends once the Lawton muskie was accepted as a record!

 

The McClane (unsigned) affidavit prepared by Dettloff read I, A.J. McClane, author, fishing editor of Field & Stream magazine for over 40 years, and a long time judge of Field & Stream’s annual fishing contest have this statement to make on Arthur Lawton’s world record muskie from 1957.

 

First, it should be known that, at the time of Lawton’s entry in 1957, part of our criteria in accepting a world record fish was that a photograph of the fish was required and mandatory. Without a photo, we would not accept an entry as a world record.

 

This criterion is unsubstantiated. A protocol requiring a photograph in order for a world record contest entry to be accepted does not exist. To the contrary, Lawton’s Field & Stream contest entry affidavit specified It is highly important that you send a photograph of the fish entered, if possible. Clearly, a photograph was not required but was requested only if possible! Here’s more of the unsigned McClane affidavit.

 

When Arthur Lawton entered his 69# 15 oz muskie in 1957 into our Field & Stream contest, we went on the available evidence at hand, at the time, and made a decision to accept his muskie as a world record. Some time after Lawton’s muskie was granted world record status, we learned new information which threw much doubt on the legitimacy of his fish.

 

This statement is likewise unsubstantiated and defies the recorded time-line of the Lawton Field & Stream file. In hindsight, I wonder whether McClane’s statements were the product of a faulty memory some 34-years after the fact, influenced by his terminal condition, influenced by “leading” questions asked of him by Dettloff, or does McClane’s affidavit only reflect Dettloff’s interpretation of what he “thought” he heard? More of the unsigned McClane affidavit.

 

We enlisted the help of Pinkerton investigators and learned that the Lawton muskie was most likely netted by Indians. I now do not believe Lawton’s 69# 15 oz muskie was legitimate...

 

This statement, attributed to McClane in an unsigned affidavit prepared by Dettloff, is the same statement Dettloff later claimed he did not believe. The newspaper article incorrectly stated ...the agency found the fish had been bought, but Dettloff quoted McClane as having said that it ...was most likely netted by Indians and not caught by Lawton. The unsigned affidavit continued.

 

As one of the Field & Stream fishing contest judges who granted acceptance to the Lawton muskie in 1957, I strongly recommend and encourage a thorough investigation to be done on the Lawton fish.

 

This statement was obviously included by Dettloff in his preparation of this McClane affidavit to bolster the legitimacy of his investigation. Here is more of McClane’s affidavit.

 

If any of our criteria was not properly met, I recommend Lawton’s world record muskie be disqualified by both the IGFA (International Game Fish Association) and the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame.

 

The world record muskie is one of the most prestigious of all fresh water fishing records and it is of paramount importance that accurate records be maintained for posterity.

 

This too is likely a statement woven into the McClane affidavit by Dettloff as it appeared nearly verbatim in his article Lawton World Record Overturned under his byline as historical editor in the Oct./Nov. 1992 issue of Musky Hunter magazine in another affidavit he obtained from former Field & Stream Contest Judge H.J. Rayner. The above affidavit ended Signed, A.J. McClane.

 

As noted above however, the affidavit was never signed. Mrs. McClane’s footnote affidavit was also prepared by Dettloff. It read as follows.

 

I, Mrs. Al McClane, would like to state for the record that my late husband, Al (A. J.) McClane, intended on signing the above statement and recommendation concerning Art Lawton’s world record muskie, but died of cancer suddenly before he was able to sign it. I was with my husband when he told the above statements to John Dettloff over the phone and verify that the conversation took place. My husband considered this an important matter to resolve and, due to the extenuating circumstances involved, I feel his above statements and recommendation of a through investigation of the Lawton muskie be taken very seriously and acted upon.

 

Mrs. Al McClane

 

Ann Sodahl

Notary Public, State of Florida

My Commission Expires: Oct. 23, 1995

Bonded thru Notary Public Underwriters

 

Quite the self-serving footnote Dettloff prepared for a short time grieving Mrs. McClane. After her husband died, I am sure the affidavit was the last thing Mrs. McClane needed to worry about. Regardless, she reportedly attested to McClane’s unsubstantiated statements, including the part about the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Or did she? Later she refuted her affidavit in a 1992 article entitled Something fishy about record flak by John Husar, in his column On the outdoors in the Chicago Tribune. Husar quoted then IGFA spokesman Ray Crawford regarding the statement attributed to Mr. McClane in the following paragraph.

 

Crawford disputes Dettloff’s contention that A.J. McClain (sic) the late Field & Stream judge, had urged an investigation of the record in a deathbed phone conversation last December. “I talked with Al McClain’s (sic) widow {Tuesday} and she said her husband said nothing of the sort,” Crawford said.

 

Dettloff wrote to me regarding Crawford’s quote saying I never said McClane did this. Someone over dramatized this event. That seems unlikely since his investigation dedication to McClane read, in part as follows.

 

...Last November, when Al McClane learned about my investigation and new evidence showing that Art Lawton had submitted a false photograph of his world record muskie, he encouraged a thorough investigation with the hopes that the truth might be learned, once and for all. Even during the last weeks of his life, knowing he didn’t have long to live, Al McClane still considered this an important matter to be cleared up. His involvement and contributions to this investigation was one of the last “official” acts of his life...

 

Since Husar had met with Dettloff it is likely that Dettloff made a similar comment to him, and of course Husar read Dettloff’s report, as had Crawford. Additionally, the NFWFHF related a similar “deathbed” reference in their news release after the Lawton disqualification which said ...A.J. McClane a highly credible personality in the fishing industry who died just recently, spoke to Dettloff and through his widow on his deathbed. ...he advised Dettloff to search out the details...

 

These factors likely prompted the Husar/Crawford quote. There was no “over dramatization,” just fact.

 

The late Elwood K. Harry, then President of the IGFA, related the following to me in a letter dated April 6, 1992 with regard to the McClane unsigned affidavit indicating his dismissal of it, Mrs. McClane’s footnote affidavit notwithstanding. He told me ...As you know, Al McClane passed away and anything relating to Al’s commitments or statements could not be verified with him at this time...

 

Dettloff quoted other unsubstantiated statements by McClane claiming that the Field & Stream Lawton investigation occurred after Lawton had been awarded his record. He interpreted other McClane comments to explain why Field & Stream was too embarrassed to withdraw Lawton’s record. He attributed the following to McClane.

 

Such a big deal was made about Lawton’s musky being the world record. Awards had already been presented by the Governor of the State of New York, Field & Stream, etc. Plus there were rumors about several of the previous world’s record muskies being questionable.”

 

Dettloff then made a quantum leap of interpretation of McClane’s unsubstantiated statement when he wrote the following.

 

I gathered from this response that it was an awkward situation for everyone involved and it was easier to let the Lawton fish “slide.”

 

Another comment ...You see, we take this world’s record business pretty seriously and for that reason whenever a new one is established we feel we must investigate it from every angle... by Field & Stream Editor Hugh Grey in one of his letters below when he began the Field & Steam investigation of Lawton, there is no question in my mind that Field & Steam would not have ...let the Lawton fish “slide” as Dettloff claims. The time-line scenario related by Dettloff just isn’t so, and I will prove it shortly.

 

In an AUTHORS NOTE in his 1992 Musky Hunter magazine article Dettloff made a statement that further revealed the shallowness of his investigation using this unverified information and his lack of substantiation. He also made an interesting revelation when he admitted that he believed that Lawton did indeed catch his record fish when he wrote It is not known what kind of information made McClane believe that Lawton’s musky may not have been legally caught. Evidently, McClane was unable to obtain hard evidence proving his suspicion. Due to the lack of (evidence) and my own inability to discover any such evidence – and knowing that Lawton was indeed a hardcore musky fisherman – I do believe Lawton caught his fish. My investigation just proves that his fish was much smaller than it was claimed to be.

 

I strongly disagree that Dettloff proved Lawton’s fish to be smaller than claimed. His above statement is contradictory. If Lawton did catch his fish as Dettloff says, and multiple affidavited witnesses support the claim, how could it be “smaller” than claimed? Witnesses, including only one disinterested weight witness, were enough for Dettloff to convince the NFWFHF board to uphold the Spray record. Read on.

 

Indeed, Field & Stream conducted an investigation. Importantly, the dates of all correspondence, including the anonymous letters and the Spray letter received by Field & Stream, the investigational letters below to and from Field & Stream, and the telegram of notification of acceptance from Field & Stream Editor Hugh Grey to Lawton, substantiate that the Field & Stream investigation was concluded before Lawton was awarded his record!

 

Following is a letter to Field & Stream from a New York Conservation Department employee.

 

Jan. 27, 1958

 

Miss Mary Ball

Fishing Contest Dept.

Field and Stream

530 Fifth Ave.

New York 36, N.Y.

 

Dear Mary:

 

Perhaps the status of Arthur Lawton’s muskalonge entry has reached a point where a trained investigator should come into the picture.

 

It is not possible, of course, for Conservation Department employees to get into this kind of act – as much as we would like to.

 

Our District Fisheries Manager at Watertown has recommended a retired game protector who knows the area well for this kind of assignment.

 

I have already discussed this on the phone with Mr. Grey. Since I am not in a position to do much more at this time I am returning Mr. Lawton’s affidavit.

 

The next time I am in Albany, I’ll try once more to contact Mr. Lawton by phone. If anything of interest or value develops, I’ll get in touch with you. And, of course, if anything turns up in your office in which I might be of help, let me know.

 

With best wishes.

 

Sincerely,

(signed by writer)

 

At the suggestion of this New York Conservation Department employee, Field & Stream editor Hugh Grey sent the following letter to the aforementioned “retired game protector.”

 

February 5, 1958

 

Mr. (unnamed)

(address)

 

Dear (unnamed):

 

A problem has come up in our Prize Fishing Contest with which you might be able to give us a hand. Last September we had a 69 pound 15 ounce Muskellunge entered in our Prize Fishing Contest by Mr. Arthur Lawton of Delmar, New York.

 

Because this fish would constitute a new world’s record, beating Louis Spray’s 69 pound 11 ouncer by four ounces, we started to find out as much about it as we could. A newspaper clipping from the Rochester Times-Union of October 24 says that the fish was taken near Clayton, but we have anonymous letters to the effect that Mr. Lawton fished elsewhere. Because of these anonymous letters and the circumstances surrounding the catch, we asked a biologist of the New York Conservation Department, with headquarters at Albany, to see if he could find out a little more about the fish, inasmuch as Delmar is only a short distance from Albany. So far Mr. Lawton has seen fit to evade these inquiries.

 

Because of the great interest in muskies and muskie fishing, it occurred to us that you would have heard if any fish of this size were taken in the St. Lawrence, even though it might have been landed on the New York side. If you do know anything about this fish, we would certainly appreciate hearing from you and should you so desire would keep any information you care to pass along in strictest confidence.

 

You see, we take this world’s record business pretty seriously and for that reason whenever a new one is established we feel we must investigate it from every angle. For your information, incidentally, Mrs. Lawton won second prize with a 52 pound 5 ounce muskie. In 1955 Mr. Lawton himself won first prize with a 58 pound 13 ounce fish.

 

Comparative statistics with Mr. Lawton’s 69 pound 15 ounce entry shows his fish measured 64 ½ inches in length and 31 ¾ inches in girth. Spray’s current 69 pound 11 ounce world’s record measured 63 ½ inches in length and 31 ¼ in girth. With all these facts before you, I am sure you can see why we are moving cautiously in accepting Mr. Lawton’s fish as a new world’s record and are endeavoring to find out all we can about the catch.

 

It was certainly good seeing you again when we were all up at the cabin in September. I imagine the river looks a lot different now than it did at that time and that you have really got plenty of snow. (Unnamed) and (also unnamed) join me in best regards and hope that you may be able to contribute some information to our investigation of Mr. Lawton’s possible new world’s record fish.

 

Best personal regards,

Hugh Grey

 

A response to Grey’s letter was received.

 

(Town unnamed)

24 February, 1958

 

Mr. Hugh Grey,

Editor

 

Dear Mr. Grey:

 

On February 20th, I went to Clayton, NY to see people I know about Mr. Lawton’s prize fish. Field & Stream Magazine was not mentioned to anyone in this conversation. First man was (unnamed) Game Protector, Clayton, NY.

 

Talking with him I found out several people had heard about his fish, but no one had ever seen any of his prize fish.

 

We went to the Clayton locker plant and they have the only scales in Clayton to their knowledge that will weigh over 24 lbs. and still weigh ounces, but his fish was not weighed there.

 

Talking with (unnamed) of Clayton who is a very respectable fishing guide, thought it funny one man could get such large fish every year and still no one ever sees them afterwards, but has never seen any real large ones. Of course Mr. (unnamed) knows Mr. Lawton enters fish every year in different contests.

 

(Unnamed) of Clayton, a guide told Mr. Lawton he did not see why a man would catch a big fish and then not show it to anyone.

 

It was reported to me that there was an argument between Mr. Lawton and Mr. (unnamed) over not showing his large fish to anyone.

 

I am very sorry I have not been able to be of much help on this, but will do anything I can.

 

Yours truly,

(Unnamed)

 

I should note here that in the above letters, the actual names involved have purposely been left out, due to necessary confidentiality involved in world record investigations.

 

Field & Stream had also sent the following letter to Art Lawton.

 

February 21, 1958

 

Mr. Arthur Lawton

R.D.

Delmar, N.Y.

 

Dear Mr. Lawton

 

We were disappointed to learn from Cecil Heacox the biologist of the New York Conservation Department and one of the judges of our Annual Fishing Contest, that you were unable to furnish him with more complete information about your 69 pound 15 ounce muskellunge. The catch is of particular interest to us because it is a potential world record and we had hoped you would further substantiate it for that reason.

 

So far as the contest is concerned, the completed affidavit form generally is sufficient but in the case of a new world record it is necessary to have all available information on record. As a protection to both ourselves and the angler, we take the records very seriously to avoid any controversy and because they must meet the approval of the scientific bodies in the field.

 

In this particular case, it’s difficult for us to reach a decision when the State Conservation Department is not fully informed. Although Field & Stream is responsible for the final decision, that opinion is very important, both as one of the contest judges and as a representative of the state in which the fish was caught.

 

In view of the above, I think you can understand the embarrassing position you have placed us in and trust you will reconsider the situation. Would you please give us a full account of the catch including such information as where in the St. Lawrence the fish was caught, where it was weighed, names and addresses of witnesses to the catching and weighing of the fish and any other details you feel would be helpful. Further, an affidavit attesting to the accuracy of the scales on which the fish was weighed is required for world records and if there were more than two witnesses to the weighing and measuring, please have as many as possible sign this affidavit.

 

We hope you will give the above your prompt attention and will be very pleased to receive any information which will help verify your catch.

 

Sincerely,

Mike Ball (name used by “Mary” Ball)

Fishing Contest Editor

 

Art Lawton replied promptly to the Field & Stream request. Before I publish his reply, here is something of interest from my review.

 

On the back of this letter Art Lawton received from Field & Stream is a handwritten note by him. It was likely an immediate thought that he had after reading the Field & Stream letter, however; these sentiments were not communicated to Field & Stream in Lawton’s reply to them. The note said

 

Why was (the) story started 2 to 3 wks before Mr. Heacox ever call that I would not talk to any of the conservation people. Answer all questions ask by Mr. Heacox. What is his reason for saying I that I was unable to furnish him with complete information? Has some off (sic) the boys in this department an ax (sic) to grind?

 

That note by Lawton is indeed interesting and the Heacox call is addressed in Lawton’s reply to Field & Stream.

 

R.D. Delmar, New York

March 3, 1958

 

Mr. Mike Ball

Fishing Contest Editor

Field and Stream

530 Fifth Avenue

New York 36, New York

 

Dear Mr. Ball:

 

In reference to your letter of Feb. 21, below is the information you requested.

 

The fish was caught in the St. Lawrence River in the vicinity of Clayton, New York.

 

It was weighed at Dunn Bros. on a scale which had a State Seal: an affidavit follows. There were five witnesses to the weighing and measuring: 1. Mr. Louis Hauf Jr., 1 Maple Street, Stop 36 ½, Albany-Schenectady Road, Albany, New York: 2. Mr. Robert Riley, 496 Delaware Avenue, Albany, New York: 3. Mr. J. Emerson Sharp, R.D. Slingerlands, New York: 4. Mr. Lauren Kisselburg, R.D. Slingerlands, New York: 5. Mr. Walter Dunn, R.D. Delmar, New York.

 

Mrs. Lawton was the only witness to the catching of the fish since we always fish alone.

 

In the matter of the information given to the biologist; at the time he telephoned me he asked the questions and I answered them. I feel that I answered all of the questions of interest to him as I did not refuse to answer any questions. If you feel that I should talk with him again, I will be very happy to talk with him and answer any questions he may have.

 

If you have further questions I will be pleased to answer them.

 

Sincerely,

Arthur Lawton

 

Field & Stream then received statements of verification from two weight witnesses and an affidavit from the person that signed off on the actual weighing.

 

March 10, 1958

 

Mr. Mike Ball

Fishing Contest Editor

Field & Stream Magazine

530 Fifth Ave.,

New York, N.Y.

 

Dear Mr. Ball:

 

In answer to your letter of March 7, 1958, this will confirm to you that Mr. Arthur Lawton of Delmar, New York caught a muskellunge on September 22, 1957, which weighed 69 pounds 15 ounces.

 

Sincerely,

Robert Riley

 

1 Maple Avenue

Albany 5, N.Y.

 

(circa March 10, 1958)

 

Dear Mr. Ball

 

This is to confirm for you that I was a witness to the weighing and measuring of the muskellunge caught by Art Lawton of Delmar, New York on September 22, 1957. The scales on which the fish was weighed had a state seal of inspection on it.

 

Sincerely,

Lou Hauf Jr.

 

March 20, 1958

 

This is to certify that on September 23, 1957, at Dunn Bros. slaughter house, Delaware Ave., Albany, NY, I supervised the weighing on state inspected beam scales of a sixty nine pound fifteen ounce muskellunge (69 lb. 15 oz.) allegedly caught on September 22, 1957, in the St. Lawrence River by Arthur Lawton of New Scotland (Delmar RD) New York.

 

Further, I measured this fish to be 64 ½ inches in length and 31 ¾ inches in girth.

 

Walter J. Dunn

 

Harold Dale Shaw

Witness

 

Sworn to before me

This 20th day of March 1958

Arthur Langlelder

Justice of Peace

Town of New Scotland

NY

 

I found it interesting to note the previous affidavit was witnessed by Harold Dale Shaw, the writer assigned by Field & Steam to do some additional checking on the Lawton claim and write the story of Lawton’s world record catch for the magazine.

 

Lawton then received a Western Union telegram from Field & Stream Editor Hugh Grey.

 

1958 MAR 17 PM

 

Arthur Lawton RD Delmar NY

 

Please phone me collect at MU-8-9100 so we may discuss announcement of your new world’s Muskie record in next issue of Field & Stream

 

Hugh Grey Editor Field & Steam Magazine

 

In the June 1958 issue of Field & Stream magazine, Mr. Shaw’s article Biggest Muskie Yet was published and pretty much told the story of the catch. However it was published in a much abbreviated form from the original version which he had submitted to the magazine. When I came across the unedited version in the Field & Stream files I found Mr. Shaw had given a much deeper insight into the life of Art Lawton, his fishing prowess and his normal course of action after his fishing trips much of which was not used. It was, I assume, edited for due to space constraints. It included material from Shaw’s personal interview of Lawton. Following are the salient parts from the unedited version of that article.

 

...Thus began a strange story – an adventure which started with the hair-raising action of a big fish battle and ended, if it has ended, with some of the overtones of a detective tale.

 

...”Tell me about the fish,” I said. “The editors of Field & Stream have sent me up to get the story for their readers. As you know, this is the biggest muskie caught in eight years, and the biggest ever taken on rod and reel. You must have been very excited when it happened.”

 

Lawton looked puzzled. “No. I wasn’t.” he said slowly. “You figure, some day you will tag one like that. It’s bound to happen. I’ve caught a lot of muskies, you know. My wife has too. So it’s bound to happen. She had the Field & Stream Contest top fish for 1956 – 60 lb. 8 oz. – and I had second place, and I had first place the year before that. So you get used to it. I don’t fish for records. I fish for muskies. When I caught the fish, I didn’t know it was a new record, or what it weighed, even. You see, it comes down to, I love the river. You said you’ve fished there – then you know what I mean. The St. Lawrence is God’s Country. Since 1936 I’ve spent every moment I could spare up there. No, I didn’t know when I caught him that Louis Spray out in Wisconsin held the record at 69 lbs. 11 oz. and that I had beaten him by 4 ounces. I don’t like this idea of beating anybody. Like I said, I fish for muskies, not records. My wife and I have caught more than 700 muskies since 1936!”

 

Lawton's%20first%20

Art (l) with brother Gordon and Art’s 1st Muskie 1936

 

More than twenty years of muskie fishing. Thirty-five muskies per season.

 

I wondered, how did one man and his wife catch so many and such big muskies, and in an area where the charter muskie guides thought they were doing fair if they brought in one or two legal fish in a week?

 

The catches of Arthur Lawton definitely set him far above the general angling throng, and make him one of the most outstanding muskie killers of our time. Few men have caught a muskellunge over fifty pounds, and Art Lawton has caught four, actually many more, one of them the 69 lbs. 15 oz. giant.

 

How does so much luck come to one man?

 

Says Lawton, there is not only luck. There is hard work and slow learning. There’s just learning how to work hard too. You begin by beginning very young.

 

...if you wanted to fish with Art Lawton you got up before the sun and you fished until after sunset. On a nice night, you might fish until 3 a.m., or right through until after dawn.

 

And you didn’t kid around too much, or get soused in the boat.

 

If you could stand that kind of fishing, you almost always saw fish. But they were not yours! They were Lawton’s. He almost always caught the most and the biggest fish. He was just too damn good. People got to resent that, of course, fishermen being prone to jealously as much or more than anybody else. And Art wasn’t going to catch less fish to placate anybody.

 

...In a boat with Lawton, you fished – ten, even eighteen hours a day if you fished – and you fished right.

 

“When they start to hit,” Art says, “you got to be there.” One thing I can’t stand is the idea of being in the cabin taking a nap when the big boys decide to get hungry. If I could fish 24 hours a day, I’d do it. I just love it that much.”

 

Thus the personality of a potential record-buster emerges.

 

...He left Gordon in his wake. Only Ruth could keep up with him – Ruth and an Indian named Oaks – a river-lover and meat fisherman who knew where the muskies were and how to catch them, but who didn’t guide commercially as a rule.

 

Oaks was nearly 60 then, and is now gone. At that age he stood 6 foot 2 and was built like a section of suspension-bridge cable.

 

The Lawton’s had no outboard in 1936. Oaks  was their outboard. He could blow breeze into a pair of “ash sails” from dawn til dusk. Art figures he rowed easily thirty to forty miles a day. One particular island was fifteen miles long, and a regular tour was to troll the length of it and back, and then down the river in another direction.

 

...By 1939, Lawton and his wife had settled down to fishing almost entirely alone. They knew the river and they had a motor. They had reduced muskie slaying to a cold science that was paying off regularly in sizzling action, thrills and sheer exercise.

 

...In one week’s vacation in 1939, they landed six muskies from 11 to 33 pounds. That’s nearly a muskie a day going into one boat, which any muskie devotee will tell you is just short of miraculous.

 

To do it, they fished every possible minute, day and night. They ate in their boat. They all but slept in it.

 

...Their system was to drive the 200 miles to the river on a Friday after work, start fishing the following dawn, fish til after dark Saturday, fish all day Sunday and drive home Sunday night. Week in, week out they followed this muskie-mad system. Week in, week out they brought in big catches, showed them to no one, stowed them in their car and trundled home.

 

...More discoveries. That a week centering on a full moon in September was the best time to fish. For years Lawton has arranged his vacation to cover just that time.

 

That an old hang-dog orange plug that has been kicking around the box for years would catch muskies – if Ruth used it. Caught her seven in two days. Helped her hook the biggest muskie Lawton has ever seen, a fish estimated at 75 pounds. She fought it to a standstill for 20 minutes before the drag froze and the fish broke off.

 

Since 1939, there hasn’t been a season they haven’t taken at least one muskellunge heavier than 30 pounds.

 

...In 1944 he broke the Field & Stream Contest with a 58 lb. 5 ouncer.

 

Lawton%201950%20

In my 1st Compendium this 1950 fish

was incorrectly shown as Lawton’s 1944 fish

 

In 1955 he made first again with a 58 lb. 13 oz. fish.

 

Lawton%2058-13

Art’s 58-13

 

In 1956 he had second with a 52 pound 5 ouncer. (He took second place to his wife, whose 60 lb. 8 oz. muskie placed first).

Sherlock

Lawton%2052-5%20%201956Ruth%20Lawton%2060-8

Two muskies – 112-pounds 13-ounces! Biggest fish in (l) photo s/a (r)

 

And now in the 1957 Contest, Lawton is back on top with a 69 lb. 15 oz. giant, a new world record.

 

What happened to Arthur Lawton on Monday, September 23, 1957, and during the weeks which followed will amaze some readers. However, they must understand that subsequent events were the result of the mysterious dramatic effect which big muskies and the talk of big muskies has on the majority of muskie chasers who  have not caught enough of them – or any of them – and who have not, therefore, developed a rational attitude toward those who enjoy special success in the sport.

 

Also it must be understood that subsequent events in Arthur Lawton’s life were partly the result of his unusual personality.

 

First of all, when it came to fishing, he was solitary. In other things, he has always been a companionable fellow, a man with pals, a league bowler, a camp party deer driver. Not a lonely person hard put to find a hand to shake.

 

However, the way he fishes, and with his secret spots and all, he has got to alone – that is, with his wife Ruth.

 

Still there is more to it. Success long back made him the center of a swarm of secret-seekers. He learned that for his purposes, which was to be a successful fisherman, there was only one way to protect your privately discovered productive spots from the meat hungry buddies you found slapping your back every time you showed game. Art Lawton, like most of the better hunters and fishermen, learned this, and learned it the hard way.

 

...”As soon as Ruth and I started taking big muskies out of the river the Albany papers played them up. Pictures and everything. I didn’t mind, but wouldn’t tell where I caught fish, and that made people mad. The phone started ringing. Strangers complaining and begging for tips.

 

For years since, Lawton has been getting demanding letters and calls. His reluctance to hand out information is matched only by his reluctance to flash his fish around. He’s caught more than two tons of legal muskies. Few people have seen many of them. The problem of combining a modestly productive workaday life with a heavy fishing schedule seems to be lessened if the fish are rapidly disposed of, and the expense reduced if none are mounted. Usually Lawton’s catches are cut into steaks and fillets by fish-eating friends within a day or two after his return to Albany. He does not eat muskie himself any more.

 

Art Lawton went to work at the storage company bright and early Monday morning. Sometime during the day he went into the cooler and looked at his fish. It looked nice. But he knew it was losing weight, and this bothered him. Begging off work early in the afternoon, he wrapped up his fish, put it in his car and drove home. When he got home, he hammered a 2 x 4 post into the lawn and hung the fish on it. Then he went in and made several calls to arrange for a weighing and for some witnesses, for he had a feeling the fish might belong in the Field & Stream Contest.

 

While Lawton rounded up his weigher and witnesses, gasping motorists screeched to a halt on the highway and scrambled out to have a look at the grand muskellunge in the yard. A similar scene had been enacted the week before. That time, returning from a week’s vacation on the river, Lawton had strung up nine muskies ranging from 20 to 49 ½ pounds. Gawkers backed up traffic for a mile.

 

Eventually Lawton put the fish in the car and drove to Walter Dunn’s slaughterhouse in Albany. The witnesses were already there...

 

...Lawton laid his fish on the scale bed, Dunn fiddled with the sliding weight, and the balance was soon struck.

 

“Sixty-nine pounds fifteen ounces,” Dunn said.

 

Everybody gathered close to check the reading. Dunn and Sharp signed a Field & Stream Contest affidavit. There was no discussion of a world record, for Lawton was still thinking only of the Field & Stream Contest. For that reason, he disposed of the big muskie as he had disposed of smaller ones before; he gave the meat to his friends. It did not occur to him to have the fish mounted, for he has no particular yen for fish on the wall and mounting is an expense he cannot incur.

 

But the facts were soon distorted into a “mysterious disappearance” by other anglers. It did not suffice them that the muskie had been seen and examined by witnesses, that it had been weighed on a licensed and inspected scale, that an affidavit had been sworn to before a justice of the peace.

 

Lawton is aware of the rumors and gossip and anonymous letter writing. He thought that the world record muskie was up high somewhere over seventy pounds. This impression is easily formed because articles on muskies repeatedly mention fish of 70, 80 and ever over 100 pounds have been seined by game wardens obtaining eggs for hatchery propagation.

 

Further, Field & Stream has not made a regular practice of publishing the world record listings, since the popular interest has been in the annual contest winners.

 

Actually, the world record muskellunge on the Field & Stream books before Lawton made his effort was caught in 1949, eight years previously. Lack of competitive activity in this class has very likely caused popular interest in the 1949 catch to fade.

 

Therefore, when rod-and-reel columns in Albany and other New York papers, and then, like flash fire, in papers throughout the nation, began to carry stories on Lawton’s catch, the writers of these columns demonstrated that they had made hasty recourse to their files in order to come up with data they published...

 

...Lawton’s claim had hardly been filed when suspicion and jealousy mounted to fever pitch in certain quarters – that is, in places where muskie men gathered to agree on how certain they were there was something wrong with this new claim.

 

The most hot-headed pointed out that no two fish could be that close in measurement, one just edging out the other.

 

Those with cooler heads, small voices in the storm, said that anyone trying to fake a world record would hardly be stupid enough to dummy up measurements and weight so close to those of the record he was out to beat. He would try to avoid the very suspicion that had been generated.

 

Art Lawton’s comment on this is still that on Monday of the weighing he did not know what the world record was. You have to consult a World Almanac to find out. A lot of people don’t own one.

 

As news of Lawton’s record claim spread, repercussions began to be felt in the Field & Stream offices in New York. One by one, strange letters arrived...

 

Informed that rumors were being circulated, Lawton said, “Remember that I caught nine muskies the week before the big one, and the best of the nine went 49 ½ pounds. A lot of people saw them, including this guide, I guess. He just figures that it was the 49 ½ pounder I’ve entered in the contest.”

 

As for mounted muskies, he did not like them – they were expensive to have done in the big sizes. They dominated a living room...There are no mounted fish anywhere in the Lawton house. He has no den in which to put one. Oh, there is one in the attic, a small one gathering dust. The only other Lawton mount is in a local sporting-goods store.

 

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Ruth’s 1956 giant

 

Actually, there were four mounted Lawton muskies. The two mentioned and two others, one of which was Ruth’s 60 ½ pounder from the previous year, 1956 (shown on the previous page). The three in Lawton’s possession were indeed in the attic. I viewed them when I was there in January of 1978. Let us continue with Shaw’s story.

 

However, there are those who point out that while the mounting of a world record muskie might cost 100 dollars or more, and might make a disgusting trophy, there are tavern owners who would gladly pay 500 or more to have one over the bar for publicity purposes, in order to enjoy the disgusting effect it would have on swarming customers.

 

Anyway, fan mail continued to arrive at Field & Stream, as late as December 21, 1957...

 

He quoted the one of the two anonymous letters previously exhibited above from the gentleman active in “game and fish clubs.”

 

Informed of this letter, Art Lawton explained that the nine muskies caught the week ending September 15 were taken out and seen by Benedict, who did not guide him, and that Benedict called a newspaper photographer to take a picture but Lawton left before he arrived. “Obviously,” says Lawton, “Benedict thought the one I entered as the world record was the 49 ½ pounder, but it was not. The one I entered was caught the next weekend, and further west. If I tell where I stayed, the place would be deluged. I simply cannot divulge that information, and it is not required for me to give it.

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The Lawton “Nine”

 

David Benedict, Indian, riverman, man of mystery, man with an opinion. What could he reveal?

 

Even in this automation age, the long-distance routing of the person-to-person call to Benedict was complex, and at that it ended in the lap of an information operator.

 

“Are there any David Benedicts in there?” I asked.

 

“There is only an Alec and a Michael.”

 

“Try Michael. Maybe I have the name wrong.”

 

She tried Michael. Michael answered.

 

My operator said, “Are you Mr. Benedict the fishing guide?”

 

Michael Benedict said, “No, you want Joe. He’s got no phone.”

 

I threw in: “Is there any David Benedict in there?”

 

And then it ended for good. Mike Benedict ended it for me. He said, “Dave died several months ago, in December.” And then he hung up. So did I.

 

In the end, everybody put in an opinion on the great St. Lawrence muskellunge, but perhaps of all came from Clayton Seghers, head of the New York State Conservation Commission, Division of Conservation Education, who compiles its trophy records and had this to say:

 

“We know there are muskellunge of world-record size in the section of the St. Lawrence where the Lawton’s fish, and we now that Art Lawton is an extremely persistent and successful muskellunge fisherman who took a muskie weighing more than 58 pounds as far back as 1944. He has been capturing top place in national fishing contests and New York State muskie records for years. If anybody was going to set a new world record, Lawton was the logical man to do it.”

 

When I visited with Art Lawton in January of 1978, I did a tape recorded interview with him. Following is the critical parts of that interview.

 

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“Here it is Larry-Art Lawton” as Art showed me his rod, reel

 and lure  during my 1978 visit - both photos were signed by Art

 

Larry: Art, while we’ve got this opportunity I would like to get the story from you first hand. There’s been, as always is the case with any record muskie, lots of stories of different things that were done that weren’t supposed to have been and tales, I think more from jealousy than anything. I’d like to get it from you in your own words, how the fish was caught, the entire story behind the fish if we could.

 

Art: Well, let’s see. We were trolling, I think it was about 4:30, 5:00 o’clock in the afternoon when I had this strike, hooked it and played it until more or less tired out which was about an hour, maybe ten, fifteen minutes. I’m sorry about the picture, put it that way. I guess there’s been a lot of talk but it was just one of those things that first of all, it didn’t come out good. I can’t remember just why, but my brother generally took the pictures and for some reason or another he was having a hard time to get to the house to take it. I didn’t realize that people really was that much interested in muskie fishing....

 

Larry: Okay, and you were trolling on your favorite grounds of course.

 

Art: One of those spots where we’d taken a few before, good sized ones. Well, we generally would start out around 9:30 and fish until 2:00 maybe 2:30, and then we’d pull in and have lunch. This day was no different as far as I can remember, only that I had a good fish when I came in that night.

 

Larry: The thought never entered your mind that you had a potential world record, I understand.

 

Art: No, I, well, I’d always said I’d like to get a record, but I never realized that this fish was a record.

 

Larry: Just knew it was probably the biggest one you’d ever caught?

 

Art: Yeah, if I would have realized it was a record, I would have pushed the northern back down in there that he threw up....

 

Larry: This was after you brought the fish to the boat?

 

Art: After I had him hooked, while bringing him in or fighting him, he emptied his stomach, whatever happened, and this northern, little muskie, whatever, it happened to be was hooked on one of those hooks on the plug....

 

Larry: We’d have to consider that this weight, your 69-pounds 15-ounces was the weight with an empty stomach actually....

 

Larry: What was your normal procedure than after you caught a big fish like this?

 

Art: Well, we put him on a rope and laid him over the side, dragged him around until we went in that evening.

 

Larry: Keep him fresh, in other words. You didn’t immediately quit fishing then,

 

Art: No, no!...

 

Larry: Okay, then what did you do with the fish after you got the official weight and got the witnesses to sign the affidavit and so forth?

 

Art: I gave it to the neighbors to be eaten.

 

Larry: Was this normal procedure for you?

 

Art: Yeah. Well you heard that today, from a little boy that ate a lot of them.

 

Larry: Right, we talked to Paul Martin who was one of your neighbors, the family of 11 children, and as was your normal practice, you gave them this fish, and you had given the numbers of big fish in the previous days.

 

Art: I always give them all they wanted of them, you know.

 

Larry: There’s always the question that’s asked me, why didn’t you mount this world record fish?

 

Art: Well, I had three or four mounted up in the attic which you saw.

 

Larry: Right, they’re sitting there gathering dust as has been written in articles. One of them I would say is close to a 60 inch fish and it’s laying there gathering dust (actual mount length which I measured later was 57 inches and I learned it was Ruth’s 60 ½-pounder from 1956 registered at 63 ¼-inches fresh length).

 

Art: If I’d ever realized what I could have made or did with it, I would have had it mounted, believe me....

 

Larry: The first time then when you realized that you had a record fish was when Field & Stream contacted you?

 

Art: Right.

 

Larry: “That was probably 30 days later?

 

Art: Yes, it must have been all of a month later....

 

Larry: You had done, as you normally had done, by getting the fish weighed on a certified scale; getting the signatures of the witnesses to the weight; and then disposed of the fish in your normal manner.

 

Art: Yeah, the regular way we had always done.

 

Larry: And, I remember our previous conversation, you told me that the weather that day that you took the picture was bad, almost didn’t even get a picture of the fish.

 

Art: That’s right. I come near to not getting, well, I almost had to fight to get my brother to come out and take the picture. We didn’t have a, well, I had a little camera, but for some reason or another that wasn’t working, or we didn’t have film, and that picture was taken late in the afternoon. It was, well, almost dusk.

 

Note: On September 22, 2006 I received a letter from Lawton nephew Art Molle following up on an earlier letter he had sent me with what he believed to be a newly found photo of Lawton’s record fish. That letter said in part ...I still believe the picture...is the worlds record, as he (Art) apologized for having only one photo left in his camera. I believe the line across photo at face, head and roof level was caused by being last photo...

 

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Molle’s “last Lawton photo”

 

This was an important photo discovery by Mr. Molle but more importantly his statement accredited to Art Lawton for his “apologizing” for having only one photo left in his camera is of even more importance. I will cover this more later.

 

Larry: So, we don’t have the fish mount for posterity and we’re fortunate to have the one picture that had been in existence of the fish.