The first real rumblings of the idea for the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum begin around 1960 when Bob and Fannie Kutz started developing and managing the project in Hayward, Wisconsin. Finding the funding wasn’t easy, but thanks to the efforts of local businessmen and volunteers, the Jim Beam Company decided in the 1960s that it could help by producing collectable whiskey decanters in the shape of prize fish, and they would share the proceeds with this new Hall of Fame.
A temporary museum (in what’s now the entry building) opened in 1976, and people started coming to see what this place was all about. Some even joined as members to support this attraction that would bring fishermen from around the world.
Construction began on the big fiberglass muskie in 1978, and it was finished (along with a large walleye) in 1979 to start the “Sea of Fishes” sculptures that would decorate the grounds of the Hall of Fame. The muskie itself is an amazing 5-story-tall walk-through museum, lined with display cases and historic fishing artifacts as well as plaques honoring donors, and you can stand in the creature’s mouth to get a great wide view of the Hayward area.
The lakes and rivers around Hayward have long been legendary among freshwater fishermen. Five world-record muskellunges have been caught in local waters over the years.
Here at the Hall of Fame in the 1980s, several new museum buildings were constructed, and the collection of artifacts and prize fish grew. In the 1990s, a new hall of boats and outboard motors was also added, and Hayward’s fame as a must-see and must-fish destination grew.
The big fish sculptures here now include a bluegill, a Coho salmon, a large- and a small-mouth bass, a rainbow trout, and a perch to delight fishermen and women of all ages, but the muskie is the only one big enough to walk into, and it’s worth the trip. Watch out for those teeth when you’re standing in the mouth.
THE BIG MUSKIE
THE NATIONAL FRESH WATER FISHING HALL OF FAME & MUSEUM
P.O. Box 33
10360 Hall of Fame Drive
Seniors (Ages 65 and older) $5.50
Ages 10–17 $3.50 Ages 2–9 $2.50
Ages 2 and under Free
Open 7 days a week April 15-November 1.
Summer hours 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Under 10 must he accompanied by an adult.