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Hooked on classics

It took a lot of parts and creativity to build this pole used for ice fishing.

During these cold winter months, if you are driving near or along the Mississippi River you see multiple shanties and people fishing on the frozen river.

Ice fishing in La Crosse has been ongoing since before the European settlers came to the area. This week’s artifact, a homemade fishing rod, likely caught quite a few fish in the Coulee Region.

Ice fishing has a long history in this area. Indigenous people throughout the Midwest and across North America originally ice fished by placing a wooden decoy into their ice hole and then spearing fish through the hole. They used chisels to chip through the ice.

Later, Europeans utilized iron ice chisels in a variety of shapes and sizes as their technique of creating the ice hole until the mid-20th century.

Today ice fishing is a social activity, and modernity has only helped improve the technology of ice fishing. People have the option to use sonar units to help discover the location of fish, and they can use fast, powered augers to quicken the pace. Even with these advancements, ice fishers still utilize fishing rods.

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This homemade pole has been assembled with found materials.

It is 22 inches long and has a wooden spindle for a handle, probably a piece of an old chair or tool.

The tip of a fiberglass fishing rod, about a foot long, has been imbedded to the end of the handle.

The creator of this fishing pole then used electrical tape to fasten a metal cleat onto the handle to hold the extra line. The cleat is stamped with “T&S MFG CO LAX WIS.” The “T&S” likely stands for John Torrance and Son Foundry, a local business begun in 1876 and is still in operation today.

Unfortunately, the pole was dropped off anonymously at the historical society, and we do not know the maker of this cobbled-together ice fishing rod. But the ingenuity is certainly admirable.

The pole represents a beloved winter sport that has stood the test of time. The record for the ice fishing rod can be found in our online collections.

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