By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Whether you’re from the Land of 10,000 Lakes or Dairyland USA, fishing is a pretty big deal.

In this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen takes us just across the border to the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin.

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In the town of Hayward the line has been cast, the hook has been set, and about 50,000 visitors a year are reeled in.

“I remember bringing my niece here when she was younger and now bringing our friends here, it’s just a good place to make some memories,” said Nina Ruud, visiting from San Diego, CA.

This is also home to the world’s largest muskie. It’s about four stories tall and half a city block long.

“I’ve seen the inside of a couple of muskies, but nothing quite this big,” said Erik Johnsen, visiting from Deephaven, Minnesota.

From the inside of the mammoth muskie to the inside of the museum, you’ll find the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. It’s a shrine to more than 400 anglers, including founders Bob and Fannie Kutz.

The hall features record holders and those who’ve made significant contributions to the sport.

“Louis Spray who caught the world record muskie. Curt Gowdy, the list goes on and on,” said Emmett Brown, executive director.

The who’s who of freshwater fishermen and women includes inductees from across the country, but Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan have the most.

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“This is where the concentration of freshwater is. It’s up here,” said Brown.

There are also over 100,000 artifacts inside, including rooms dedicated just to the evolution of boat motors dating back to the early 20th century.

Legend has it that Ole Evinrude invented his famous outboard motor so he could get to the ice cream parlor across the lake a little bit faster.

You’ll also find vintage reels, mounts, electronics and, of course, fishing lures. More than 20,000 to be exact. From the primitive to the colorful.

“Most lures were made to catch fishermen, not fish,” said Brown.

If the walls could talk there would be endless tales to tell. Here, you don’t even have to be an angler to catch fishing fever or at least an appreciation for what the sport has meant to the Midwest.

“We love it. It’s all about fishing and we came to see the big fish,” said Heather Storey, visiting from La Crescent, Minnesota.

“We like to say it’s like a peek into granddad’s old tackle box. I think they can get that from us, too. Oh yeah, I remember that,” said Brown.

Each year about seven or eight people are inducted into the Hall of Fame.

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And, if you’re thinking about getting married, weddings take place inside the mouth of that giant muskie.

John Lauritsen