Share this travel adventure!

A Giant Muskie, Mythical Creatures & the Boat Motor Graveyard

National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum

Towering over the museum grounds, the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum’s giant four-and-a-half stories tall muskie is called a “shrine to anglers.”

For visitors, like me, to Hayward, WI, it’s an amazing conglomeration of concrete, steel, and fiberglass with a little–or a lot–of paint thrown in.

I’ll admit this giant fish also makes me wonder if a dinosaur could be hiding somewhere around the trees and park benches too.

Giant fish at the Fishing Hall of Fame in Wisconsin.

Giant fish at the Fishing Hall of Fame in Wisconsin.

Fishing Hall of Fame Museum

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the giant musky though, is the fact that all that fiberglass covers a museum display and staircase to the top of the muskellunge (the muskie’s real name).

Remember Jaws, the movie?

Well now you can put yourself inside even bigger jaws, peering out between enormous top and bottom teeth, at the grounds below. Or, you can take photos of the kids and grandparents waving down at you from between those sharp, needle-like teeth.

Children in the mouth of the giant muskie at the Fishing Hall of Fame in Wisconsin.

Children in the mouth of the giant muskie at the Fishing Hall of Fame in Wisconsin.

Kids, when they’re done climbing inside the giant musky, will love the seven-acre outdoor park around the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum buildings. Its grounds are covered with a sea of other oversized fish, although none as massive as the muskie.

The Mythical Wisconsin Hodag

Inside the four-building museum complex there are lots of not-so-massive, but “once-real” stuffed fish. And the most impressive of these? The 69 pound, 11 ounce, world famous muskie pulled from Wisconsin’s Chippewa flowage by Louis Spray.

The mythical first fisherman at the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum.

The mythical first fisherman at the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum.

I, however, found myself much more drawn to a not-so-real statue of the primitive fisherman.

Mythical creatures fascinate me, so when I held his hand I imagined this hairy primitive fisherman as a sasquatch, or bigfoot, since there are many reported “sightings” in Wisconsin.

There are a lot more mythical creatures in Wisconsin than bigfoot though–some of them never seen elsewhere!

Over the years that we raced snowmobiles in the Wisconsin northwoods, I became quite familiar with the Rhinelander hodag.

“What’s a hodag?” you ask.

Well, stories tell that it’s a horned green (or black) creature with a spiked back like its prehistoric ancestors, and the horrible smell of a skunk combined with the stench of buzzard meat.

Thank goodness I’ve never met or smelt a hodag–although it appears that despite Eugene Shepard’s photos and displays at local fairs, that nobody ever has. Indeed the hodag was proven to be a construction even more elaborate than the Fishing Museum’s giant muskie.

Annual Hodag Events

Despite its mythical status, Rhinelanders still have a lot of fun with their hodag. Many events carry the hodag name, including the Hodag Country Festival held each summer.

As you might guess, the musky inspires just as many events as the Rhinelander hodag, with one of the most exciting being the Hayward Lakes Chapter of Muskies Annual Fall Fishing Tourney.

Motor graveyard

Motor graveyard in the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum.

With the popularity of sportfishing in Wisconsin, it’s no wonder the freshwater fishing hall of fame ended up here in Hayward.

Motor Graveyard

Much to my surprise,though, it was the Motor Graveyard that I found most fascinating in the museum’s collection of more than 50,000 artifacts and vintage pieces displayed. I’d never imagined–never mind seen–so many different types of boat motors!

Row after row of boat motors line the walls, each with an information card giving all the important stuff, like horsepower and manufacturing year. Right about then I realized boat motors have as long of a history as cars.

Who knew?

Inboards, outboards, whatever kind of vintage motor you’d like to see, there’s probably one in the museum’s collection of 1000+ motors!

National Fishing Hall of Fame

Of course, the museum is also a Hall of Fame, recognizing contributions to freshwater sport fishing’s many different aspects, from maintaining public awareness, to professionalism in the sport.

As well as people, the hall of fame notes the record fish themselves. Its record book covers world size and line-class records for all of the fresh water species in North America. And that’s a lot of record keeping judging by the more than 300 mounted freshwater fish on the museum walls.

While I highly recommend a visit to see inside the museum walls as well as the giant musky outside the museum, if you can’t, here’s a short YouTube clip that will give you an idea of what you’re missing!

Visit the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum

Fishing Hall of Fame
10360 Hall of Fame Dr.
Hayward, WI 54843
Phone (715) 634-4440


My thanks to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism for hosting my Wisconsin Northwoods visit. Also, thanks to Geiger & Associates for organizing such a great trip!

Updated June 13, 2018.

More Things to Do in Wisconsin

EAA Aviation Museum — 200+ Historic Airplanes in Oshkosh, WI

The EAA Aviation Museum in Oshkosh, WI, displays 200+ historic planes and replicas, while celebrating experimental aircraft and innovation in airflight technology. In addition, there are some military vehicles, along with lots of written historical documents and memorabilia.

Paddling Adventures in Peninsula State Park — Door County, WI

Peninsula State Park, in Wisconsin’s Door County, is a popular summer destination — enjoy paddling across the Bay to Horseshoe Island from Nicolet Beach.

From National Bootlegger’s Day to Modern Microbreweries & Distilleries

The wells all ran dry in the United States on January 17, 1920 -- or were supposed to. On that day, some 97 years ago, 1520 Prohibition Agents were sent out into the world to get rid of all the alcohol. The most famous of them all was Elliot Ness, who joined the...

Paul Bunyan, Snowmobiles, a Giant Chainsaw & More in Wisconsin #TriviaTuesday

There are lots of surprises hiding between the trees in the Wisconsin Northwoods. In fact, one of my favorite heroes of traditional tall tales, Paul Bunyan, and his blue ox, were the first things I saw through the pines while driving into Sayner, Wisconsin. [tabs...

What’s the Famous Cherry Breakfast Dish at Door County’s White Gull Inn?

The White Gull Inn is an elegant, 120 year-old B&B situated in Fish Creek, WI, in Door County. It won the 2010 Good Morning America Breakfast Challenge.

What’s the Primary Collection of the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass in Neenah, WI?

The Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass in Neenah, Wisconsin, specializes--of course--in glass. And glass, as you'll find when you visit, is an art form that's as varied and beautiful as any other art you can name. ...

Things to do in Wisconsin: Door Shakespeare Theatre & Northern Sky Theater Outdoors

In an era where virtual reality and movie special effects can fly audiences through distant galaxies and send them careening down the bloodstream inside the human body, it's hard to imagine that a small balcony, two sets of stairs and the sheltering arms of a maple...

Visit the Dutch Windmill in Little Chute: An Authentic 1850s Wind Mill

"Whooooomp...whooomp...whomp." The wind mill blades started turning slowly, as if the wind had trouble pushing the enormous blades. But move they did, round and round and round, settling into a steady rhythm on the hot summer day in Little Chute, Wisconsin. I stared...

Take Me Out to the Ball Game — Timber Rattlers at Fox Cities Stadium

We like to celebrate tradition -- and what's more traditional than baseball, the old ball game? Whether it's the crack of the bat against the ball, or those glorious afternoons and evenings of summer fun, it's a sport North Americans love! I know the crowd at...

Things to do in the Wisconsin Northwoods–Watch a Lumberjack

"Yo ho," yelled the lumberjack, rolling the sound out like an echo vibrating through a canyon. "Yo ho," a few hundred kids shouted back with as much enthusiasm as you'd expect at the midway on Fair Day. That took me by surprise, as even though I'd grown up...

About the Photo

The photo in the header is of the giant muskie “shrine to anglers” at the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum in Hayward, Wisconsin, USA.

Share this travel adventure!