Friday, March 1, 2013

Finned Fakes

Belleville man is world's best at carving fish decoys
John McCoy Daily Mail Outdoors editor
"Reprinted with permission from the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail, Sept. 6, 2002."
BELLEVILLE -- Some people carve duck decoys for a hobby. Scott Morrison carves fish decoys.
Yes, there is such a thing as a fish decoy. People in Midwestern states use them to lure real fish within spear range. And Morrison, with only four years of experience at carving decoys, already is the world's best at that arcane pastime.
He has a bit of an advantage. As a fisheries biologist with 22 years of experience, he knows how fish look and he knows how they swim.
That knowledge helped set him apart from the crowd two weekends ago, when he captured the world championship of fish decoy carving at the Great Lakes Fish Decoy Carvers and Collectors Association's convention in Livonia, Mich.
"It's a natural fit for me," says Morrison, who lives next to the Ohio River near the Belleville Locks and Dam in Wood County. "It's kind of refreshing to be involved with a group of people who care as much about the way a fish swims in the water as they do about its looks."
Unlike duck decoys, which are judged solely upon their looks, fish decoys also must move properly in the water to score points with contest judges.
"In order to attract fish, a fish decoy has to have some movement to it," Morrison explains. "When activated by a pull on its tether line, it should ‘swim' in a lazy circle."
Six Midwestern states still allow anglers to spear large fish such as sturgeon and northern pike.
Because spear fishing takes place through the thick ice of frozen lakes, anglers use decoys to attract fish to the holes they chop through the ice.
"It's pretty neat how spear fishing works," Morrison says. "You sit in a black- walled tent that shuts out all the light. You lower your decoy into the water, and it's just like looking into a television set. When the big fish come over to inspect the decoy, it swims into the picture and you spear it."
Morrison had never even heard of a fish decoy until six years ago, when he saw one displayed at a duck-decoy competition in Cleveland. The sighting struck a chord in the 52-year-old biologist, who had carved duck decoys for years with only modest competitive success.
"I figured I knew a lot more about fish than I know about ducks," he says.
Two years later, he began entering fish decoy competitions. His works earned immediate acclaim.
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