My “Man Room” serves many purposes: it's a living room area and an outdoor storage area but mostly it’s a collection point for all things outdoors that were pretty neat at some point in time. Case in point, I have a JC Higgins reel that roughly dates back to the 1950s. It doesn’t work, but it has some interesting engraving on the side of it. I also have a 1954 Johnson outboard motor ashtray as well as a small collection of old fishing spears. I don’t know if Johnson still makes outboard motors, and I have never used the fishing spears, but all of the items are pretty neat and are a part of fishing history.
My Man Room is an eclectic assortment of items with the connecting thread being that everything is related to the outdoors. When Big River Rich offered to donate a copy of the Wisconsin 1940-41 Fishing Laws Booklet to the collection, I was happy to accept. I knew that it would be a great read at the very least.
On the inside cover of the booklet lists the price of each particular license. Can you guess how much a resident fishing license cost in Wisconsin 80 years ago? The fee was $1 and if you wanted to buy a nonresident license, that would set you back $3. For comparison purposes, today those same licenses cost $20 and $50.
Here is a small list of the cost of some other licenses in 1940: Deer - $1, Christmas Tree Dealer - $5, Clamming - $5, and Nonresident Clamming - $50. (Note that this was during the height of the clamming button making era.)
Compared to 1940, today’s fishing seasons are much more straightforward. For the most part, the fishing opener is on the first Saturday in May with some tweaks like the northern bass zone, etc. Back in the day, the seasons varied not only from lake to lake but also by species.
Shawano Lake would open April 15, and the Chippewa Flowage would open May 15, but that wasn’t as simple as it sounds because there would be areas off limits during the spawning season. So in addition to a fishing license, you also needed a plat map to know what areas were “out of bounds.”
Frog season is listed in the booklet, too. Growing up along the Mississippi River I knew people who speared frogs but I don’t recall anyone ever talking about an official season. In 1940, it ran May 15 to Dec. 31, but I can’t imagine that too many frogs were harvested during the last half of that season. Even more interesting is that in 1940 the season was closed in Jefferson and Walworth counties. (I can only guess that was a result of overharvesting and mismanagement of the frog herd back in the day.)
For me, every single page (48 total) of the booklet was an interesting read. I found some peculiar oddities in reading this old set of laws but I’m guessing that at the time, everything made perfect sense to the Conservation Congress who helped frame the rules. Interestingly enough the “CC” still acts in this same manner today, so in some respects: the more things change, the more they do stay the same.