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Mark Greenig: Fisheretto — A strange name for an equally strange decoy

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Mark Greenig: Fisheretto — A strange name for an equally strange decoy
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Here is a somewhat obscure tackle manufacturing company based in Minnesota. Beginning in 1910 six brothers opened a general store in Osakis, near Alexandria. One of the brothers, Sam, began making and selling fish lures in his basement. He fashioned four different fishing lures and two spearing decoys. It’s the Brown brothers “Fisheretto” spearing decoys we will focus on this week. They quit making fishing products in 1945. Most of my information comes from Frank Baron’s book titled, “Commercial Fish Decoys-Identification and Value”.

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Sam filed for a patent on his fishing lure on Oct. 30, 1918. The patent was awarded on Feb. 24, 1920. Make note, the Brown’s fashioned their fish decoys from the same design as the initial lure.

Sam Brown passed away in 1925. Thankfully, two of his brothers, Mike and Ed, carried on with the lure making business. They named their fish decoys, “Dark House Fish Decoys.” Not much creativity with the name, but there is no other fish decoy that resembles the Fisheretto decoy.

They produced only two designs and both are five inches in length. A quick glance reinforces one’s belief the fishing lure was designed first, followed by the fish decoy. The only noticeable difference with the fish decoy is the modified “convex belly.” It needed to be machined flat to establish an area for attaching side fins. As with most fish decoys, side fins are necessary for the decoy to swim in a circular fashion. Melted lead was used to balance the decoy so it would sit parallel to the bottom. To achieve that goal, weight was needed in both the head and center body area. Much to the collectors’ dismay, the Brown brothers used galvanized metal for the fins. The problem with such metal is paint pretty much refuses to stick to it. That is evidenced in all Fisheretto fish decoys I have looked at.

There are two different fin designs, which date their fish decoys. The earliest decoys have angel type fins, with the later design supporting fins which oddly look like a big “X”. All fish decoy fins were attached to the bottom of the piece with two small nails. The metal tail design is the same for all Fisheretto decoys. The rear fin was placed into a slot in the back of the decoy and attached with a nail. The line tie was a simple, single eyelet near the head. You should note early angel wing decoys line tie is placed farther back than the later model.

These fish decoys were painted by hand with all but a precious few having painted tack eyes. Some of their decoys do support glass eyes and thus are worth more. Most of the Fisheretto fish decoys I have seen are painted white and red or brown and red. The paint job is far from fancy. Heavy paint hardened drops are common on many of their fish. Also, the brown and red paint often have a touch of glitter-like material in it.

It’s always a good sign when I check eBay for prices on a sporting collectible and none are found. Such was the case when I searched for Fisheretto fish decoys on the Internet. Book value states these fish decoys are worth $25 to $50 each. I would agree with that estimate. A higher price is likely if you find or have one with no paint loss and glass eyes. If you do, let me take a look — I have never seen one like that. Until next time, may all your searches be successful.

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