This year’s “Let’s Go Fishing Show” held at the Collinsville Illinois Convention Center will again feature a popular attraction put on by the National Fishing Lure Collectors Club.

Visitors will see displays of old fishing lures, rods and reels, and other antique fishing equipment. Experts will be present to explain the origin of the lures or give you a history and appraisal of that old, favorite lure of yours. 

Fisherman, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts will also get a chance to view hundreds of new fishing products, including lures, fishing line, rods, reels, boats, electronics, clothing and an assortment of other items to help catch fish and enjoy the experience while you are doing it.

There will be resorts offering a place for you to stay and professional guides that promise you that they can help you catch fish.

In the 1800’s, 1700’s and even earlier the native residents of Missouri also used an assortment of tools to catch fish.

The two primary tribes that occupied the state of Missouri during this time were the Missouria, from which the state is named after, and the Osage Tribe, which is a part of the Sioux Nation.

Bill Wakefield

The Osage occupied areas south of the Missouri River, spreading into northern Arkansas and northeast Oklahoma. The many large and small rivers, along with the creeks and the many natural springs, made fresh fish one of the main staples of food for the Native Americans.

For them fishing was a year-round occupation. It is important to understand that this was not sport fishing: it was a subsistence activity which was vital to the survival of the people.

The focus was on harvesting as many fish as possible in a relatively short time. To accomplish this, the various tribes used an assortment of tools, such as fish hooks, nets, spears, traps, lures, and bait.

The most successful fishermen among the American Indians were the most patient of the tribes; this is how many Native American boys learned the art of patience.

People are familiar with American Indian arrowheads and there were certain styles of arrowheads that were designed specifically to be used as one of these American Indian fishing tools.

This type of arrowhead was similar in shape to a harpoon, and they would shoot the fish with their bow and arrow with rope on the end of the arrow so they could pull the fish in. 

Many tribes used nets for fishing. Working with basswood, nettle, and other natural fibers, the women would fashion mesh nets. The men would then make cedar floats for the net and they would cut grooves in small stones which would serve as sinkers.

The nets would then be washed and cleaned with a sumac leaf solution to get rid of any odor. Herbal medicines would then be applied to the net to attract the fish.

On the rivers, the Indians would often fish from a canoe using a dip net. Two men working from a canoe could harvest the fish. The man in the bow would handle the net while the man in the stern would guide the boat in a backward drift downstream.

One individual would then stand up and thrust a dip net deep into the water to catch the fish.

Another way the Native Americans caught fish was by spearfishing. There were different methods of spearfishing employed depending on the time of year.

In the winter when the water would freeze over, a hole was cut into the ice and a lure made of bone was used to entice the fish toward the hole. Then a spear made of wood for the shaft, and copper or bone for the tip, punctured the fish.  

Fish would also be speared at night using a birchbark or pine pitch torch. The light from the torch would draw the fish to the area around the canoe where they could be easily speared.

Fishing weirs are essentially traps built by rock or wood that would lead fish migrating up or downstream to a corridor built to be narrow and ultimately trap the fish.

American Indians also used fish traps which consisted of rocks piled across a small stream to form a “V.” This would form a trap to bring the fish into the small area of the “V” where they could be easily caught.

Can you imagine what a fishing show would look like in the year of 1806? Different size canoes on display, arrowheads of all shape and sizes, bows, arrows, spears, fish decoys, fish traps of different sizes and shapes, fish nets and torch making material.  Demonstrations on how to smoke or cook fish. Proper clothing to wear while facing the elements. Knives to clean fish.

They might have even showed original artwork to hang up in the lodge.

It is fascinating how things change but remain the same.

(Bill Wakefield runs the Traveler’s St. Louis office and can be reached at w3@charter.net.)