Muskie man: Gil Hamm helped start muskie fever

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 2, 2013 - 8:04 PM

Gil Hamm is a major reason Minnesota has become the top muskie fishery in the nation, and he and his friends helped launch the catch-and-release philosophy so prevalent in fishing today.

hide

Hamm’s love of angling was apparent in his St. Paul office.

But for one man’s vision, the state might not be the epicenter of the fish that it is today.

His name was Gil Hamm. He lived in St. Paul and he loved to fish.

Never heard of him?

Hamm is a legend in muskie circles. He is a major reason Minnesota has become the top muskie fishery in the nation, and he and his friends helped launch the catch-and-release philosophy so prevalent in fishing today. The construction contractor founded Muskies Inc. in 1966 after catching muskie fever on a fishing trip to Ontario.

“Driving home past hundreds of northern Minnesota lakes, the thought occurred to me that a lot of these should be good muskie fishing waters, but they weren’t,’’ Hamm told the Minneapolis Star in 1979, five years before he passed away at age 80.

He stopped at the DNR the next day and asked about muskies.

“When someone there suggested I fish in Wisconsin, I really got mad,’’ he said.

He decided to form a muskie group and rounded up 13 like-minded anglers, including Frank Schneider Jr., also a legendary conservationist from St. Paul, who died in 2005. The group got two dozen lakes designated as muskie waters, where spearing was prohibited, and stocked muskies with fish produced at the group’s own hatchery.

Perhaps more importantly, Hamm and his buddies elevated the view of muskies and helped anglers — and the Department of Natural Resources — see the potential.

“I have to give them credit for awakening the people of Minnesota to the value of the fish,’’ Robert Herbst, then DNR commissioner, said in a 1974 Minneapolis Star story.

Today, Muskies Inc. has about 7,500 members and 50 chapters in the United States. The Twin Cities chapter is the largest, with about 500 members. The evolution of muskie fever, and Hamm’s vision, will be on display this weekend at the 19th annual Minnesota Muskie Expo in St. Paul. Nowadays, more than 100,000 anglers are estimated to fish muskies in the state, part of a $90 million industry.

It’s a far cry from when Hamm and the handful of anglers met in an upstairs room over a St. Paul restaurant to create Muskies Inc.

“I guess I thought we might have chapters some day,’’ he told the Minneapolis Tribune in 1980. He lived long enough to see his group flourish. “They’re talking muskies and Muskies Inc. all over the country,’’ he said in that interview.

Integral to the success of the muskie fishery is the catch-and-release ethic that took off under Hamm and his group.

“I think the greatest contribution Muskies Inc. has made is our muskie release program,’’ he said in 1981. “The first year, our members released about 15 percent of the muskies they caught. Now our members nationally are releasing 94 percent.’’

That figure is closer to 99 percent today.

Hamm also was a visionary. After stocking Minnetonka, White Bear Lake, Harriet and the St. Croix River with muskies, he was excited about the potential.

“Eventually, I think some of the better muskie fishing might be right in the metro area,’’ he said in 1979.

  • related content

  • Gil Hamm made the muskie life’s work.

  • Gil Hamm, founder of Muskies Inc., left, with Frank Schneider Jr., a conservationist and early supporter of the group. Both from St. Paul, they played an instrumental role in creating a world-class muskie fishery in Minnesota.

  • Hamm stocked lakes with muskies from a Muskies Inc. hatchery.

  • muskie expo

    George’s Minnesota Muskie Expo runs Friday through Sunday at Gangelhoff Center at Concordia University in St. Paul. The show is named after its founder, George Wahl of Golden Valley, who died of cancer in 2008.

    Hours: 2-9 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to

    4 p.m. Sunday

    Cost: $10, or $17 for three-day pass. Parking is free.

    Information: www.mnmuskie

    expo.com.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets 1 Bottom 5th Inning
Washington 0
Baltimore 2 Top 4th Inning
NY Yankees 0
Kansas City 2 Top 5th Inning
Cleveland 0
Seattle 2 Bottom 5th Inning
Toronto 1
Chicago WSox 0 Bottom 4th Inning
Detroit 0
Philadelphia 0 Top 5th Inning
Miami 1
Pittsburgh 1 Top 4th Inning
Atlanta 2
Milwaukee 0 Bottom 4th Inning
Cincinnati 2
Tampa Bay 0 Bottom 4th Inning
Boston 0
Houston 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Texas 0
St. Louis 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Chicago Cubs 0
Arizona 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Minnesota 0
LA Angels - W. LeBlanc 9:05 PM
Oakland - S. Gray
San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - Z. Greinke
Colorado - J. De La Rosa 9:10 PM
San Diego - R. Erlin
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Buffalo 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Green Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Tennessee 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Carolina 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Detroit 9/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Tampa Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Miami 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Oakland
Jacksonville 9/28/14 3:05 PM
San Diego
Atlanta 9/28/14 3:25 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 9/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
New Orleans 9/28/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
New England 9/29/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Carolina 0 2nd Prd 9:52
Buffalo 0
Pittsburgh 0 2nd Prd 9:11
Columbus 0
Boston 2 2nd Prd
Montreal 1
Nashville 0 2nd Prd
Tampa Bay 0
Philadelphia 0 2nd Prd
Toronto 1
Detroit 7:30 PM
Chicago
San Jose 8:00 PM
Vancouver
Arizona 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Vancouver 9:30 PM
San Jose
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary

ADVERTISEMENT

Advertisement
Golden Gavel by Star Tribune

Time left for great deals

Bid thru Sept. 29

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which struggling team is in the worst shape?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close