HAYWARD, Wis. Oct. 8, 2006
is big in Wisconsin and the muskie is the biggest fish of all. It's
called the king of the freshwater fish. Others say that bass is just
bait compared to the muskie. To some, the muskie is symbolic of
There are muskie signs, muskies on the wall of offices and in bars. There is even muskie beer and muskie merlot.
Hayward, Wis. is the muskie capital, where local codes seem to set
a muskie minimum of one per wall. Emmett Brown is director of the
Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, which not surprisingly is in Hayward.
The muskie is part of the lore of the Northwoods. One man pulled a
muskrat out of a muskie's mouth. Another was pulled out of a boat by
the fish and legend has it that the muskie is a fish of 10,000 casts. A
fisher could fish for days and never see one. So the local man who
caught the biggest muskie ever is a legend.
In the hall of fame museum, the man, the late Louie Spray has an
entire room. It showcases his wool fishing pants and shirt, fishing
shoes and his old motor.
"He reminds me of the Babe Ruth of Muskie fishing both people had
the same type of personalities," John Detloff, a resort owner and
county historian, who authored a book on Louie Spray told Sunday Morning
correspondent Bill Geist
. "They both were flamboyant. They both were good time Charlies."
At Herman's Landing on Oct. 20, 1949 that Spray and two of his
friends rented a small boat and headed out into the Chippewa flowage
returning with a 69 pound 11 ounce muskie with two bullet holes in its
But now a group called the World Record Muskie Alliance has filed a
93-page challenge to Spray's world record, a document brimming with
modern professional forensic analysis.
"We decided to apply some modern scientific processes to a lot of
these old fish stories we hired an independent expert in the field of
photogrammetry — it is the science of trying to determine measurements
from photographic evidence with some high level mathematics," Rich
Delaney, president of the alliance, said. "It's a technology that I
believe NASA used to determine the size of objects on the moon. If you
put length times girth the weight of the fish couldn't possibly
approach the claim of Mr. Spray. 69 pounds, 11 ounces."
Rather, Delaney says the fish would have to be about 38 to 40
pounds. The report charges local favoritism, outright cheating and even
unethical taxidermy. Delaney said evidence shows that the taxidermist
augmented the fish by 10 inches to match Spray's story.
To rebut, the hall of fame contacted distinguished mathematicians like professor Doug Arnold of the University of Minnesota.
"This is a problem in projective geometry you really need more
information that is sitting in this photo to tell me how long that fish
is," Arnold said. "It depends on the placement of the fish and the
placement of the camera. It's no longer than 63 inches they were
claiming but it could be a lot shorter."
Then, another bombshell dropped: a hall of fame inductee and guide,
Spence Petros, said that Chicago mafia capo Joey "the doves" Aiuppa
told him on a fishing trip that he Caught spray's fish.
"He goes 'when I was a young man I liked to muskie fish around
Hayward, Wisc. that was great you could bring them in and shoot them in
those days," Petros said. "And he goes 'You know I caught the world
record muskie?' and I was like you know half sarcastic like, 'You
caught the world record muskie?' and he looked at me and said 'No, I
The reason Aiuppa said he never came forward with his catch was because he was on the lam.
"I said 'Well what happened?' he goes 'I sold it to Louis Spray for $50,'" Petros said.
This fish tale is confirmed by Aiuppa's constant companion Jimmy Buonamo, also known as Pepsi or Jimmy Bananas.
"Yes, he caught that fish," Buonamo said. "And he wouldn't lie to
anybody he caught the fish. That's one thing about him. He was true. He
caught the fish."
Emmett Brown of the hall of fame says spray's world record stands,
supported by notarized affidavits from the other two men in the boat
with Spray, a man who measured it and a local postmaster who weighed
They've kind of voted to uphold this fish in the face of modern scientific research," Delaney said.