Learn About the History, People, and Mission Behind the Minnesota Fishing Museum

What is the MFM…

The Minnesota Fishing Museum, located in Little Falls, Minnesota, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the heritage and history of freshwater fishing in Minnesota.


What is Our Mission…

  • To collect, preserve and display artifacts of freshwater fishing of Minnesota.
  • To provide classrooms and educational curriculum for individuals of all ages.
  • To provide recognition for persons clubs, organizations, and companies who have contributed to the growth, enjoyment, and preservation of the sport of fishing.

How The Museum Came About…

Minnesota Fishing Museum Founders Al Baert and Morry Sauve

Minnesota Fishing Museum Founders Al Baert and Morry Sauve

The idea of a fishing museum began in 1990. Al Baert, of Sartell, MN, was researching one of his "old lures," a 1912 Surf Oreno, manufactured by the South Bend Bait Company. Looking at the 4" wooden lure in his hand, he realized it was not the value or dollar amount that was so meaningful, but rather the wonderful stories and memories it represented — a piece from a past era.

Al soon contacted his long-time friend, Morry Sauve, of St. Cloud, MN, and they began to lay the foundation for the Minnesota Fishing Museum. Flyers requesting donations of old fishing memorabilia were printed and mailed to friends. Items from all across Minnesota flowed in like a river; people realized it was better to donate items to the museum rather than keep them stored in garages or basements. Housed in a museum the pieces could be appreciated for their history instead of just collecting dust. For the donors, it was a chance to give recognition to significant people in their lives who enjoyed fishing, who share a part in Minnesota's great fishing history.

By 1995 Al's basement took on the look of a 1940's tackle shop. Items occupied every square inch of available space. It was now time to locate a permanent home for the artifacts; one that could not only serve as a showcase for the items but that could also be an education center for future fishing generations.

In 1998, the Little Falls City Council unanimously welcomed the Minnesota Fishing Museum and donated space in the north end of the historic Cass Gilbert Depot building. After six months the museum outgrew its space and moved to the current site at 304 West Broadway, Little Falls, MN.

In 2006 a remodeling project created over 10,000 square feet to display thousands of donated artifacts. When you stop in for a visit you will view well-known manufactures: Pflueger, Evinrude, Hedden, Martin, South Bend and Creak Chub, and others. You can also catch a glimpse of the not-so-well-known: Frog Skin Bait, Jim Dandy, Spoony Fish and Leaping Lena, just to name a few.

A Little History On the Fishing Lure…

Display of antique fishing lures found at the Minnesota Fishing Museum

The first artificial fishing lure to appear in the United States came from England around 1810 and was constructed of metal and silk. The lure was designed to represent a minnow, hence the name "Fake Minnow" or "Phantom Minnow" — a category name given to many of today's fishing lures.

In 1852 the first U.S. Patent was awarded to manufacture an artificial lure. Prior to that, lures and decoys were handmade from wood, metal, rubber, bone and even corncobs. In the late 1890s James Heddon of Dowagaic, Michigan is said to have invented the first topwater lure when, while waiting for a friend, he whittled a piece of wood, tossed the small remains into a pond, and watched a bass swimming nearby attack the object. He knew he was onto something. By 1902 he received a patent and a company was formed: James Heddon & Son. A new industry was born as others followed.