Reelin’ in the Years: Trolling Through The Minnesota Fishing Museum


by Bret Amundson

I’d felt like I’d just stepped into one of those black and white photos. The ones that show a happy family on vacation at the lake. There’d be a beach in the background complete with an old wooden dock and a boat tied up to it. Fisherman would be stepping out holding an old metal stringer full of fish in one hand and a small metal tackle box in the other. What that box held inside was now on display all around me as I carefully strolled through the Minnesota Fishing Museum in Little Falls.

Ice Fishing Diorama
Ice Fishing Diorama

It’s only fitting that the state with 10,000 (+) lakes has a fishing museum and anyone who has ever dipped a line needs to see it. Antique lures, vintage wooden boats and classic motors filled the floor space from corner to corner.  Crankbaits, spoons and lures no one has ever heard before hung in display cases on the walls. Rods, reels and electronics that paved the way for today’s toys are featured as well. But I was looking for the stories behind some of these items.

Al Baert of Sartell, Minnesota hatched the idea for the museum in 1990. According to their website,, Al had some help from friends, and finally saw his dream become reality in 1998 when the Little Falls City Council donated space in the Cass Gilbert Depot Building. Within 6 months, it was clear more space was needed and the museum moved to it’s current location of 304 West Broadway in Little Falls.

Check out the gallery below to see the vintage items and get the stories behind them from Al. 

Soon the Museum and the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame will be located together as the two organizations have come to an agreement that they belong under the same roof.

As Al took me from one side of the museum to the other, I couldn’t help but hear stories of fish caught and fish lost spinning inside my head. Of tall-tales, exaggerations and of slaps on the back at the end of the day.

Some history still needs to be told as the museum held mystery lures that have been donated, yet their origins remain unknown.   After spending enough time around fisherman, it’s also possible that some secrets will never be revealed. The honey-holes and secret lakes that the many of these hooks trolled through will remain undisclosed. The backwater ponds that the old trolling motors patrolled and the big fish that were quietly caught and slipped back into the water to be caught again-ideally by the same fisherman-will stay hidden away.   Some stories weren’t meant to be told, but sometimes the imagination paints a better picture anyway. One of old back and white snapshots, with smiling anglers holding fish that were bigger on stringers that were fuller-simply because it was the good ol’ days. When times were slower, gear was simpler and the fishing was always good.

See the pictures and their stories below.  Then listen to this weekend’s MNSJ Radio show to hear more about the Minnesota Fishing Museum with Al Baert.

If You Go:

Where: 304 West Broadway, Little Falls, MN

Contact: 320-616-2011

Hours: Tues – Sat 10a – 5, Sun – Mon Closed

Admission: Adults $5, Seniors $4, Students $4, Age 5 and Under Free

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