Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN


November 6, 2012

Ancient brothers of the angle

Greensburg — Sport fishing, also termed “recreational fishing,” is much older than one might expect.

Pictographs have been found depicting  aristocrats fishing for pleasure thousands of years ago.

People enjoy fishing for different reasons. Some do it because it affords an opportunity to bond with friends and family, while others enjoy fishing because they like being outdoors. Still others such as Presidents Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, and George W. Bush fished because it helped reduce the continuous stress of the presidency.

No one knows when people first started using fish hooks. Some suggest that Cro Magnon folks may have used fish hooks some 30,000 to 40,000 years ago.

Bronze age hooks recovered from archaeological sites are at least as old as the Bronze Age, which is to say some 5,000 years. An old Smithsonian “Contribution to Knowledge” publication dated 1885 that I purchased not long ago contains drawings of Bronze fishhooks made of thin sheet bronze in the shape of bait which functioned as an artificial bait. Their metallic luster was apparently thought to attract fish.

Metal hooks recovered in Wisconsin’s Oconto River area were made from copper, cold hammered thin and rolled to form. Bone, typically bird bone, was the most common material used by early fishermen. Several years ago, I made reproductions of some barbless hooks that had been  recovered from an archaeological site. I fashioned the hooks from the bones of a wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo). Wild turkeys are indigenous to America and were here long before the first people.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that if I wanted to catch pan fish, which is to say, small fish such as bluegill, sunfish, crappie and other “nibblers,” I needed a hook with a barb. Fish that strike, such as bass, were a different story. As long as I set the hook and took up the slack in the same motion, I was successful about half the time.

A few years earlier, while supervising an archaeological dig in an Ohio coal field, a crew member brought me a barbless bone hook with a blackened tip that he had found in association with a burial. The tip, which is the most important part of the hook, had been deliberately exposed to fire, which increased its hardness making it less likely to break.

Being a Walleye addict, I have often wondered if a fair-size Walleye, say around five pounds or, so would break a fire-hardened bone fish hook. Perhaps this autumn I will find out. Right now I’m recovering from a broken hip but Bryan Wilhelm, my physical therapist, has been quite successful fishing Brookville Reservoir for Walleye and has promised to let me tag along. I feel confident that bone hooks will easily penetrate a Walleye’s toothy jaw.

Another interesting hook illustrated in the 1885 Smithsonian publication consists of the pinion (flight feather) of a goose which had been sharpened and fastened to a larger piece of goose bone. A small piece of fish-skin is cut in the shape of a fish and sewed on the hook. Early anglers also made hooks from turtle-shell and the tusks from wild boars. I was recently shown a large hook made from a high quality chert.

I have been amazed at the creativity of ancient anglers. This is best reflected by their “compound hooks.” such as the goose bone hook already mentioned.

Another compound hook I remember consisted of a thorn from an Osage Oange tree that had been secured to a bird bone at the appropriate angle. I am told that hooks have also been made from the “jumping legs” of grasshoppers.

A hook made from the spine of a barrel catus, along with how it was made, is also described in the 1885 Smithsonian. I also recall reading somewhere that fishermen fashioned hooks from the claw of a hawk and even from the beak of an eagle.                                                                                           

If you’re a fisherman and haven’t tried your hand at making your own fish hooks, give it a try. I think it would be an interesting and rewarding project for fishing club members.


Text Only
  • Alice Woodhull: Back on the job Well, this is Alice, and I am back on the job. It has been two months since I got my new shoulder, and so far it is working like it should. I have had a couple weeks of therapy, plus doing a lot with it on my own, and I'm hoping it will soon be as g

    April 16, 2014

  • Linda Hamer Kennett: The timeless beauty of wicker No matter what the day may bring, I can leave it all behind when I take my evening walk. Strolling through our historic neighborhood on Indy's south side is a multifaceted treat. It is good for my heart, it erases the cares of the day and it affords

    April 16, 2014

  • Dr. Michael Layne: Palm Sunday Matthew 21:1-11 is the Gospel passage that will be heard in many churches this Palm Sunday. Today, I want us to look at the last two verses: 10When Jesus came to Jerusalem, everyone in the city was excited and asked, "Who can this be?" 11The crowd a

    April 12, 2014

  • Jenni Hanna: Exploring the mystery of the bitcoin I've heard of a lot of synonyms for currency, but "bitcoins" was a new one to me. Although bitcoins (BTCs) have been around since 2009, they are something I've just recently learned about and am really struggling to understand. Bitcoins cannot be hel

    April 11, 2014

  • nws-gb041014-Spaulding headshot Jack Spaulding: A time not to adopt Springtime brings a host of new life into the outdoors. The fields, forest, and the nests and dens are full of new life and cute and cuddly baby critters as nature carries on procreation. Nature knows how to take care for her own, but unfortunately,

    April 10, 2014 2 Photos

  • Net tricks My wife and I went on a binge last week. If you think I'm talking about an eating binge, you've never seen how thin we both are. If you think I mean a shopping binge, you don't know how cheap we are. And if you think it was a cleaning binge, you've

    April 10, 2014

  • opn-gb040814-Siekman column headshot Lane Siekman: It's time to raise the minimum wage On March 15, 2013, during consideration of a bill to consolidate job-training programs (H.R. 803), Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) offered an amendment that, among other things, would incrementally increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. R

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • nei-gb040914-Kennett Column headshot Linda Hamer Kennett: Second hand rose...or fashionista? "Fashion is an expression of individualism mixed with charisma"....John Fairchild 1940's sensible shoes with a '70's midi-skirt. High waist skirts with over the knee boots. Polka dot shirts with bell-bottom pants. Retro fashion is here to stay, and w

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • nei-gb040914-Pat Smith Column headshot Pat Smith: Mistakes needn't be permanent Continuing last week's column about Josh Rutherford who is a Decatur County native interested in local history. He's interested enough, in fact, to have printed a book so that past mistakes can be corrected and on record. Appreciative of the work don

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • opn-gb040814-Hayden column headshot Maureen Hayden: House Ethics Committee considers allegations INDIANAPOLIS - Steering lawmakers through a rewrite of the state's criminal code won House Judiciary Chairman Greg Steuerwald bipartisan accolades this year. His colleagues appreciated how the even-tempered attorney from Hendricks County used his leg

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
AP Video
Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge US Supports Ukraine's Efforts to Calm Tensions Suspect in Kansas Shootings Faces Murder Charges Ukraine: Military Recaptures Eastern Airport Raw: Storm Topples RVs Near Miss. Gulf Coast NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse Pistorius Cries During Final Cross-Examination The Boston Marathon Bombing: One Year Later Michael Phelps Set to Come Out of Retirement First Women Move to Army Platoon Artillery Jobs Sex Offenders Charged in Serial Killings Police: Woman Stored Dead Babies in Garage OC Serial Murder Suspects May Have More Victims Family: 2 Shot in Head at Kan. Jewish Center Raw: Horse Jumping Inspires 'Bunny Hop' After Attack, Officials Kill 5 Bears in Florida Popular Science Honors Year's Top Inventions ND Oil Boom Attracting Drug Traffickers
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.