The Hayward Muskie from Jerry Vettrus

The Hayward Muskie from Jerry Vettrus

Jodie Paul July 14, 2023

If you’re up near Hayward, Wisconsin and you plan to visit the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, it’s probable that one of your reasons is the giant musky.  There are a great many decorative fish located there in the “Sea of Fishes” but certainly one stands out among the rest.  This giant musky has been the subject of thousands of photographs and postcards and provides the museum and grounds with its own claim to fame, but how did it come to be?

Standing at 4 stories tall and nearly 145 feet long, the Hayward Musky is legendary for sure.  It was conceived not long after the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame Museum came together in the 70s on several acres of land donated by the town of Hayward.  In order to get building projects off the ground and create a destination for fishing, the hunt for funding sought out both small-town donations and corporate sponsors.  One of the many sponsors who contributed to realizing the dream of the monster musky was Jim Beam.

Jim Beam teamed up with early businessmen in charge of the push and offered the Hall of Fame a percentage of fish-themed decanters racking up an impressive $300,000 sponsorship.  This definitely helped get the project off the ground and moving in the right direction. With a monster budget for a monster fish, a Sparta-based company, Creative Displays, was hired to build the impressive display.  Their recent hire, Jerome Vettrus, a business major turned entrepreneur artist was their ace in the hold who took up the torch. 

Vettrus designed the giant musky to stand out among other era roadside attractions.  Its frame was made from steel beams and its exterior was cast from non-degradable fiberglass, designed to stand up to the test of time.  Despite having excellent planning and design, there were a few delays with installation from mismatched form to frame, causing the project installation to drag on for 9 months.  However, the giant musky stands as a testament to Vettrus’ quality of work and artistic talent.  It’s transformation from design to display cannot be understated.

The giant musky which began as a dream now stands as a testament to craftsmanship and dedication to skilled labor.  Inside the musky can be found a slow climb past the history of fishing through an internal museum which steps out onto a balcony, perfect for pictures of the “Sea of Fishes” below.  After the success of this monstrous fiberglass build.  Vettrus moved on to start his own larger-than-life fiberglass molding company, producing more great roadside art for all to see, but the Hayward Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame muskie still holds the highest accolades above the rest.