Characters

Local character anecdotes told by take Erie fishermen are similar to those told in other groups and otherplaces--they recount the heroic or anti-heroic exploits of exceptional individuals. These individuals singledout for such treatment usually live out one of the two stereotypes mentioned above. In the stories told about them, they are either men, exceptionally hard and diligent workers who could do the work of many under the worst possible conditions, or they are notable rascals, drinkers or layabouts who put more effort into escaping useful work than Most men put into doing it. Occasionally, the two are combined into a portrait of an all-round hard-working and hard-playing fisherman. Some stories also tell of fishermen who are particularly adept at staying one step ahead of state wildlife enforcement agents—a sort of Robin Hood”role in which local fishermen like to cast themselves.

Authority stories describe the relations between commercial fishermen and the representatives of state agencies which regulate the local industry. Like any group of workers, fishermen do not appreciate interference from those whose knowledge is based only upon “theory,” removed from the test of day-to-day experience on the Lake. Fishermen take considerable pride and glee in relating stories of enforcement agents who can’t tell one species of fish from another, or bureaucrats whose boats run out of gas in the middle of the Lake and who must be rescued by a passing commercial boat and of Columbus legislators who are surprised and impressed by the knowledge of commercial fishermen. Not surprisingly, authority stories present authorities and sports fishermen, whom commercial fishermen regard as the bedfellows of the state government, in the worst possible light.

For more images of the rest of the collection, visit the image gallery and click the Lake Erie Fishermen box on the right side of the page.

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