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Did Art Lawton Get a Fair Shake?

Larry Ramsell
Published February 22, 2006

Subsequent to the decision by the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame
to uphold their Louie Spray muskellunge World Record on January 16, 2006,
after a protest by the World Record Muskie Alliance against it, I decided to
look further into the matter, especially since many of the reasons the
Hall gave for upholding the Spray record were identical to what they chose
to ignore in 1992, when they accepted an investigation into the Lawton
World Record, authored by current Hall Executive Board President John
Dettloff, then independent of the Hall, and disqualified Lawtons record.
What I learned was incredibly enlightening.

On February 19, 2006, I attempted to make a copy of this 41 page review
available to Hall Executive Director Emmett Brown. He declined to accept it.
On February 21, 2006, I made this review available to Hall Executive Board
President John Dettloff, through another Hall Board member. He indicated
that he was too busy with the upcoming Birkie ski race to look at it now.
It was at that point I decided to make my review available to the general


Update: Late on February 21, 2006, I learned, unsolicited, from a
confidential source during a conversation regarding another matter, that in
1992, John Dettloff had told him that he (Mr. Dettloff) had tricked the
Lawton relatives in 1991, in order to obtain the Lawton photo and
correspondence archives from them. While I have considerable information in
my file regarding this aspect, I did not include it in my review because I
did not have positive proof that Mr. Dettloff did indeed have an agenda at
that time, despite the claims of same by Lawtons relatives. I now believe
it to relevant.

Lawton Muskellunge Disqualification Review
By Larry Ramsell, Muskie Historian

My review of Arthur Lawtons 69 pound 15 ounce All-tackle muskellunge World Record reevaluates the factors and evidence available and presented at the time of the 1992 decisions by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) and the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame (Hall) to retire the Lawton record. It also considers facts learned, determined and made public within the years following disqualification. It is my belief that information provided herein brings to light numerous unanswered questions that place doubt on the decision to disqualify the Arthur Lawtons world record muskellunge.

It is my understanding that the Lawton record is currently retired and on the shelf at the IGFA. In multiple newspaper articles of 1992 and 1993 the IGFA was quoted as leaving the door open,

The International Game Fish Association left the door open Friday for the Clayton (NY) Chamber of Commerce and its Muskie Hall of Fame directors to prove that the recently dethroned Art Lawton muskellunge actually existed, Prove it, hinted an IGFA director, and the world muskie record will be back on the historic St. Lawrence River .

Around the time of the Lawton review I held concurrent positions as the Hall Fish Historian and World Records Secretary (responsible for development of the records program). I was also an IGFA Representative, a position I held for 16-years. I participated in the Halls decision to disqualify the Lawton muskellunge. In hindsight, I now believe that there was insufficient evidence to support disqualification. The IGFAs recent intense investigation that led to the reinstatement of the world record smallmouth bass is reminiscent of the following comprehensive review of Arthur Lawtons muskellunge record.

Key Factors

The Field & Stream file:

I was the first person in the Field & Stream muskellunge file after it was turned over to the IGFA. I was at the IGFA office in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to negotiate a merger of the Halls Fresh Water Fish Records and the IGFAs World Freshwater Records. Each program had been developed or inherited from Field & Stream world records and expanded upon.

1) There was no indication in the Lawton file of the specific photograph that was submitted with the Lawton application (Note: A photo was NOT required for contest application in the muskellunge category.)

a) A letter from Field & Stream to Lawton, dated December 6, 1957 from the Lawton archives indicates that Lawton submitted a picture along with his contest affidavit to the Field & Stream Fishing Contest. However, there was no indication in the Field & Stream file of exactly which photograph was received with the application.

2) The Field & Stream muskellunge file did not include a chain of custody of the Lawton contest application and photograph(s) including the photographs to be used for possible publication and those rejected as unusable or not desired for publication. The Lawton archives contained an undated letter and photograph of nine hanging muskellunge from Field & Stream returned to Lawton,

submitted for possible use with an account of how you (Lawton) caught your world record muskie.

Likewise, there was not a chain of custody record pertaining to the use of the Lawton contest application and photograph(s) or any other information in the Field & Stream file, likely reviewed in the subsequent investigation by Field & Stream management, including Editor Hugh Grey, the contest judges led by Field & Stream Fishing Editor, A.J. McClane, and the Pinkerton Detective Agency.* Additionally, the file was most certainly used by Field & Stream writer Dale Shaw. This use was evidenced by Shaws letters sent to Field & Stream with regard to the Lawton muskellunge and subsequent investigation by Field & Stream (excluding the Pinkerton investigation) in the first draft of Shaws story, which was in the Field & Stream file. The final version of Shaws article later appeared in the May 1958 issue of F&S magazine, page 87.

Note: In typical business practice, when a file is checked out an accountability sign out sheet or chain of custody is often used to document file history.

3) *There was no information or correspondence in the Field & Stream muskellunge file indicating that Field & Stream commissioned the Pinkerton Detective Agency to investigate the Lawton muskie. If true, Pinkerton was likely commissioned by Field & Stream magazine Editor Hugh Grey, covertly, and Pinkertons activities were not made a part of the Field & Stream Contest muskellunge file. The fact that Field & Stream may have used the Pinkerton Detective Agency became known when the author of The Investigation of Arthur Lawtons World Record Muskie, Mr. John Dettloff, interviewed former Field & Stream Fishing Editor and contest Judge, A.J. McClane. As the result of a telephone conversation with Mr. McClane this information was revealed and was incorporated into an affidavit prepared for Mr. McClane by Mr. Dettloff. (Note: Mr. McClane was terminally ill and very likely medicated during the time of his interactions with Mr. Dettloff.)

The McClane affidavit, prepared by Mr. Dettloff, contained the following,

When Arthur Lawton entered his 69# 15 oz muskie in 1957 into our Field & Stream contest, we went on the available evidence at hand, at the time, and made a decision to accept his muskie as a world record. Some time after Lawtons muskie was granted world record status, we learned new information which threw much doubt on the legitimacy of his fish. We enlisted the help of Pinkerton investigators and learned that the Lawton muskie was most likely netted by Indians. I now do not believe Lawtons 69# 15 oz muskie was legitimate

Note: Mr. McClane did not discuss the weight of the muskie in his affidavit. Pinkertons investigation, if conducted, failed to incriminate Mr. Lawton.

4) The Field & Stream muskellunge file included neither documentation regarding the commissioning of Dale Shaw by Field & Stream to interview Lawton and write an article for Field & Stream (New Worlds Record Muskie by Mr. Shaw, that appeared in the May 1958 issue of Field & Stream magazine), nor any evidence to indicate where the photograph used in Mr. Shaws article was obtained; from the Field & Stream contest file or from Mr. Lawton directly to Mr. Shaw.

a) Question: Was an unknown photograph of Lawton and his contest fish submitted that was deemed unusable for publication?
Note: It was later claimed by Lawton relative Art Molle that indeed such a (different) photograph existed.

5) There is no proof extant that indicates that the photograph believed by Mr. Dettloff and his team to be the photograph Lawton submitted with his Field & Stream Fishing Contest Application/Affidavit is in fact the photograph that was submitted. Thereby, any subsequent photographic analysis by Mr. Dettloff and team is inconsequential.

a) A key eyewitness to Lawtons record fish, Bob Denny, who surfaced after Mr. Dettloffs article was published in the December 1992 issue of Outdoor Life magazine made the following comment, published in the Chicago Tribune on February 21, 1993 in a John Husar column entitled New Evidence Enters Great Muskie Controversy,

all I can say is if that picture was in error, Art gave them the wrong picture. I certainly saw the fish

b) In a November 7, 1992 article in the Whig-Standard newspaper in Gananoque, Ontario, by Shawn Thompson, staff writer, IGFA President, Mike Leech speculated,

that Mr. Lawton may indeed have caught the record muskie, but sent the photo of a smaller muskie with his application to Field & Stream Magazine.

Mr. Thompsons article went on to say,

The suspicion that Mr. Lawton sent in a photo of a smaller fish was what led to his disqualification by the International Game Fish Association.

6) The so called recanting of crucial eyewitness Walter J. Dunn has been misconstrued.

a) Affidavit number 1, the 1957 Affidavit Form: This affidavit says, We the undersigned; witnessed the weighing and measuring of the fish described above, and verified the weight and measurements given.
This is absolutely true. Mr. Dunn did in fact witness the weighing and measuring and in fact did verify the weight and measurements given via the weigh slip produced after the official weighing (see 1, d, 1, below) and length measurement.

b) Affidavit number 2, the affidavit dated March 20, 1958: This affidavit was prepared, handwritten, by someone other than Mr. Dunn on T.W. Dunns Sons stationary. This affidavit clearly states that Mr. Dunn,

supervised the weighing on state inspected beam scales of a sixty nine pounds fifteen ounce muskellunge (69 lb. 15 oz.) It also states, Further, I measured this fish to be 64 inches in length and 31 inches in girth.

This affidavit was signed by Walter J. Dunn and the affidavit was witnessed by Harold Dale Shaw, the writer Field & Stream sent to investigate the Lawton muskellunge and write a story about it for Field & Stream magazine. It was notarized by,

Arthur Langfelder, Justice of Peace, Town of New Scotland, NY.

c) Affidavit number 3, is an undated affidavit postmarked December 12, 1991: This is the affidavit prepared by Mr. Dettloff for Mr. Dunn which had additional hand written comments on it. The affidavit states in part that, I Walter Dunn, was present at the Dunn Bros. Slaughterhouse in Albany, New York when Art Lawton, of Delmar, New York, brought in to weigh his world record muskie known to be 69# 15 oz that he caught out of the St. Lawrence River on September 22, 1957. I did not actually weigh or measure the muskie, but I was present when it was weighed in. Somebody else weighed the muskie but I dont recall who it wasSo far as I know this is all true.

1) On the surface affidavit 3 appears to recant Mr. Dunns affidavit 2, however;

a) Affidavit 1, signed by Mr. Dunn on
October 28, 1957 merely had the verbiage witnessed and verified weight and length measurements.

b) Affidavit 2, signed by Mr. Dunn was
witnessed by the F&S Representative Harold Dale Shaw and had the verbiage,

I supervised the weighing key word being supervised.

Dunns measurement statement,

Further, I measured this fish to be 64 inches in length and 31 inches in girth.

This statement leaves nothing to doubt.

c) Affidavit 3, was undated but post marked
December 12, 1991,

I did not actually weigh or measure the muskie, but I was present when it was weighed in

1) Mr. Dunn was 75 years old in 1991 when
affidavit 3 was prepared for him by Mr. Dettloff after Mr. Dettloff had talked to Mr. Dunn on the telephone. Is it reasonable to believe that Mr. Dunn would have as clear a memory of the events of 34 years prior when he signed affidavit 2 in front of the Field & Stream Representative Harold Dale Shaw? Since the affidavit was prepared by Mr. Dettloff do we know whether he purposely or inadvertently led Mr. Dunn? Per an article by Shawn Thompson, Staff Writer for the Whig-Standard newspaper in Gananoque, Ontario,

Mr. Dettloff told the Whig-Standard that he didnt ask Mr. Dunn to explain the contradictory information in the two affidavits!!

This is THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR IN THIS SENARIO! Why werent the contents of the 1992 affidavit discussed with and made clear to Mr. Dunn? Why wasnt Mr. Dunn asked to explain the critical differences? This omission by Investigator Dettloff suggests that his agenda had been met and he didnt really want to know anything other than what he had gotten Mr. Dunn to commit to on this, his third affidavit, 34 years after the fact (this may be considered an indictment of Mr. Dettloffs lack of professionalism and fair play)!

Note: While I am not making an accusation, I found it strange that the copy of the Dettloff investigation provided by Mr. Dettloff to me, did not match the copy I received from the IGFA in regard to Mr. Dunns affidavit 3. In the copy received from Dettloff the notary information and the full official Dunn signature had been blocked out, leaving only a second, more abbreviated Dunn signature (Walt Dunn vs. Walter J Dunn). In a letter I received from Mr. Dettloff dated May 7, 1992 Mr. Dettloff had the following to say,

Even though the signatures were 35 years apart (from affidavit number 2 to affidavit number 3), they still match pretty close

2) Without the IGFA copy, a comparison of signatures would be difficult. While I concur that it was likely the same Walter J. Dunn that signed both affidavits, based solely on last name alone, there is an interesting difference in the W of the first name. Both Ws on affidavit 3 were markedly different than those on affidavits 1 and 2. The question arose in my mind, did Dettloff eliminate the full signature on the affidavit he sent to me to make comparative signature analysis more difficult?

d) Additionally, Attorneys James A. Olson and P. Scott Hassett of the Law Firm of Lawton & Cates in Madison, Wisconsin commented on Mr. Dunns statement. They had the following to say in a letter to Hall Director Ted Dzialo on July 23, 1992 even though they were recommending disqualification of the Lawton world record muskellunge,

The Walter Dunn affidavits are confusing. Since he is alive and apparently willing to talk it would be worthwhile for him to be contacted and asked follow-up questions concerning his basis for originally stating that the fish weighed 69 lb. 15 oz

Note: It is unknown, but seems unlikely, that Mr. Dunn was cognizant of the specifics regarding his 1957 affidavit compared to the 1991 affidavit. A phone discussion with Walter J. Dunn II (nephew of Walter J. Dunn, not to be confused with Walter M. Dunn who was the uncle of Walter J. Dunn) on April 30, 1992 revealed that Walter J. Dunn had, about 5 years after the 1957 affidavits, shot one of Lawtons hunting dogs and that Lawton was mad enough to kill him. Could this animosity have been the motive for a revised affidavit if it was knowingly stated?

e) Mr. Husars February 21, 1993 column, New Evidence Enters Great Muskie Controversy, details the normal procedure used to weigh the Lawton muskellunge at Dunn Bros. told by Lawton nephew Art Molle, as follows:

While the scale happened to be in the refrigeration room, the results were displayed inside the adjoining office, he said. The procedure was for someone to read the scale in the office, write down the weight and slip the paper through an opening in the window. So no one by the scale actually saw the scales display, although they did hear the announced results.

f) The Hall did not attempt to independently obtain clarification of Dunn affidavit 3 or conduct a separate interview. Hall of Fame Advisory Governor and Researcher, Brad Latvaitis strong recommendation that the Hall independently obtain an appropriate affidavit from Walter J. Dunn was ignored. The IGFAs activities in this matter are unknown.

7) Mr. Dettloffs Smoking Gun photograph simply is not smoking at all. There are several factors involved in this comment:

a) To repeat. There is no proof extant that indicates that the photograph believed by Mr. Dettloff and his team to be the photograph Lawton submitted with his Field & Stream Fishing Contest Application/Affidavit is in fact the photograph that was submitted. Thereby, any subsequent photographic analysis by Mr. Dettloff and team is inconsequential.

b) The above notwithstanding, following are some of the most important facts germane with regard to the smoking gun photograph and indeed the entire Dettloff record protest.

1) This smoking gun photograph was discovered in the Lawton archives by Mr. Dettloff.

a) Prior to Mr. Dettloff gaining possession of the Lawton archives there was no chain of custody record for those archives.

b) There is no evidence extant, written or implied, that the numbers written on the smoking gun photograph were on it prior to Mr. Dettloffs receipt of the Lawton archives which included said photographs (please do not take this as an indictment of Mr. Dettloff, but rather as a statement of fact).

1) Mr. Dettloff used a smoking gun photograph in at least two articles that he later wrote about the Lawton disqualification. One was in the October 1992 issue of Musky Hunter magazine, page 25, and the other was in Outdoor Life magazines December 1992 issue, page 80. In both articles the supposed smoking gun photograph was published. While these two photos each had the alleged handwritten weight notations on them, THEY ARE IN TWO DIFFERENT HANDWRITINGS. There was never mention by Mr. Dettloff of two separate smoking gun photographs with handwritten numbers on them (again, not an indictment of Mr. Dettloff, but rather another statement of fact).

c) There is no evidence extant that the supposed weight numbers written on the bottom of the smoking gun photograph were indeed numbers written by Art Lawton, as alleged by Mr. Dettloff in his Musky Hunter magazine article, Lawton World Record Overturned in the October/November 1992 issue, page 25,

I refer to this (see Photo Exhibit 3) as the smoking gun photograph because it is such strong evidence indicating that Lawtons record musky was falsified. Underneath most of the nine fish are Lawtons own notations documenting the sizes of most of the muskies. Lawton documents the largest musky in the smoking gun photograph as being 49 lbs. 8oz. This is consistent with Lawtons own documentation of the same photograph that he presented in his Outdoor Life article*.

*Biggest Muskie Yet by Art Lawton in the June 1958 issue of Outdoor Life magazine, page 70.

1) Ben East, Field Editor for Outdoor Life magazine and ghost writer of the Lawton article in that magazine, had the following to say in correspondence to Lawton dated February 26, 1958 regarding the Lawton archive photographs,

I went over the pictures with Mr. Rae (Outdoor Life Editor) while I was in New York, and he thought well of all of them except the enlargement of Art with the new world-record fish. As you realize, that one is sort of blurred and fuzzy. I have an idea we might do better with one of the original small snapshots than with this enlargement. If you have an extra could you send one along please?

I just found time Monday to send off for copying the four of your pictures which you want returned. Ill get them back to you as soon as I receive the copy prints.

a) NOTE: There is no evidence extant to
document what the other three of the four photographs noted above were. There was nothing noted that could definitely identify what photograph the sort of blurred and fuzzy photograph indeed was except that it was one of Art with the new world-record fish. Could this have been a different and as yet unknown photograph of Art with his world record fish? Also, in that article there were five photographs published with no indication of where the fifth photograph came from or which one it was.

In a letter from Ben East to Art Lawton dated March 6, 1958, Mr. East said the following,

Here are your four pictures back. Im starting work on your story today, and I should have something to report in another week or so

A March 18, 1958 letter from Ben East to Art Lawton we find, in part, the following,

Your musky story is finished and here is a carbon copy for you to look overI hope you and Ruth will like the storyIf I have let errors creep in, just indicate them on this copy and mail it back to me. Or if there are only a few corrections to make, list them by page and paragraph in a letter if you preferAs soon as I hear from you Ill fix the piece up and move it along to New York

Note: Art Lawton reviewed the text of this Outdoor Life article but did not review the photo captions in this or any other published article or advertisement, including the article by Mr. Shaw in Field & Stream.

2) No one except Mr. Dettloff was present when the smoking gun photographs and alleged weight notations were discovered (again, not an indictment of Mr. Dettloff, but rather another statement of fact).

a) In paragraph 7, c, 1, a, above is my comment: There was nothing noted that could definitely identify what photograph the sort of blurred and fuzzy photograph indeed was, except that it was one of Art with the new world-record fish. Could this have been a different and as yet unknown photograph of Art with his world record fish that was too poor to use for publication? This comment then also begs the question; was there a photograph in Lawtons archives while in Mr. Dettloffs possession, that is different than any known or published, that was not in the archives when returned by him to Lawtons niece? (Once again, this is not an indictment of Mr. Dettloff but rather a logical question that arose due to the chain of custody as known, of the Lawton archives, and nephew Art Molles claim that a different photograph did exist).

3) A handwriting analysis has not been conducted on the writing on the smoking gun photographs.

c) The eyewitness testimony of Paul Martin documents the existence of a 69 pound 15 ounce muskellunge and a muskie caught the previous week that weighed 49 pounds 8 ounces; both having been displayed at the Lawton home next door to the Martin household. This testimony has never been refuted.

1) Pertinent information from the Martin affidavit obtained by Mr. Dettloff,

I, Paul Martin, of Delmar, New York, grew up living in the house next door to Arthur Lawton I was 18 years old at the time of Art Lawtons world record muskie catch in 1957 I would like to identify and document the muskie catch in the photo above, on top of this page (Art with nine hanging muskies). I was present when Art Lawton brought home and hung up the nine muskies in the above photo. I remember it like it was yesterday. Ill never forget that catch. This above catch of nine muskies was made by Art & Ruth Lawton one week before Art caught his 69# 15 oz world record muskie. I was there when they set up the two step ladders, put the pipe between the ladders, hung the nine muskies from the pipe, and took the pictures.

The next week, Art Lawton brought the world record catch over to my dads house to show us all. He was coming home from his weekend fishing trip and had about three other fish along with his record muskie. I personally saw both catches and can verify that they were two separate catches, one week apart."

Why has this credible affidavit been ignored?

d) There is also information extant that Lawton retrieved nine muskies from refrigeration plant storage and hung them with the world record on that Sunday. Within the 29 different photographs containing the supposed world record muskie are two distinctly different sets of photographs obviously taken at different times. This is evidenced by the fact that Lawton has a different belt on in the opposing sets.

e) There is other photographic evidence extant from the Lawton archives that there may have indeed been a tenth muskellunge hanging from the bar with the nine muskellunge that appeared in the smoking gun photograph exhibited by Mr. Dettloff.

1) A tenth hanging wire is visible in one of the photographs of nine hanging fish. The visible wire on a bar with nothing hanging from it begs the question of whether a fish had been hanging there. Had Lawton already removed the 69# 15oz muskie from the bar? There is an indication in the series of 29 Lawton photographs that these photographs were taken on two separate occasions, likely on successive weekends as had been previously indicated. Those 29 photographs were the string of nine muskies, as well as some photographs of the single largest of the nine fish.

f) Mr. Dettloff was at best an amateur photo analyst. Please note in the following resume that there is no training directly related to photogrammetry, which according to Websters ninth new collegiate dictionary is, the science of making reliable measurements by the use of photographs.

1) Following are excerpts from Mr. Dettloffs resume written by him in 1992,

I feel my education, combined with my 20 years spent here catching + measuring over 1200 legal muskies, perhaps makes me the person best capable of calculating a muskies true size off a photograph.

I have an Art background and use(d) to paint a lot of pictures, which for a while I was selling. My Art experience gave me knowledge of perspective.

I have a very extensive mechanical design, architecture, and engineering background from schoolMy experience in this field also gave me knowledge of perspective as well as turned me into an extremely precise measurer and taught me how to use precision measuring devices such as calipers. I won awards in school in this field and excelled in it. My grandfather was an engineer and I have all of his calipers. I can measure a human hair with them.

Ive taken just about every advanced math course offered in both high school + college. From Algebra to Trigonometry to all stages of Calculus I have taken and gotten very high marks. I was one of the best math students in our school.

Combine my schooling with the fact that Ive been, in effect, professionally weighing + measuring muskies for the last 20 years and I am the man to assess muskie photos. I have the reputation for being a tough weigher. I dont round off measurements or give extra ounces or inches. Ive disappointed a few people for calling 19# 15 oz muskies 19 # 15 oz and not 20# or calling 29# 13 oz muskies 29# 13 oz and not 30#. I call all fish to the OUNCE and to the fraction of an inch and have done so for some 1200 legal muskies.

but I think its important you know me, my qualifications, and where Im coming from

g) Based on the qualifications provided in Mr. Dettloffs investigation, the photographic peer reviewers were not qualified to conduct, or peer review, a photographic analysis, however; their credentials were not questioned.

1) One of Mr. Dettloffs peer reviewers, Mr. Roy McJunkin, Curator of Collections at the California Museum of Photography, University of California, was clearly not qualified in photogrammetry.
Mr. McJunkins supervisor indicated Mr. McJunkin had no photogrammetry qualifications according to Chicago Tribune Outdoor columnist John Husar, who talked to him. Mr. Husars column Something fishy about record flak, appeared in the Chicago Tribune (undated-circa 1992), and said,

The curator of a California photography museum who verified Dettloffs calculations is an expert in antique stereoptical slides

2) Mr. Dettloffs second peer reviewer was Arthur Oehmcke. Mr. Oehmcke is a former Wisconsin muskellunge culturist and fish manager retired District Director for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and author. While highly respected nationwide for his work with muskellunge propagation, Mr. Oehmcke possesses absolutely no background in photogrammetry. Further, he made an assumption regarding the photograph supposedly submitted to Field & Stream in his affidavit.

h) While there were affidavits from only the above two peer reviewers, Mr. Dettloff also considered two attorneys from the Law Firm of Lawton (no relation) & Cates, in Madison, Wisconsin to be photo experts according to a quote of him by Shawn Thompson, Staff Writer for the Whig-Standard newspaper of Gananoque, Ontario, as follows,

Mr. Dettloffs evidence was given to a number of photo experts to be confirmed, he says. Among those experts was a law firm in Wisconsin that studied the evidence and gave the opinion that it met legal standards of beyond a reasonable doubt.

1) A letter from Lawton & Cates attorneys James A. Olson and P. Scott Hassett to Hall Advisory Governor, the Honorable Warren P. Knowles, former Governor of Wisconsin, provided response to a copy of the Dettloff Investigation of Lawtons muskellunge, in part,

We have read with considerable interest the investigation by John Dettloff of Arthur Lawtons world record muskie. Although, Mr. Dettloff makes a persuasive argument for disqualification we believe that such a move would be premature based upon the existing evidence.

This letter went on to explain the standards of evidence, the reliability of photographic investigation and provided a strong recommendation for independent review of the Lawton photographs analyzed by Mr. Dettloff. The letter goes on to say,

these photographs (Lawton and control) should be randomly numbered and sent to two independent photogrammetrists. The only information given the photogrammetrists would be the height of the person shown with the fish.

Each photogrammetrist would be asked to independently determine the length of each fish. After this procedure has been followed you should know whether measurements provide relevant evidence concerning the Lawton world record

Later the letter continues,

The ability to identify the same fish from markings should be subjected to a test similar to the photogrammetric study

With regard to the testimonial evidence the attorneys had this to say,

There are at least two witnesses who have some memory of seeing the fish: Walter Dunn and Paul Martin. Some effort should be made to contact them and record everything they know about the fish. Dunn should be asked additional questions including his basis for verifying the fishs weight on the entry to Field & Stream. Martin should be asked to assist with identifying background objects in the photographs and anything releated to the habits of the Lawtons. For example, who took the pictures, what type of camera was involved, who else might have seen the fish, etc.

Note: There were actually five witnesses. The attorneys also made no mention of the second Dunn affidavit.

With regards to documentary evidence the attorneys had this to say,

Obviously the Field & Stream entry must be preserved. Furthermore, Al McClane reported an investigation by Pinkertons on behalf of Field & Stream. This investigation should be retrieved. In addition, there should be a determination if there is any documentation concerning the entry in the 1957 New York State (Wehle) contest. Also, all reported stories of Art Lawton and the fish should be gathered.

Apparently Lawton made notes concerning the photographs. These notes should be collected and preserved.

These strong recommendations to the Hall were not heeded!

The conclusions of the attorneys were, in part, as follows,

...if a 35 year old record is to be overturned it will require additional investigation and the use of fair procedures. We would be happy to work with the Hall of Fame to see that this is done. We would be happy to drive to Hayward and review the existing evidence including the photographs under the supervision of the Hall of Fame

This was not done. Mr. Dettloff took his evidence and photographs to the law firm. The Hall did not participate.

2) On July 23, 1992 Attorneys Olson and Hassett sent
correspondence to the Hall of Fame to the attention of Ted Dzialo, Director, regarding the Investigation of Lawton World Record Muskie. In part, that letter said the following,

On July 22, 1992 we had the pleasure of meeting with John Dettloff in our offices. The meeting lasted three hours. John brought numerous photographs as well as other documents with him. He also candidly answered all questions that we posed. Based upon this meeting and our review of all of the evidence presented we are of the opinion that the Arthur Lawton World Record Muskie should be disqualified. We believe that the evidence for disqualification not only meets the clear and convincing evidence standard but also meets the higher standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.

This is especially interesting since none of the recommendations of their previous letter had been followed by the Hall and in a short three hours Mr. Dettloff had apparently satisfied all of their concerns without the involvement of the previously recommended photogrammetric experts! They then went on to explain their findings,

The Photographic Evidence; We will not recount the process used by Dettloff to make the measurements other than to say it was logical and we agree with itAlthough it may be difficult to reconstruct the length of the fish from the photograph sent to Field & Stream (#1), the fish shown in photographs #5 and #6 is clearly short of the claimed 64 inches

The attorneys go on to make a comment of the supposed only one photograph. They conclude,

Dettloffs investigation shows that there was more than one lousy photograph. In fact there were several good quality photographs. However, Lawton submitted the one lousy photograph to Field & Stream. This was the photograph where the length was most difficult to judge.

With no basis, the quantum leap of which photograph was submitted to Field & Stream was made, claiming only one photograph was submitted. This is unproven. As detailed elsewhere in this review, Lawton, at one time or another had to give Field & Stream at least two photographs based on the fact that the Editors of Field & Stream had returned one unused photograph to him of the nine muskies. They also took the quantum leap of accepting Dettloffs photo analysis without further professional photogrammetric review on the supposed record fish photo, as well as, accepting Dettloffs findings on several other Lawton fish later disqualified by Dettloff on his own, independent of the Hall!

With regard to the testimonial evidence they had the following to say,

The Walter Dunn affidavits are confusing. Since he is alive and apparently willing to talk it would be worthwhile for him to be contacted and asked follow-up questions concerning his basis for originally stating that the fish weighed 69 lb. 15 oz. This could be done by a phone call from a representative of the Hall of Fame. We do not believe that his statement could overcome the photographic evidence.

This was not done.

With regard to the documentary evidence they had the following to say,

All the documentary evidence should be preserved. Although there might be bits and pieces that have not been located, we cannot see where consideration of the disqualification should be delayed to collect further evidence.

As pointed out elsewhere, after the publication of the Dettloff article in Outdoor Life magazine, additional photographs, witnesses and evidence came forward. Would a more aggressive search prior to a decision regarding Mr. Lawtons muskie have revealed these later discoveries and would they have affected the decision to disqualify the Lawton World Record muskellunge?

The conclusion of the Lawton & Cates attorneys in part follows,

John Dettloff has done a superb job collecting the evidence and thoughtfully evaluating it. We agree with his conclusion that the Lawton muskie should be disqualified. We recommend that the Hall of Fame obtain the services of a consultant in photographic analysis to review potential records. This not only would insure the accuracy of the photographs submitted but would discourage the submission of fraudulent claims.

Again, this is interesting. After recommending two independent photogrammetry reviews and further communication with Walter Dunn in their first letter, the attorneys suddenly accept fully only that work done by Mr. Dettloff.

Lawton & Cates recommendation to the Hall to obtain photogrammetric consultant services has gone unheeded in the subsequent 14 years, including the Halls review of the recent 2005 WRMA vs. Spray record muskellunge protest.

i) The Hall admitted that they should have retained their own professional review and peer review of the Lawton photographs but failed to do so due to cost, according to then Hall Director Ted Dzialo. Mr. Dzialos cost comment was made to Chicago Tribune Outdoor columnist John Husar in one of his columns (undated-circa 1992). Mr. Husar wrote,

Ted Dzialo, president of the Hall of Fame, has admitted he and his board accepted Dettloffs allegations without any independent forensic analysis.

j) In the year after disqualification, new photographic evidence supposedly surfaced via Lawton nephew Art Molle (as detailed previously) and was reported in the Chicago Tribune on 2-21-1993 by John Husar. Mr. Husar also wrote,

The IGFAs Mike Leech explained Lawtons fish would not be acceptable by todays submission standards, especially because there seems to be some doubt he submitted a picture of the correct fish.

This new photo evidence, to my knowledge, was ignored.

k) Two new eyewitnesses to the Lawton record muskellunge surfaced after publication of the story of the Lawton disqualification in Outdoor Life magazine by Mr. Dettloff and reported by Mr. Husar in the Chicago Tribune, also on 2-21-1993. This too was ignored.

1) The first new eyewitness, Bob Denny, related that he held the Lawton fish, compared it to his own 6 foot height and most importantly, encouraged Lawton to get it weighed nearby on a new Toledo Scale. Denny calibrated that scale and then put the fish on it and it weighed just a shade over 70 pounds. Denny also measured the fish with a steel tape measure at 65 inches in length. He later signed an affidavit regarding the above for Art Molle, Lawtons nephew.

2) The second new eyewitness, Annette C. Harder, a neighbor of Denny, said she stood beside the Lawton fish. She related to Mr. Husar that she was just five feet tall, and when they held that fish next to me, it was at least 5 inches taller. Ms. Harder also signed an affidavit regarding the above for Art Molle.

8) Ken Schultz, Field & Stream magazine Fishing Editor had a few things to say about the Lawton muskellunge record as reported by Shawn Thompson, Staff Writer for the Whig-Standard newspaper in Ganonoque, Ontario, in the November 9, 1992 issue,

Ken Schultz, associate fishing editor for Field & Stream Magazine, which originally certified the Lawton muskie, also thinks the evidence is inclusive. He said his magazine has no official position, but his own opinion is that theres not enough evidence to throw the Lawton record out. I dont think theyve proved Field & Stream certified the wrong fish, he says. He added, This kind of controversy is not unusual where world record fish are concerned.

9) The Whig-Standard newspaper of Gananoque, Ontario, November 7, 1992, article by Shawn Thompson stated:

Four of the five witnesses to the weighing of the Lawton fish are still alive and are sticking to their story that everything was legitimate. Mr. Dettloff dismisses them, partly because they werent anglers and therefore were unable, in his opinion, to tell the difference between a 49-pound fish and a 69-pound one.

I find this to be the height of arrogance by Mr. Dettloff. The Hall and now Hall president Dettloff used the very reasoning of witnesses as a major part in their decision to uphold the Spray record in 2006!

In his November 9, 1992 column Mr. Thompson included the following,

However, that leaves the puzzle of five witnesses who verified size of the record muskie. If Mr. Dettloff is right, then these five are either liars or dupes. Theres also the neighbor who saw both fish (49-8 & 69-15) and maintains to this day that they were different fish.

The judges for the Annual Field & Stream Fishing Contest were; Dr. H. John Rayner, Chief of Operations, Division of Fisheries, Oregon State Game Commission; Cecil Heacox, Senior Aquatic Biologist, New York State Conservation Department; Van Campen Heilner, author and marine ichthyologist; A.J. McClane, Fishing Editor, Field & Stream.
This esteemed group was, in effect, duped by Mr. Dettloff. This despite an un-notarized affidavit from Judge H J Rayner and an unsigned affidavit from Judge and Field & Stream employee, A.J. McClane (signed by Mrs. A.J. McClane after Mr. McClanes death).

10) Following is additional supporting documentation of the factors and findings noted above:

From the Lawton Archives:

Lawton submitted his contest application to Field & Stream in October of 1957 and also entered his fish in the Louis A. Wehle Fishing Contest, a New York state fishing contest, sponsored and conducted by the Genesee Brewing Company, Inc. (Louis A. Wehle, Chairman of the Board), of Rochester, N.Y.

In the Lawton archives were a series of letters and responses to and from Lawton and the two aforementioned organizations, as well as, some additional pertinent correspondence.

a) The first letter was dated October 9, 1957 from Genesee Brewing Company Advertising Manager James P. Duffy, requesting additional information. In that letter Duffy alluded to Lawtons muskie as,

A record for the State and to the best of my knowledge, a record for the United States. Naturally the judges want to have as much information regarding the catch as possible.

Note: There was no mention of who the judges were and there was no information of same extant in the Lawton archives. Later years contest information indicated that they changed judges often and they were generally outdoor writers.

Mr. Duffys letter also asked for additional information about the,

spot in the river where it was taken, the people with you at the time, any of the guides or hotel people in Clayton who witnessed the weighing of the fish (Im assuming that it was weighed in Clayton as well as at Dunn Brothers in Albany) and any other data that would enable us to make a story out of this wonderful catch. I would also like to have the negative of the snapshot of you and the fish which accompanied your entry so that we can enlarge it and make plates for the newspapers and magazines.

Lawtons reply to Mr. Duffy included the following (note: In cases of handwritten copies/duplications of Lawton correspondence of that time period, it is apparent that these duplicate letters were prepared by Ruth Lawton),

I prefer not to disclose the exact spot in the river where the catch was taken. It is in the vicinity of Clayton, N.Y.-but I do not wish to be more specific for obvious reasons. Having fished in this area over 20 years, I found a spot from which I have taken several large muskies over the years. Naturally, I prefer to keep this spot as private as possible to assure more years of good fishing.

My wife, Ruth Lawton, was with me at the time the fish was caught. There were no guides or other companions.

Since I never display my catches at Clayton, there were no witnesses there. We brought the fish home and weighed it at Dunn Bros.

I fought the muskie for a little more than an hour, after hooking it while trolling, and used a gaff to boat it. A 30 lb. test line was used.

Boated 78 muskies in the last 2 years. Those which were not hooked too badly or which were too small were released.

Best day this season eight strikes and landed five.

Brought home a string of 9 muskies ranging from 20 lbs. to 49 lb. 8 oz during one weeks fishing this season. Picture of these 9 fish enclosed

b) On November 29, 1957 Lawton sent the following letter to Field & Stream,

Last October we sent you our entry for the 1957 Field & Stream Fishing Contest. As yet we have not received any acknowledgement of this entry.

Would you please check your records and see if this entry has been registered.

c) On December 6, 1957 F&S contests editor, Mike (actually Mary, the name Mike was used for contest purposes) Ball responded,

Replying to your letter of November 29th please be advised the picture and affidavit for your muskellunge have been received.

d) On February 21, 1958 Lawton received a letter from Mr. Ball of Field & Stream after one of the Field & Stream judges called Lawton regarding his fish,

We were disappointed to learn from Mr. Cecil Heacox, Senior Aquatic Biologist of the New York conservation Department and one of the judges of our Annual Fishing Contest, that you were unable to furnish him with more complete information about your 69-pound 15-ounce muskellunge. The catch is of particular interest to us because it is a potential world record and we had hoped you would further substantiate it for that reason.

So far as the contest is concerned, the completed affidavit form generally is sufficient but in the case of a new record it is necessary to have all available information on record. As a protection to both ourselves and the angler, we take the records very seriously to avoid any controversy and because they must meet the approval of scientific bodies in the field.

In this particular case, its difficult for us to reach a decision when the State Conservation Department is not fully informed through Mr. Heacox. Although Field & Stream is responsible for the final decision, his opinion is very important, both as one of the contest judges and as a representative of the state in which the fish was caught.

In view of the above, I think you can understand the embarrassing position you have placed us in and trust you will reconsider the situation. Would you please give us a full account of the catch including such information as where in the St. Lawrence the fish was caught, where it was weighed, names and addresses of witnesses to the catching and weighing of the fish and any other details you feel would be helpful. Further, an affidavit attesting to the accuracy of the scales on which the fish was weighed is required for world records and if there were more than two witnesses to the weighing and measuring, please have as many as possible sign this additional affidavit.

We hope you will give the above your prompt attention and will be very pleased to receive any information which will help verify your catch.

1) On the back of this letter Art Lawton received from Field & Stream is a handwritten note by him. It was likely an immediate thought that he had after reading the Field & Stream letter, however; these sentiments were not communicated to Field & Stream in Lawtons reply to them. The note,

Why was (the) story started 2 to 3 wks before Mr. Heacox ever call(ed) that I would not talk to any of the conservation people. Answer(ed) all questions ask(ed) by Mr. Heacox What is his reason for saying I that I was unable to furnish him with complete information(.) Has some off (sic) the boys in this department an ax (sic) to grind(?)

e) That note by Lawton is indeed interesting and the Heacox call is addressed in Lawtons reply to Field & Stream,

In reference to your letter of Feb. 21, below is the information you requested.

The fish was caught in the St. Lawrence River in the vicinity of Clayton, New York.

It was weighed at Dunn Bros. on a scale which had a State seal; an affidavit follows. There were five witnesses to the weighing and measuring: 1. Mr. Louis Hauf, Sr., 2 Maple Street, Stop 36 , Albany-Schenectady Road, Albany, New York; Mr. Robert Riley, 496 Delaware Avenue, Albany, New York; Mr. J. Emerson Sharp, R.D. Slingerlands, New York; Mr. Lauren Kisselburg, R.D. Slingerlands, New York; Mr. Walter Dunn, R.D. Delmar, New York.

Mrs. Lawton was the only witness to the catching of the fish since we always fish alone.

In the matter of the information given to Mr. Heacox; at the time he telephoned me he asked the questions and I answered them. I feel that I answered all the questions of interest to him as I did not refuse to answer any questions. If you feel that I should talk with Mr. Heacox again, I will be very happy to talk with him and answer any questions he may have.

If you have any further questions I will be pleased to answer them.

11) Internal Hall correspondence: During the Halls consideration of the Dettloff investigation a series of four memos were sent to their Executive Board, Hall Governors Advisory Board and Select Concerned Individuals (note: the 4th internal Hall correspondence indicates to all recipients that it is alright to share Hall information by stating that for any concerned publictolet them read your/our portfolio on this).

a) The first internal letter, undated, from Hall Staff was sent to the National Board of Advisory Governors and the Executive Board and was signed by Ted Dzialo (Director) and Bob Kutz (Founder). This was a basic overview of Dettloffs Lawton protest, which, unfortunately, in the manner this letter was written, inadvertently tended to lead recipients to read and accept Dettloffs findings. That letter need not have given any details, rather just the message that the protest was made.

That letter,

This letter is being sent as to provide our board with preliminary information concerning the World Record 69 lb. 15 oz. Musky caught by Art Lawton, St. Lawrence River on 9/22/57.

It is alleged by a research project that Lawtons Record musky has been falsified.

The Hall of Fame and the IGFA has copies of a detailed investigation conducted by a researcher/historian, John Dettloff, indicating that the weight of the fish is not as reported but of lesser weight, in fact Falsified.

Dettloff acquired photo of this and other fish caught by the Lawtons from the heirs of the Lawtons. Through photo analysis, comparing the lengths of the fish in the photos with known lengths, it is indicated that through application of engineering standards and known relationships of length and girth that the fish could not have been 69 lbs. 15 oz. This is borne out by a photo that shows the same fish on another photo as being 49 lbs. 8 oz.

The fish with a shown weight of 49 lbs. 8 oz. was determined to be the same as the fish shown as 69 lbs. 15 oz. through distinctive body marking on the fish. The 49 lb. 8 oz. fish was photographed one week prior to the catch of the World Record musky.

The report also contains affidavits by the man (Walter Dunn), who originally weighed the fish that he did not weigh the fish, as well as statements by others, including Field & Streams A.J. McClane of the time. Dettloff spoke to McClane prior to his passing and the statement was signed by his wife. A.J. McClane was suspicious of the fish, but it was recognized as a world record by Field & Stream. A.J. McClane was one of the judges for the Field & Stream fishing contest for many years.

As stated, this is but a preliminary report to our Directors to notify and acquaint them with what is happening on this record. Musky Historian for the Hall and IGFA, Larry Ramsell, who has received a complete copy of the report from IGFA and has been in close contact with both organizations and the researcher, concurs with the shocking results.

Note: While I had indeed bought into Dettloffs findings, in hindsight, I accepted Dettloffs findings rather than do a more complete and thorough review myself, such as the one being done now. I apologize for my oversight which I attribute to a lack of time and frequent moving, as well as inexperience in the matters of total record review. The Halls relating that I concurred with the shocking results. in their letter was improper and leading as were most of the other comments regarding the record that the Hall made in that letter.

The Hall letter continued,

It is our plan to allow our directors to view this report and then advise us of their decision as to disqualify this fish record or allow it to stand.

Due to the extensive size of the report and the cost to duplicate it 35 times over, we will send out 10 copies of the report and will appreciate the return with your comments as quickly as possible, so it can be forwarded to other board members.

Enclosed will be an addressed, stamped envelope for your convenience. Again, thanks for your prompt assistance in this matter when the report is forwarded to you.

b) The second internal letter: This letter was to clarify an attached letter, the first Lawton & Cates Law Firm letter, dated July 6, 1992 (detailed elsewhere in this review-see 7, h, 1, above). Letter number 2 was sent to Hall Governors Advisory Board, as well as, the Executive Board and Select Concerned Individuals from Ted Dzialo, Director and Bob Kutz, Founder, and said,

FORWARD: To clarify, the enclosed material is an evaluation by a law firm that specializes in investigative analysis concerning alleged conditions similar to the investigation we are dealing with which you all received to comment/vote on regarding the alleged falsification of the current recognized Muskie All-Tackle World Record.

This evaluation came about when one of our Advisory Governors, Warren P. Knowles (a former State/Wisconsin Governor) and an avid muskie angler gave his Dettloff papers to Lawton (no relative) & Cates Law Firm, also avid muskie people, to comment on.

At this time there appears further work to be done, primarily between Investigator, John Dettloff, and this law firm before all points are resolved for the Hall to act officially on the Art Lawton record.

One now has to question why the Hall felt that the concerns addressed to them by the law firm, should be done, primarily between Investigator, John Dettloff, and this law firm before all points are resolved for the Hall to act officially on the Art Lawton record. It was the Halls responsibility to independently undertake the Lawton & Cates recommendations not put it back into the hands of the protesting investigator, Mr. Dettloff!

The Hall letter continues with yet more poisoning of the jury,

Until this report, a large majority of the several dozen reports we sent out to our experts leaned heavily on disqualification as suggested by the Dettloff investigation. We will now ride in neutral officially, until we satisfy all factions with our findings. You will be updated as the situation dictates.

We have not released any of these allegations or investigation papers to the media. Please do not leak such information at this time.

Note: While the Hall kept the investigation under wraps, Mr. Dettloff did not as at least one major outdoor writer was sent the complete investigation package. That writer was Jerry Gibbs, Outdoor Life magazine Fishing Editor. This was according to a letter that I received on April 27, 1992 from then IGFA President, Elwood K. Harry, when he sent me a copy of the investigation. It said in part,

Apparently, he (John Dettloff) has sent copies of this material to various people as Jerry Gibbs of Outdoor Life just called me this morning and it appears that he has a complete package of this investigation

Now back to Hall letter number 2,

Investigator Dettloff tells us he has been in contact with IGFAs new president, Mike Leech, (Elwood K. Harry died very recently) and Leech said, according to Dettloff, that they are satisfied to disqualify Lawtons record at this time.

This comment to disqualify appears to be in direct conflict with one made to me in a letter from Michael Leech on May 29, 1992. That letter said in part,

I agree that a decision should be made on this soon although in the past when dealing with the rescinded records it has been IGFAs policy not to make any big public announcement but rather to quietly retire and replace the record in question

The Hall letter number 2 finishes,

This new law firm analysis may stall things for awhile, but if we resolve to disqualify, we plan on doing it in a joint Hall/IGFA news release. Thank you for your patience and cooperation.

c) The third internal letter: From Hall of Fame Staff (signed by Ted Dzialo) to Executive Board and National Advisory Board,

Enclosed are comments made by Brad Latvaitis on the Art Lawton Musky, on which all have received a copy of the investigation by John Dettloff.

Board member Latvaitis is also a resercher (sic) who evaluated Dettloffs investigation and his comments are as enclosed (this letter is covered in section 12 below).

We are in the process of contacting Larry Ramsell, IGFA and Hall rep/historian, to obtain the appropriate affadavits (sic) from Mr. Donn (sic)(s/b Dunn) and Mr. Sharp as we felt it would be more appropriate to obtain them thru Larry as a dual rep. rather than the investigator.

Note: I do not recall having been asked by the Hall to obtain additional affidavits from Mr. Dunn and Mr. Sharp and in fact, I did not do so. If asked and there was a reason for me not to do so, I have no recall or record of it. I in fact, did not even talk to Walter J Dunn, but I did talk to Mr. Dunns nephew, Walter J. Dunn II, and to Mr. Sharp.

Letter number 3 continues,

We have received comments from some of the members as to their wishes on the handling of this fish. Please send you comments in as soon as possible.

We, at this point, do not know what IGFA is doing but we would like to have our findings ready. Thank you for your cooperation.

d) Fourth internal letter: This letter was dated July 27, 1992 and was sent to the Executive Board, National Advisory Governors Board and Select Concerned Individuals from Ted Dzialo and Bob Kutz but obviously written by Bob Kutz alone,

This update, as of late June, concerning the alleged falsification by Art Lawton of his 69 15 muskie which was qualified by Field & Stream Magazine in 1957/58 as a world all-tackle record and accepted and carried as such for 35 years, was long controversial in varied fishing circles. A muskie addict/historian, John Dettloff, a muskie guide and engineering buff, dedicated himself and his time for a few years and several thousand dollars of his money to seek proof and to settle the Lawton controversy as well as the Louie Spray 4 ounce lesser record, also often criticized that his record fish of 69 11 was netted, speared, purchased from a local Native American, etc.

Dettloff extremely thorough research proved the Spray fish to be legit and properly documented and accepted by Field & Stream, the record keeper of the time.

Dettloff next tackled the Lawton fish research, the result of which was sent to you in several mailings for your comments and vote. Dettloff has no personal gain in this.

You must realize that Ted and I and our Executive Board of Trustees decided early on to take our time and search out any sour-grapes or motives by anyone that a wrong decision on the Halls part would threaten our integrity and/or lessen our hard earned 22 year credibility and reputation as a record keeper for freshwater.

The sensitive area we faced is that if the Lawton fish was disqualified, the Spray fish would be reinstated which was caught in the Hayward Lakes region. Weve already had comments from a couple top-shelf outdoor writers that this could be a put-up job by the Hall to bring the muskie record back to Hayward. Of course, this is not true, but logically New York and many Lawton followers there will probably be extremely disappointed for loss of image or face.

Whatever the outcome, to update the process we are in, your last update contained an evaluation of Dettloffs research project by the Madison, Wisconsin law firm of Lawton (no relative) & Cates. This is a large, prestigious firm of trial lawyers who specialize in the reconstruction of accident and homicide, etc., cases and analysis of same through research similar to the Dettloff papers.

Since their evaluation, where-in they had questions and wanted more proof before theyd agree that the Lawton fish was a falsified entry, they met personally with researcher John Dettloff, who satisfied their needs and doubts by producing original photos and negative which served for better comparisons of the fish in question, along with more distinct markings. Further, the meeting clarified the affidavits of the weight and witness documents.

Note: While this sounds impressive on the surface the initial recommendations for independent photo analysis and additional witness affidavits were not fulfilled, even though the attorneys approved Dettloffs findings after meeting with him. There was no further independent Hall investigation. (The letter from Lawton & Cates referred to in this letter was detailed elsewhere in this review-see 7, h, 2, above).

Letter number 4 continues,

After the meeting Dettloff contacted Director Dzialo and reported the law firm was now satisified with his findings and that they would send the Hall a letter to that effect. That letter is included with this final update.

With that letter and our contact with IGFA, that they have already decided to disqualify (retire is the term used by the IGFA) the record, we now turn to our vote of Governors and other experts, numbering about 40. We find we have not heard from nine of those people (please respond).

Another half-dozen say they will abide by the decision of our Board research expert, Brad Latvaitis, and/or the law firm.

Note: Since Mr. Latvaitis recommendations were not followed his vote was not forthcoming to disqualify. This conflict with the law firms concurrence of the Dettloff investigation puts those additional half-dozen votes in question.

Letter number 4 continues,

A couple of people felt not qualified to vote. Only one person voted to let the record stand and 20 persons voted to disqualify.

At this point in time the Hall feels free to disqualify Lawtons 69 15 record muskie as a falsified record.

To my knowledge, as former World Record Secretary and Hall Historian and World Record Advisor at that time, neither a Hall record disqualification protocol nor identification of the number or percentage of votes required for disqualification were in place. If my math is correct, based on the above information, the Hall had 20 votes to disqualify; 1 vote to let stand; 9 did not respond; 1 no vote as his recommendation for an additional affidavit was not met (Latvaitis); and 6 questionable as their proxy was undeterminable as noted above. This means that of a potential 37 votes, only 54.1% of the total possible votes were for disqualification.

Letter number 4 continues,

The law firms evaluation of the evidence and recommendation to do so gives a comfortable feeling that we pursued all avenues to arrive at this decision and kept the integrity of the Hall at a high plane.

If any concerned public questions our move, let them read your/our portfolio on this or refer them to us.

In summation, it appears Lawtons several other large fish and lesser records were also falsified. Our prime concern here at this time is only the current all-tackle record.

Finally, it is ironic but there are only two species of fish that shake the angling world of records; that is the largemouth bass and the muskie. Though important, all the other fresh water species do not hold the same high priority of concern weve found.

In the past, weve researched and disqualified an ages old foul-hooked brown trout record from Scotland, a record pike by a Notzlii, a record snagged blue catfish, and several other lesser fish.

Thank you all for your concern and cooperation in the process.

Our most sincere thanks to the Lawton-Cates Firm, John Dettloff, Larry Ramsell, Brad Latvaitis and Warren Knowles.

I will be writing a news release on this after official clearance by the Director and Executive Board which will include IGFAs decision to disqualify (retire) also and will go out to near 10,000 media. Please dont scoop us as individuals on this.

The news release referred to by Mr. Kutz above was later released (undated). It contained several obvious incorrect statements based on this review to this point, not to mention not completing the recommendations of both the law firm and Hall Governor Latvaitis and embellishing the final vote to disqualify. For that reason, I am including that news release in its entirety here. In addition, IGFA merely retired the Lawton record and left the door open. The news release,


In a joint action, the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame (NFHF and the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) disqualified a standing 35 year old world record muskie record held by Arthur Lawton, a New York angler.

After an intense and extensive study, and gathering of evidence for a year by an independent researcher, the 1957 St. Lawrence River catch claimed to be a 69 lb. 15 oz. fish by Lawton was proven to be a falsified entry inadvertently accepted by the Field & Stream Magazine, the fish record qualifier of the time.

The Hall of Fame and the IGFA, modern day record qualifiers, who evaluated the voluminous portfolio of documents compiled by the researcher, John Dettloff, 30, of Couderay, Wisconsin, do not fault the magazines record process of the time, but noted that a falsification of a record application with todays stringent requirements of certification would be noticed by either organization.

A record muskie, like a record bass, is the most sought after mark in freshwater sport angling for its promise of fame and fortune through endorsements and publications of the feat. Ironically, Lawton did not cash in on any wealth his record offered, except for a few contest dollars, but probably could not, a Hall spokesman said, because the fish he claimed as 69 lbs. 15 oz. did not exist. He never had his alleged record catch mounted. He said he cut up the fish and gave it away. His record stirred immediate controversy.

To uphold his claim for big fish application, he relied on several witnesses which were his family and a neighbor, none of whom, except his wife Ruth, fished. He produced a single very poor photograph as the only one shot of the fish. Photo experts at the photography museum of the University of California, several individual experts and a law firm of specialists in such analysis, determined that the fish could not exceed 57 inches in contrast to Lawtons claim of his catch as 64 inches. The exact markings he passed off as his record claim were identical in a smaller fish other photographs proved.

Incriminating evidence that the fish was falsified was fortified by the fact that Walter Dunn, a listed witness to the weighing who is alive today, recanted his part in the weighing and now, by affidavit, says he did not see the fish nor witness the weighing.

In addition, A. J. McClane a highly credible personality in the fishing industry who died just recently, spoke to Dettloff and through his widow on his deathbed left word of affidavit that as one of the application judges for the magazine, he advised Dettloff to search out the details of the Lawton catch of which McClane too was suspicious after these many years.

The law firm of Lawton (no relative) and Cates of Madison, Wisconsin, offered the free services of their large staff or trial lawyers, several of whom are muskie anglers, to the Hall to evaluate Dettloffs research.

The firm found Dettloffs more than 80 pages of evidence met not only the laws clear and convincing standard, but also a higher court standard of beyond reasonable doubt.

After a lengthy personal meeting with John Dettloff and accolades for his expertise and perseverance to bring out the truth, the firm recommended disqualification of the Lawton record and the restoration of the 1949, Louis Spray record 69 lb. 11 oz. muskie to the record books.

In their analysis, the law firm also advised that it appeared that all the Lawton large fish catches were falsified for whatever intent at the time.

Dettloff, a muskie guide, fishing camp owner, research historian and fishing article author, used his fish knowledge and a couple years of formal statistical analysis training and applied it to authenticating the 1949 Louie Spray muskie record first, which Lawton took from him with his falsified 1957 catch.

Dettloff took off on that project after a major magazine editor related a tale to a major newspaper outdoor editor that Louie Spray purchased his record from a Chicago mobster for $50.00. Other comments were that a local Indian speared the fish. Record muskies and bass throughout history have always been suspect as illegal or falsified catches. Dettloff set out and proved the magazine and news articles as ugly rumors.

In contrast, unlike the Lawton fish, the Spray muskie catch was witnessed, well certified by numerous credible persons, and weight documented on a post office scale. Also the Spray fish was mounted and on display for a decade before it was destroyed in a fire. All the Spray catch and record documents and memorabilia is in the Halls archives.

The success and extensive publication of Dettloffs effort to once and forever quell the rumor of suspicion regarding Sprays prompted Dettloff to initiate the Lawton research. Lawtons claim to record and its acceptance was steeped in controversy for 35 years, five years before I was even spawned Dettloff chides, I had to look into it because I was overwhelmed by the lack of evidence surrounding the alleged record.

The Halls Executive Director, Ted Dzialo, and the Halls volunteer Founder and Public Affairs Director, Bob Kutz, are braced for criticism they feel will be directed at the Hall that it prompted the investigation and disqualification of the New York fish to bring the record back to Wisconsin.

Though not true at this point in time, with the players all deceased, the only purpose served, Dettloff said is, truth must reign in record keeping and the decision by both the Hall and IGFA admonishes all would be record anglers to certify their catches beyond all doubt.

While IGFA used their system to disqualify, the Hall reproduced the research portfolio and mailed it to its National Board of 30 Governors, its Executive Board of seven, and other concerned persons to total near 50 experts who evaluated and then voted their decision. In the final tally, eight persons did not respond, only one voted to keep the record and over 40 voted to disqualify

Note: Was there a rush to judgment? After reviewing one more point below, I think you will find, as I did, that yes, there was in fact a rush to judgment.

12) Brad Latvaitis: Brad Latvaitis, former member of the Hall World Board of Advisory Governors, Hall Researcher and Chairman of the Awards Committee sent a letter of recommendation on June 19, 1992 to the Hall to be completed before he would vote to disqualify. Those recommendations were not acted upon. Following are the pertinent parts of that letter:

A review of The investigation of Arthur Lawtons world record muskie by John Dettloff (including photo, affidavit, article and evidence exhibits) decisively documents that the muskie that the muskie photograph commonly recognized as that of a 69 lb, 15 oz muskie is actually the photograph of a much smaller muskie. This smaller muskie is believed to weigh 49 lbs, 8 oz per a Lawton photo notation and calculation support presented in Dettloffs investigation. Comparative photo analysis conclusively identify that the 49 lb, 8 oz muskie, pictured with a photo of eight other muskies, is the same muskie commonly recognized as that of a 69 lb, 15 oz muskie and presented by Dettloff as photo exhibit No 1.

Upon my receipt of the Lawton investigation, I spent several sleepless nights and most of three days evaluating Dettloffs information and other data concerning Arthur Lawtons World Record muskie. Based on this evaluation, I concluded, in great detail, that I could not support Dettloffs recommendation to disqualify Art Lawtons World Record muskie.

My response to Dettloffs three point disqualification recommendation is summarized below:

1. I agree that the investigation established the photograph commonly recognized as a 69 lb, 15 oz muskie is the photograph of a much smaller muskie, believed to be 49 lbs, 8 oz.

2. Concerning whether Lawton submitted a false photograph, I contend that the investigation does not establish that Art Lawton submitted the photograph to Field & Stream, or that Art Lawton submitted the photograph as part of the 1957 contest affidavit, or under what circumstances Field & Stream obtained the photograph.

3. Further, the investigation does not establish that Art Lawton submitted false evidence on the weigh-in of his World Record muskie to Field & Stream. Evidence concerning the weigh-in was submitted independently by the Witnesses! Rileys response (Affidavit Exhibit B) was to the Field & Stream editor in response to the editors July 7, 1958 letter; likewise, Hauf and Dunn provided correspondence independently to Field & Stream and Dunns affidavit was witnessed by Shaw, who was reportedly sent by Field & Stream to investigate the record!

Concerning the conflicting affidavits by Mr. Dunn of 1958 and 1992, I favored the 1958 affidavit for two reasons:

(1) Mr. Dunn is not a fisherman. I feel that the event was insignificant to him and details can be forgotten over 34+ years.

(2) What was extremely significant to me was that Dale Shaw, a writer for Field & Stream (the contest sponsor), sent to check on the story by Field & Stream (according to Ramsell Compendium of Muskie Angling History, p 229) ended up actually witnessing in writing a notarized Statement by Dunn regarding the 69 lb, 15 oz weight, 64-1/2 length and 31-3/4 girth. Following, Shaw further documented the story in detail in a 1958 Field & Stream article (see Dettloff Article Exhibit III).

Finally, concerning two of four Field & Stream judges, they recommended an investigation and indicated they would support disqualification if evidence submitted by Lawton was falsified or Field & Stream criteria was not properly met. Based on the 1957 Field & Stream affidavit, which are the only known criteria, a contestant must:

(1) comply with the rules of the contest, and

(2) the witnesses must actually witness the weighing and measuring of the fish.

A photograph was only required, if available. I reasoned that because there was no hard evidence that Lawton provided falsified information, no evidence that Lawton was our-of-compliance with contest rules, and no information that the witnesses did not actually witness the weighing and measuring of the fish, I could not support disqualification. In addition, I was concerned about Dettloffs potential conflict of interest (the new World Record, Sprays 69 lb, 11 oz muskie, was likely caught within sight of Dettloffs resort) as well as the investigations derogatory tone; e.g., reference to Lawtons World Record muskie as falsified rather than stating that the photo commonly recognized as the 69 lb, 15 oz muskie is actually a 49 lb, 8 oz fish; discussing 29 different photos of the 49 lb, 8 oz fish, etc.

At this next point in Mr. Latvaitis letter a bit of confusion ensues with regard to a telephone call between myself (Larry Ramsell) and Mr. Latvaitis. I will detail it further after the following quote from his letter,

Therefore, based solely on Dettloffs investigation, my recommendation was not to support disqualification. However, prior to submitting my recommendation, I received a telephone call from Mr. Larry Ramsell. Larry also initially did not support disqualification and conducted a detailed follow-up study. This follow-up research made disqualification the only choice. Larry determined, as implied by the investigation, that J Emerson Sharp and Walter J Dunn were present at the weigh-in, but did not actually witness the weighing and measuring of Arthur Lawtons 69 lb, 15 oz muskie. If verified, this fact clearly invalidates the 1957 Field & Stream contest affidavit and disqualifies the muskie. I strongly urge that an appropriate affidavit is obtained from Mr. Sharp and Mr. Dunn specifying that they did not actually witness the weighing and measuring (note that Mr. Dunns affidavit of 1992 does not specify that he did not actually witness the weighing and measuring.

It is apparent to me now that Mr. Latvaitis had misinterpreted our conversation since I did never did talk to Mr. Dunn. I did talk to Mr. Dunns nephew and Mr. Sharp Mr. Sharp confirmed that he saw the fish weighed and measured. One additional possible reason for this confusion was the normal method in which the scale reading had been handled. The scale procedure was detailed earlier in this review (see 1, d, 1, above).

The next paragraph of the Latvaitis letter deals with the other Lawton muskies not germane to this review. His final paragraph states the following in part,

In summary, I strongly urge that an appropriate affidavit be obtained from Mr. Dunn and Mr. Sharp. Upon receipt of at least one of these affidavits, I urge that the 69 lb, 15 oz muskie be disqualified.

After signature, Mr. Latvaitis added a postscript,

PS Dettloffs description of girth, length, and weight relationships is somewhat misleading. The value provided for different weight range muskies is not the most accurate; it only represents the average. Most muskie in each weight range category can be expected to fall within the range provided and average as described in Dettloffs formula; i.e., a 40 to 60 lb muskie should range between a 707.3 to 910 divisor with the average divisor at 808.7.

Note: the postscript is referring to the formula Dettloff had used in his side width analysis of the supposed, unproven, photograph of the Lawton record muskie.

Note: Prior to the Halls recent decision with regard to the Louie Spray record muskie protest, Mr. Latvaitis regretfully resigned his 30 year position as Hall Advisory Governor, Hall researcher, Hall advisor on fisheries matters and as Chairman of the Awards (Enshrinement) Committee due to the manner in which the Hall, led by Hall President Dettloff and Executive Director Brown were handling the Spray investigation. Likewise, I too, with great regret, resigned as Hall Fish Historian and World Record Advisor for similar reasons, after 35 years of volunteer service to the Hall.


I sincerely wish that the "powers that were" at the time of the Lawton investigation would have stepped back and realized what a "can of worms" was about to be opened. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.

When I authored my book, "A Compendium of Muskie Angling History" my goal was to simply preserve the wonderful history of our great sport in one place before it was lost. I did not look for reasons to discount or discredit historical catches, quite the contrary. I tried in almost every case to find additional supporting facts and information. Unfortunately, in some cases, we were all duped. However, that doesn't reduce the addition that the historic record muskies have to the "muskie mystique" that influences all serious muskie fishermen and women.

I respect anyones right to disagree with me on anything regarding our muskie history but please allow me the advantage of my voluminous files, gathered over the past 45 years. I do have, especially in the case of the Lawton muskie, a file containing more diverse information, from more sources, than any other extant. In total, my file includes unique information gathered before, at the time of, and after the Dettloff investigation of Lawtons world record muskellunge. It is this huge file that I reviewed and from which this investigation has materialized.

I sincerely believe that an incomplete review in 1992 and since has resulted in an egregious error regarding disqualification of the Lawton muskie record. I was a small part of this review and it is now apparent to me that there are simply far too many unanswered questions to support disqualification. Particularly serious doubt exists regarding the Lawton photographs, a lack of professional photographic analysis, the lack of a chain of custody regarding the Lawton file and the Lawton archives including the Lawton photographs, interpretation of testimony provided by Mr. Dunn, Mr. Martin and others and additional evidence uncovered and reported by Mr. Husar and Mr. Thompson.

Based upon the review provided above, I urge the IGFA to reinstate the Arthur Lawton All-tackle World Record muskellunge. I am looking forward to the IGFAs consideration of my review.

Respectfully submitted,

Larry Ramsell
Muskie Historian