Yet More Nails in the Coffin of Louie Spray's World Record Muskie Claims
Published By OutdoorsFIRST Media Published March 1, 2017
By Larry Ramsell, Muskie Historian -------------------------------------------
On Wednesday, January 25, 2017, I had the opportunity to sit down with a long-time Sawyer County, Wisconsin resident and learn more details behind the claim of one of Louie Spray's world record muskies, specifically the one that started his chain of claims of having caught three world record muskies; a 59-pound 8-ounce fish from Grindstone Lake at Hayward, Wisconsin in 1939.
This gentleman wishes for now to remain unnamed and his wish is understandable. I have from him an affidavit, so you will just have to accept that for now. I know him to be an honest and upstanding person and have no reason to believe his story to be other than the truth. The following information has been known by this gentleman since June 21st, (6:30 a.m.), 1992, when he personally did an interview with life-long Winter resident, one Mr. Paul Petit, recently deceased when in his 90's. Mr. Petit was known in the Winter area as a person who lived off the land and was quite prolific at capturing fish and game.
This gentleman had heard by the grapevine that Petit had been involved in the capture of one of Spray's claimed record muskies and set out to find out the story from Petit himself. The interview took place at a Winter cafe and was observed by two other Winter residents who shall remain nameless for now as well. Petit was 74 at the time of that interview.
Alton Van Camp with Spray's 1939 record muskie claim
The interviewer began the interview notes he took in 1992, as follows: "Paul, for most of my muskie days, 25 years (as of 1992), I've heard all the controversy surrounding Louie Spray's world record muskie catches. I've heard Louie caught all of them legally, to none of them (were) caught legally. Much speculation still surrounds these catches. To help cut down on speculation I went right to the source of a man claiming to know the real story of Spray's first big fish - the 1939 - 59" - 59.5 pound fish.
"I wanted to hear the story from life-long Winter, Wis. resident Paul Petit. Paul a true Northwood's 'character' himself has hunted, fished, and trapped every conceivable square acre of Northwest Wisconsin's Sawyer County and surrounding areas." Following is that interview:
Interviewer: "Paul there is still much controversy surrounding the world record muskie catches of Louie Spray. A couple of times during the past 25 years you've told me about how ticked off you still are because Louie didn't pay you for his first record muskie claim. Would you elaborate on your story?"
Paul Petit: "Well sure, it was 1939 or 1940 (actually it was 1939 when Spray registered his first world record claim...LR) I was working in the shipyard in Duluth during the week. On weekends, we'd come home (Winter, Wis.). A lot of the time we'd go down to the 'fish refuge' (closed all year at the Winter Dam on the Chippewa River) and catch fish, big muskies and walleyes - nothing to it, just loaded with fish. Well, we got a hold of a big muskie.
"Louie (who lived in the area at that time) had always told us he'd pay good money for a real big one. So, we (Paul and his brother) gave it to him and a couple of days later he produces the big muskie. He never paid what he said he would. He lied to me and I never did it for him again (although Paul's brother did - Louie's claimed 1940 world record!). I'm still ticked off about him not paying!"
Interviewer: How did you catch that big one?" Petit: "We fished for them, Pikie Minnow." Interviewer: "You didn't net the dam with commercial nets?" Petit: "No, we just fished for 'um. They were just thick in there then. Ya know we thought the supply was endless. Heck, we ate 'um, gave 'um to hungry people ya know." Interviewer: "Paul, what about Louie's two record muskies after that? Did you have anything to do with those two?" Petit: "No - no way! Louie screwed me once, not again. Other people got 'um for Louie." Interviewer: "You mean someone gave Louie the fish or sold 'um to him - he didn't catch the fish?" Petit: "No - no way. Louie knew he needed real long fish to get the weight up there." Interviewer: "What do you mean?" Petit: "Well, you can't get 60+ pounds out of a 51 incher. So if a mid 50-inch fish weighed light, they would grind up some fish, suckers - put a funnel in the muskies mouth and pour enough in to get the weight up where you need it. Record fish could be examined, their stomach opened and no weights or rocks that way. Just ground up fish." Interviewer: "You weren't involved in Louie's 1949 world record?" Petit: "No - no I wasn't. Never again after that first fish!" Interviewer: "Well Paul, I'd like to hear more stories someday. I wanted to just ask you about Louie's three world record muskies for now. Thanks." Petit: "Ya know Louie was no better fisherman than the next guy."
Ramsell note: Before Mr. Petit died, I got word to him that I would pay him $1000.00 for an affidavit to back-up this information. He declined. He was proud of the fact that throughout his life he had never been caught violating. When Petit was informed his information wouldn't be exposed until after he died, he still declined. While he was still pissed at Louie for "stiffing" him $50.00 in 1939, no money at this point was going to get him to confess in writing, his indiscretion in this matter. He and his family knew the truth and that was good enough for him!
To complete the above story, I have reported previously that Mr. Petits' brother was involved in getting Louie his 1940 "record" fish. Neither Paul nor his brother were involved in getting Spray his 1949 "record'. Professional photogrammetry has, however, proven that Spray's 1940 and 1949 "records" weren't nearly the lengths claimed: Click here for more information.
Mount of Spray's 1939 muskie
Photogrammetry has not been done on Spray's 1939 record claim as there are no photographs extant showing Spray holding that fish! The only known and published photograph of Spray's 1939 record claim is one taken of Spray's friend Alton Van Camp shown holding a large muskie (note: Van Camp had caught a 39-pound 14-ounce muskie in 1938) and that photograph was taken from an "extremely" low camera angle assisting in making the fish look as large as Spray claimed.