Fish Decoy

  • Tom Young, Fish Decoy, 20th century, carved wood, galvanized iron sheet, ferrous eye hook, and lead weight, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Alastair B. Martin, 1999.67.12

Luce Center Label

Carved fish decoys are one of the earliest forms of American folk art. Hunters around the Bering Sea first used small bone or ivory decoys for ice fishing around 1000 AD. They believed that the decoys embodied the innua, or inner spirit of the fish. The practice spread to upstate New York and the Great Lakes, where it became a tourist industry with many communities growing around prime fishing areas. Ice fishing was banned in 1905, however, because the popularity of the sport had brought about a serious decline in large game fish.

Fish Decoy
20th century
On View
2 x 7 5/8 x 3 1/4 in. (5.1 x 19.4 x 8.3 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Alastair B. Martin

Mediums Description
carved wood, galvanized iron sheet, ferrous eye hook, and lead weight
  • Animal – fish
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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