By Natalie Conrad
Herald Staff Writer
FULTON, Ill. —
Visitors can now learn about the rich commercial fishing industry in the area at a new exhibit at the Windmill Cultural Center.
Local fisherman Ron Brown has compiled news clippings, fishing tools, photos and more to complete the display that will be at the center through mid-August.
“There is not a lot of information on the origins of commercial fishing, but I have so many pieces of the history,” Brown said. “This isn’t even all of it.”
In keeping with the Tourism committee’s theme of river connections and the Windmill Cultural Center’s Educational committee's theme of Water, Water Everywhere, the new display contains tools of the trade of a commercial fisherman.
Brown, who resides in Thomson, Ill., and has previously lived in Fulton, gathered his collection of nets, grab hooks, buoys and floats, many of which he has made himself. He says he worries that the art of making nets and tools is beginning to fade.
“Making a net like the hoop net takes seven to eight hours with lots of intricate knots,” Brown said. “A lot of people don’t make nets anymore. They buy them from netting companies, because it’s easier.”
Brown has been fishing on the Mississippi River and in this area since he was a young boy fishing with his father. He is one of the nine fishermen who are hired to fish in the Chicago area for Asian carp and is only fisherman to catch an Asian carp past the electronic barrier.
“I never thought I’d be fishing for carp next to the Sears tower,” Brown said. “It’s a really great experience to work with other fishermen and learn about their techniques. Everyone has a different way of doing things.”
Being a year-round commercial fisherman has it’s difficulties. Fishing in the winter is very difficult and size limits for fish differ from Iowa to Illinois which makes things uneasy for a fisherman like Brown who frequently goes between the two. The heat wave has also made keeping fish fresh more difficult. Despite the challenges, there is nothing Brown would rather do.
“When you get to spend your life doing something you really enjoy, you really can’t ask for more,” Brown said. “Every job has its ups and downs.”
The Windmill Cultural Center is located at 111 10th Ave. and is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.