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Wisconsin Folks

Brooks Big John

Ojibwe Fish Decoys
Lac du Flambeau, WI

Brooks Big John holding decoys and a jigging stick. Photo courtesy of Brooks Big John.What is the land like where you live? Are there lots of tall buildings or do you live near woods? Can you see hills from your house or is the land near you flat? How do your surroundings affect the kinds of activities that you do?

Brooks Big John grew up on the Lac du Flambeau reservation. There are dozens of lakes on and near the reservation: Pokegama, Flambeau, Fence, Sand, White, Crawling Stone, and Squirrel to name just a few of the bigger ones. Brooks could walk out of his house and be only a few steps from a lakeshore. The lakes were filled with game fish like muskellunge, walleye pike and northern pike.

Many people in his community were interested in fishing in both summer and winter, and Brooks got interested too. Ojibwe people on the Lac du Flambeau reservation have been fishing during the winter for a very long time. As a young boy, Brooks learned how to spear fish through the ice. He Talk icon learned about using wooden decoys to trick the fish. Now Brooks is very good at making wooden decoys and using them when he spear fishes during the winter. Listen to Big John talk about growing up in Lac du Flambeau. You can read along by clicking here.

Along with fishing for himself, Brooks likes to work as a guide, taking others out to good fishing places. For many years, Big John family members have worked as fishing guides to help tourists figure out where to catch plenty of fish. Brooks learned about being a guide from his father, Jerome Big John. As a good fishing guide, Brooks is skilled in preparing a shore lunch. At mid-day, the people fishing with Brooks take a break. He prepares a fire, cooks the freshly caught fish and everyone eats a special meal.

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Vilas County, Wisconsin

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