Blog: Fishermen (6/3/21) | Dickinson County News
The Iowa Great Lakes truly are a wonderful place to live, especially if you are a fisherman. The lakes are teeming with species of fish that require all kinds of skills and equipment. Many people in the region depend on fish for their livelihoods. This is true today as yesterday and the following article is about one of those people – Delos Peck. (1891-1981)
The life of Delos Peck is fascinating to follow – it is difficult to understand his diligence in the pursuit of success. His youth, by today’s standards, would be almost impossible to comprehend. A common factor that Delos Peck had in all of his businesses involved fish.
The following is an article from the Spirit Lake Beacon from November 19, 1970:
Once a proud and lucrative profession, the era of fishing guides is over. And there is only one veteran left, Delos Peck of Francis Sites. Pearl Fronk, another professional who led fishing expeditions to the Great Lakes of Iowa, died on September 3, 1981.
Delos Peck recalled how “I lived on the lake (Little Spirit Lake) in a seven by eight foot ice cabin from December to the end of February. I lived just across the state border from Minnesota and set up a trapline around the lake. I speared snakes (northern pike) and sold them.
It showed a hand-carved hookless lure in the shape of a small pan fish with fins fashioned from a small piece of pewter. The paint had worn out a long time ago. The center was filled with lead.
“I made this decoy when I was 13,” he said. “I would sit on a box and swing it up and down through a hole in the ice and through a trap door in the floor of my cabin. When a northerner came up to watch, I used my spear. I used to harpoon 700 to 800 pounds of fish every week with this lure.
He sold them for 4 cents a pound to Fred Knight, who came to pick them up with a bobsleigh.
Wasn’t it cold to live there on the lake in winter?
“Damn, I didn’t mind that. I would like to be there now. I had a good time. I threw my traps in the morning and got a lot of furs; then I opened the hatch and went harpoon fishing to beat the devil the rest of the day. Then, at night, I stripped the furs.
Peck continued to spend his winters on the ice of Little Spirit Lake for five years. He built a wooden “cabin”, bought the timber on time from a local business, and transferred it to Little Spirit. The seven-by-eight-foot shelter was equipped with a cot that folded away from a wall and an oil stove.
“I would come home every Saturday night and buy my other underwear for my mom,” he recalls. “Then I would go downtown (Spirit Lake) to Jim Farr’s old barber under the Antlers Hotel. I could take a bath, shave, and cut my hair for 50 cents.
Peck says his summers were spent rowing and guiding fishermen around the Iowa Great Lakes
“There was no speedboat here at the time,” he recalls. “I was one of the first guides to work in the region.
He charged $ 2.50 per day for the guiding service and he did all the rowing.
“The fishing was much better back then. Sometimes we would use five gallon buckets to get them out of the boats.
The house where he now resides has been his home and seat for 55 years. (Stoney Point-East Okoboji) At one point he had 20 boats for hire. Now he only has two boats for hire and two cabins.
Would he want to start living this way again? He replied: “God yes! I would like to go there right away!
The story of Sock (nickname) really begins when he was an elementary school student. It appears that during his fourth grade year, he and another boy were working in a boat livery on the south shore of Big Spirit Lake.
The occupation was at its peak just after the turn of the century when anxious fishermen came to the area for an extended stay. Many other men attempted to develop the techniques of the established guides, but never quite reached the caliber of Peck, Mr. Fronk, EE Holtz, Bud Daniels, Ed Andreas, Ben Reed, George Caple and Elmer Hinshaw: all masters of the trade.
One would think that the fishing guide’s occupation was not lucrative – their services were only in demand from the opening of the angling season in May until early fall. In fact, these men, who knew all the fishing harbors, could determine ideal weather conditions, effective lures and baits, etc., and made a good income. Their clients were silver men from Omaha, Des Moines, Sioux City, Cedar Rapids, and other out-of-state metropolitan areas. They haven’t shied away from the $ 4 and $ 5 per day fees charged by these professional fishing guides.
These men would go on daily “fish hunts” with their group around 7 am. Outboards weren’t coming yet, so they wielded oars – slowly passing over rocky reefs or other secret spots on the lake known to be frequented by lunkers. Walleye were the most sought after, but pole and crappie often timed the target.
If the group had been successful during the morning hours, it was an added treat to disembark at Marble Beach, McClelland’s Beach or Stony Point where the guides would cook a lunch of fried fish, potatoes, bread, eggs, etc. shoot. However, the guides – as well as monetary remuneration – were assured of their midday meal, and if the party had been “closed” one morning, the servants were to take the midday lunch bill at Crandall’s Lodge or elsewhere. cafes around the lakes.
But because these guides rarely failed to satisfy their clients with spars filled to capacity, their jobs remained secure until the advent of engines and laws allowing trolling with them. Delos teamed up with another guy and they caught some giant coarse fish that averaged around 50 cents a piece.
By the end of the season, however, each man had raised $ 1,200. This is what really put Delos on its feet financially. He paid the logging company and the bank and things were really improving.
This “grubstake” and his other ventures enabled him to purchase the lakefront property that became his hospitality space at Francis Sites, East Okoboji – Stony Point Boat Livery and Cottages. There are still several stone pillars that mark the location of Stony Point Boat Livery.
The old fishing guides and their rowboats no longer operate in the Great Lakes region of Iowa, but they will always be part of the heritage that created this popular sport of fishing.