Antique Waterfowl Decoys And Fishing Lures On Display This Weekend

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Cod fishing has been okay the last week, not great. On the good days, it’s worth going. On the bad days, it’s a long, cold day on the water.This Saturday has the look of being a classic February cod fishing day. It will be frigid, the kind of cold that makes me hope the Viking can still fire up the old hot-water system to heat its rails. It will probably be fairly nice on the water, with moderate north winds and 3-foot seas in the forecast. So if you’re itching to catch some cod, the party boats will be comfortable. Bring your rabbit’s foot.

If you’d rather do something warmer while you wait for winter on Hoth to end, the Long Island Decoy Collectors Association is hosting its annual antique waterfowl decoy and fishing lure show on Saturday in Hauppauge. The show is always bustling with collectors and fans of hand-carved decoys and lures.

This year’s featured exhibit is root-head decoys, and collectors from all over Long Island are bringing their finest samples to build the display. There are sure to be a wide range of styles and species for comparison.

Back around the turn of the century, some decoy carvers were looking for a solution to the pine carved heads common on decoys, which could get brittle and crack or split fairly easily. They turned to finding crooked tree limbs that had grown into an elbow on their own, and which could be whittled into the more distinct shape of a goose, brant or duck head while retaining the natural strength of its fibers.

The practice was huge on the Great South Bay and Shinnecock, where huge flocks of brant and mergansers came each year to root for snails and crustaceans in the vast swaths of eelgrass that carpeted the shallow bays in those days. Both brant and mergansers were considered edible birds in those days, a thought that probably has every waterfowler reading this contorting their face in disgust. Never mind the warnings about PCBs—there is no amount of red currant jelly or mushroom gravy that I could fathom making a merganser appetizing for me.

But those were different times, and brant decoys make up the bulk of the root-head-style decoys. There will be root-headed brant carvings from Hampton Bays carver Alonzo C. Penny, and others from the Amityville and Seaford region. There also will be antique fishing lure displays and vendors for those looking to start or grow their collections.

Contemporary carvers will be on hand to showcase their skills, including Sag Harbor’s own Mathew Berardi, and Bob Diddle from Pennsylvania, if you want to get your hands on some future classics.

The auction houses Guyette Schmidt and Harmon’s from Cape Cod also will be on hand with displays of decoys from upcoming shows and auctions.

The show is being held at the IBEW Union Hall at 370 Vanderbilt Motor Parkway in Hauppauge. Doors are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and admission is just $7 for adults. Enjoy the show.

Catch ’em up. See you out there.

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