I lived by a northwest Missouri lake in the 1960s and fished daily from early spring to late fall with my buddies. Our lake association stocked rainbow trout each spring and we lived for opening day on March 1. Catching trout was all we talked about throughout the winter months when our lake was frozen over.
My dad stopped at a local hardware store, a few days before the 1965 opener. In those days, hardware stores and some drug stores had fishing equipment. I noticed a card propped up with about 20 gold and silver trout spoons. The store owner noticed my interest and caught me by saying these were the only spoons to use for trout. My dad rolled his eyes knowing I was suckered in, but he bought me my first gold-plated Al’s Goldfish for $1.25, more than we generally paid for spoons in those days. `
During our drive home I turned the spoon over and over in my hands, admiring the shiny gold plating that might catch a trout’s attention. The spoon was even shaped like a streamlined fish, a big difference from others shaped like the working end of a spoon.
Back home I called a fishing buddies meeting. They all took turns studying my Al’s Goldfish, but claimed it would not beat their favorite spoons or spinners. Soon a bet was made on who would limit out first for 10 “Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos” comic books, a gutsy bet considering I had no idea if this flashy lure would actually catch trout or anything.
Opening day arrived and I proudly carried my Zebco 33 and fiberglass rod with the Al’s Goldfish securely tied on 10-pound test line by an improved cinch knot an old man taught me days before. I stepped out on a dock, cast and was surprised by deep twists resembling dancing teenage girls, or at least that’s what my older cousin told me in detail after attending his first high school dance.
My second cast was rewarded halfway back to the dock by a solid hit, a 3-pound rainbow trout. I caught my second trout four casts later and limited out. My disgusted buddies, nary a strike.
Comic books secured, I was quickly beseeched by my friends to borrow the Al’s Goldfish. I handed over the lure and watched in horror when it hung up on a submerged crappie bed, gone forever. I bugged my dad until he bought me a couple more with the promise of extra work on our farm. My lost lure was replaced by my friend and the three gold spoons held a prominent top-shelf spot in my tacklebox.
Years passed and I finally lost my last Al’s Goldfish. By then hardware or drug stores no longer sold any kind of fishing lures and local chain stores did not stock this cherished trout spoon. My favorite trout lures were gone forever.
I attended the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers conference in 2018 and was shocked to find a company with an Al’s Goldfish display. Jeff and Mandy DeBuigne must have thought I was somewhat insane while studying the display with crazed, bugged-out eyes and blubbering my affection for this long-lost treasure of the fishing lure world. Other older writers had the same reaction, perhaps in a less crazy manner.
Al Stuart first manufactured Al’s Goldfish in 1952, originally calling it Stuarts Goldfish. Field & Stream Magazine labeled Al’s Goldfish as one of the 50 top lures of all time. A million were sold annually through 1973. Top professional fishermen like Gadabout Gaddis spoke highly of Al’s Goldfish on his syndicated television show. Then one day this classic lure disappeared, at least for Midwestern anglers.
The DeBuigne family decided to reintroduce Goldfish to new generations of fishermen, apparently never dreaming that an old, crazed angler of yore would be excited like a kid at Christmas. Other outdoor writers agreed.
“Al’s Goldfish has become one of my best all-time go-to lures,” said Eddy Stahowiak, senior graphic designer and photographer for On the Water magazine. “I use this lure across the country for different species. Bass, pike, crappie, trout and some saltwater species devour this lure because of its unique action.”
I believe the Goldfish sends out a natural vibration that fish feel. The bright, shiny plating twisting in the water adds to the attraction. Some fish likely give in to reaction strikes when the shiny lure passes.
Others likely see the flash of a baitfish and attack when a moderate speed retrieve is used or perhaps a retrieve with darting rod-tip sweeps making the spoon flutter and sink near the bottom.
Want to try this legendary lure? You can purchase Al’s Goldfish at Bass Pro Shop or Cabela’s. Check this website at www.alsgoldfish.com.
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.