WDAY: The News Leader

Published September 19, 2011, 07:03 PM

Lidgerwood man creating his own fish tale

Lidgerwood, ND (WDAY TV) - For 5 years Rick Whittier has been cranking out thousands of fish tales in Lidgerwood.

For 5 years Rick Whittier has been cranking out thousands of fish tales in Lidgerwood. In that short time, he's produced fish decoys even 30 year veterans of the trade are impressed with. But Whittier's way is unique, and he's passing on his skills to a new generation.

There was no luck, or little skill in the way Rick Whittier’s big fish story began in his basement.

Rick Whittier – Fish Decoy Carver: "You can't believe how ugly my fish were when I first started. Yea, they were really bad."

But in just 5 years, his work is gaining state, national even worldwide recognition from anglers ready to catch the big one.

Rick Whittier: "We have a customer in New York that lives on Trout Ridge Road. So he wanted one of every trout. Which is 170-fish, and he's got em."

There's only about two dozen artists in the country that make these fish decoys for spear fishing which is shown in this video. But Rick is the only one who doesn't use air brushing to give these decoys life. Everything is hand painted either by brush or by can, a more intricate process.

Rick Whittier: "I do have air brushes here, but I’ve never used them."

The satisfaction he says gets is addicting. It’s contagious too, just ask Darby Harles, who's husband and two kids have now become Rick's apprentices making decoys..

Darby Harles – Familiy Works with Rick: "And my oldest son's like, ‘Well hey I want to get on board here too.’ And he worked to learn the trade too.”

Whittier has been recognized by the North Dakota council of the arts as a Master Artist. His awards, countless. He's taken 2nd and 3rd place as a world champion in decoy making and going for first place this Spring..

Darby Harles: "And the kids, they just haven't stopped talking about it. It’s just been a wonderful experience for them both."

It’s a tale like no other, one scale, one fish and one appreciative customer at a time is what Rick Whitter never can get enough of.

Rick Whittier: "It’s just a lot of fun."