December 2017
Fish Decoy
John Tax
Osakis, MN
1920s – 1940s
John Tax (1894 – 1967) was a harness maker and shoe repairman that lived in the Lake Osakis Area. In 1917, he carved his first duck and goose decoys for his own personal use. He was quite a skillful carver and soon was making more waterfowl decoys along with fish decoys for his hunting and fishing adventures.

Soon word got out about his great decoys, and he began carving some for friends…and maybe a few for sale…but the majority were still for his own use. In fact, John usually finished his waterfowl decoys with a stamp on the bottom with his name not to mark his decoy with him as the maker, but just in case he lost one and someone found it washed ashore so they knew to return it to him.

John spent his whole life in the Osakis area except for two years in the Navy. The story is he was asked to produce decoys commercially, but he declined the venture as he felt he could not keep up with the demand.

Decoys that were made by John bring big dollars now and are imitated by a carver that have learned some of his techniques. Some of his goose decoys sold for more than any other decoys ever made in Minnesota, which says a lot for a man making decoys for use or to make a few nickels off of.

I purchased this fish decoy from a collector who stated that he and many other decoy collectors could confirm it was made by John Tax. Since then, I have shown it to many other collectors…and they agree it is an original John Tax fish decoy. While I do have a vast fishing lure collection, I do not own a lot of spearing decoys (even though I am an avid darkhouse spearer), but I am happy to add this one to my collection since I grew up not too far away from Osakis.