Founder Of Gapen Tackle Company Passes

Dan Gapen, Sr., a famed personality in the fishing industry, passed away recently in St. Cloud, MN at 89. He is survived by his children, Deborah Gapen, Mitchell Gapen, and Sandra Gapen-Dahl; 19 grandchildren; and 38 great grandchildren.

In younger years, Dan worked as a fishing and hunting guide. In the late 1960s, he formed the Gapen Tackle Company and created items such as the Ugly Bug® Jig and Bait Walker® Sinker.

He was strongly involved in conservation, working closely with Congress and Senate members to pass legislation to protect waterways and to get the National Wild and Scenic River Bill enacted.

He loved to work Sports Shows and visit with his fishing friends and customers, and give fishing seminars. Dan was the author of many books, both on “How To” catch fish and legends/stories. He was a contributing writer for many national outdoor magazines and syndicated columns for decades.

Dan co-hosted and was guest on numerous TV shows through the years, and filmed and aired The Sportsman’s Channel’s “Fishing the World With the Ol’ Man and ‘Bobber’ Anne” along with Anne Orth, the 30-year employee of the Gapen Company and best friend to Dan. He loved to film underwater video trying to capture fish striking Gapen lures.

Dan was named to the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in 2000. Here’s what they said about him:

Many who know Dan Gapen, Sr., will call him fisherman. Some may make claim to his fight for running water and call him environmentalist. But, to those who really know the man, he’s a caring naturalist. Still others know Dan as a man whose roots reach far back into another time and another world. Dan could be called the conscience of Mother Nature.

Born April 9, 1934, on the shores of North America’s giant Lake Superior, Dan Gapen, Sr., is considered one of the land’s top anglers. To most he is the continent’s number one river fisherman.

During the late 1930s and 1940s and most of the 1950s, young Gapen learned about the wilderness, its treasures, waterways and demands. Dan’s father Don, the originator of the world famous Muddler Fly, saw to it that his son was exposed to this wilderness at a point on the map called the Nipigon River in northern Ontario. Here Dan was worm boy, fishing guide, charter boat operator, river runner and lure creator.

At the age of six, young Dan learned the art of fly tying. At eight, his spending money came from lures and flies he created in his father’s tackle shop. At fourteen, he became a fishing guide and worked closely with several Native Americans who were eager to teach. During the cold and bitter winter months when his father’s fishing resort was closed, he learned to trap and understand the need to conserve wildlife and its habitat.

At a point in history when America’s wilderness had not yet expanded beyond young Gapen’s home, there was time to transform his lessons into a lasting lifestyle. Today, these lessons learned are still an intricate part of his life. Attempting to pass this love of nature on to his readers is part of the man.

Over the years, Gapen fought desperately to save running water. Every facet of governmental bureaucracy has felt his sting. Gapen has been a staunch supporter of the National Wild and Scenic River Act since its inception – a legislative bill he helped mold and support along waterways such as the upper Mississippi.

Many recognize Dan’s name in conjunction with fishing tackle (lures), and for many years he has directed the manufacturing and supply of his American-made products. By using the skills and heritage handed down through generations, Dan Gapen has been able to make a living around fishing and communicating the natural life. These same outdoor skills now include photography, writing and TV show production.

Both Dan and his father Don are members of the International Fishing Hall of Fame as well as being members of the Domestic Fishing Hall of Fame at Hayward, Wisconsin. Dan was nominated for these two prestigious Halls because of his never-ending efforts to preserve the natural environment.