The fishing boom in Meredosia is long gone, but fish basket trap maker Earl Edlin is working hard to make sure the region's
crafts don't disappear.
Commercial fishing once flourished in this town on the banks of the Illinois River, with catches reportedly reaching 60,000
pounds of carp a day. But pollution from upstream cities decimated the fish population, and by the 1950s the fishing industry
was fizzling out.
With help from the Illinois Arts Council apprenticeship program, Edlin is passing his skills to the next generation, teaching
students like Jeff Barnett how to assemble wooden fish basket traps. It's a laborious process to bend the wood braces, nail
down the slats and carve the fingers. But the end result, a majestic piece of functional sculpture, is worth the wait.
The catfish caught in the trap may not agree on its beauty, but what do fish know about art?
Visit the Illinois State Museum's
"Harvesting the River" website to explore the Central Illinois fishing industry and to learn more about
how fish basket traps are made.