Legend of the Redhorse: Helena Museum adds Redhorse exhibit
Published 3:08 pm Monday, August 31, 2015
By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer
HELENA–Maylene resident Charles Griffin has seen a few Redhorse fish in his time.
Griffin has many fond memories of walking miles down the banks of the Cahaba River in search of this fish that not very many people know about these days.
“Back in the day we use to park at the Depot and would walk down to the river two miles away,” said Griffin. “Back then we found time to go to the river and it was a tradition in April to see many families and friends in Helena go to the river in search of the Redhorse.”
There are several unique details when it comes to the Redhorse and how to catch the fish.
First, the Redhorse species of fish only run once and year and Griffin says it’s usually always around April 18-20.
Secondly, the fish is not caught with a traditional hook and line, Griffin notes.
“My uncle taught me how to fish for the Redhorse at a young age,” said Griffin. “Back then a long pole was used and you use what’s called a snare wire. You drop the snare wire down into the water and wait for the fish to run. Once he runs, you slip the wire over the fish right by the dorsal fin to catch them.”
Griffin said it takes a lot of practice to become skilled in catching the fish but once you know the technique and strategy, it is something that anyone can pick up.
Some of Griffin’s favorite memories were days and nights spent on creek banks fishing for what he calls “a beautiful species of fish.”
“Sometimes we would just camp out on the creek banks,” said Griffin. “We would spend all afternoon catching the fish for hours and then take a break. Sometimes we would stay up all night and only get a few hours of sleep.”
Helena Museum Curator Ken Penhale recently worked on placing an exhibit in the museum highlighting the presence of the Redhorse and what it means to the community.
Griffin had a mount of a male Redhorse fish completed that was placed in the museum and he was very pleased with the turnout of the mount.
“The color and everything about this Redhorse mount looks great,” said Griffin. “I’m going to have five mounts done total and I think the one in this museum looks perfect.”
Griffin said that he was a little saddened that a Redhorse fish had to be sacrificed for the making of the mount and it was after a day in 1968, that he pledged he would no longer hurt the Redhorse population.
“It was a day in 1968 that I realized I was hurting the Redhorse population by taking them out of the water and not putting them back,” said Griffin. “I made it a point from that moment forward that I would put the fish back every time because I didn’t want to hurt the fishing for the future for my kids and grandkids.”
Griffin can’t get around as well as he used to, but he still circles the calendar around the second week of April to go out and catch the Redhorse.
“I just think it’s an important part of Helena’s history and I want more people to know about this fish and what it meant to the community,” said Griffin.
The Redhorse exhibit can be found at the Helena Museum located at 5260 Helena Road. The museum is open on Saturdays but for those interested in a tour can call Penhale at 369-1448.