BOURNE – The thousands of people attending the Cape Cod Canal Centennial will have a new Fisherman Statue to view.
“The Fisherman” is a ten-foot sculpture overlooking the Cape Cod Canal in Buzzards Bay Park.
The Fisherman Fund, a new non-profit, erected the statue next to the canal, which is a surf-casting mecca for fishermen in pursuit of striped bass.
The statue was conceived by board members of the Stan Gibbs Fishing Classic, an annual competition named in honor of local fishing legend Stan Gibbs.
Willis said there is a core group of about 300 fisherman involved with the Stan Gibbs Fishing Classic and they share information on fishing. “It’s a lot of fun. We take away that competition and the guys have a blast,” he said.
The board of The Fisherman Fund came from that group.
At first they did not know what the statue would look like.
But Fisherman Fund President Robert Willis said one day Bruce Gibbs showed people from the group a photo of his father.
“Right away when I saw it, I said that could be me that could be anybody,” Willis said.
Stan Gibbs moved to the Cape from Easton in the late 40s to early 50s, according to Willis. A hunter, trapper, and fisherman, Gibbs made his living off the land and the ocean and he designed his own fishing lures.
Little by little people wanted those lures. Gibbs had a business for 40 to 50 years. And sixty years later, Willis said, the business still exists.
The business was important to the local economy, Willis said.
Gibbs was inducted into the Sportman’s Hall of Fame for all his designs and what he contributed to the sport of fishing.
The business was eventually bought and moved to Rhode Island and is now called Gibbs Lures instead of Stan Gibbs Lures, Willis said.
Willis moved to the Cape in the early 1970s and opened a tackle shop, Cape Cod Charters in 1974. At his shop, he sold all types of lures made by Gibbs, “every color, every size, every model.”
He said he fished using Stan Gibbs’ lures. “Most everybody did,” he said.
In fact, if you looked up and down the canal, 90 percent of the lures used were made by Gibbs, Willis said.
Willis knew Gibbs and his family and fished with his son, John.
“It was a good thing that we did. He needed to be recognized, definitely,” Willis said of Gibbs.
True to the photo of Gibbs, the bronze statue depicts a fisherman carrying two large striped bass.
The artist behind the sculpture is Osterville resident David Lewis, who has also sculpted the statue of John F. Kennedy in front of the JFK Hyannis Museum, the statue of the Native American leader Iyanough in front of Barnstable Town Hall, and the statues of Revolutionary War notables Mercy Otis Warren and James Otis on the Barnstable Superior Courthouse lawn.
Fisherman’s Fund President Robert Willis said this statue represents one of the most important elements of the Cape because of the popularity of fishing in the region, which he said is part of the heritage of the Cape.
“The great majority of the people who live on the Cape moved to the Cape for the beaches and the fishing. I know that’s what brought me here. So it’s a big part of the heritage,” Willis said.
Willis said he believes the statue will resonate with anyone who has cast a line. He explained the name. “We called it ‘The Fisherman’ even though it was from the photo of Stan.”
“Any fisherman anywhere when they see this statue, it just brings memories of friends and loved ones, no matter where they fish,” he said.
The statue cost about $80,000 and the funds were raised with donations.
The group did not originally plan to have the statue finished in time for the Cape Cod Canal Centennial celebration this summer, but as they got closer to their fundraising goal, they realized they might finish in time. John Tibideau, a board member of the group, had the idea of selling bricks, Willis said, and that helped them to achieve their fundraising goal.
Willis said about 1,000 people showed up for the statue’s dedication last Saturday.
The effort to erect the statue began seven years ago with the goal of recognizing the history of the canal and the fishermen.
Now Willis said, the nonprofit is inundated with calls from people who want to purchase bricks.
“Everybody wants to buy bricks. Unfortunately, they’re all gone,” Willis said.
He said the group had wanted to make the size of the statue area larger and able to include more bricks and there is still talk of expansion.
“There’s talk about that. That’s something we’re going to look into. When we first designed the project, it was supposed to be bigger, but unfortunately someone within the town wouldn’t allow us to do that. It’s beautiful now but having that extra footage would have made it really great,” Willis said.
He said whether the group continues to expand the project depends on whether the group wants to continue to work on it.
“We put a lot of hard work into this. We’re going to take a little bit of a break,” he said.