The story behind our toy fish.
Why make toy fish like this?
As simply as it can be stated:
Young boys love their toy animals. Lifelike looking toy animals are part of childhood learning about our natural world. They provide kids with extreme joy and are a building block of early learning. Sharks, dinosaurs, whales, bugs, lizards and many others have been available for years. Realistic fish had never been made before. To make them would be a natural progression of the toy animal concept.
Not only that, many of the fish we decided to make we actually have contact with when we go fishing. These are animals that we all know well, but we could never buy them as toys. Now, you can. We planned it, and did it.
Our first four fish collections are now available. There will be 20 collections in total, representing 87 species of fish from the USA and around the world. To see all 20 collections see the "Future" page here. These are toy fish for play, collecting the sets, as well as learning the science of fish.
It started in Wisconsin
Having grown up in Wisconsin, we fished for species like Northern Pike, Largemouth Bass, Walleyes, Brook Trout, Bluegills, Bowfin and many other species. The Mississippi River at Lake Pepin (south of Minneapolis) and the Wisconsin River near Wisconsin Rapids were my favorite places to fish. I have fond memories of fishing for those species and would occasionally tell some of my fishing stories to my two sons Blake and Jack (ages 7 and 10 in 2009).
Having left Wisconsin for Colorado after college in 1990, my sons were born in Colorado and not familiar with most of the fish species I caught as a child. On our family trips to the Midwest we would always stop at the Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops stores that have aquariums. In the aquariums are the same species of fish that I caught in my childhood and had been telling my boys about. We were always eager to see what was in each store’s aquarium and we would point out the different species. They especially liked the Northern Pike and Longnose Gars. Freshwater fish that look like sea monsters are just plain awesome in a big aquarium! In fact, from my perspective they were just as cool as I remembered them, and my boys seemed to think so as well.
The Full Story
If you have young kids, you will understand this very well:
On our drive back to Colorado from Wisconsin in the summer of 2009 my 7 year old son Blake asked me to buy him a toy Northern Pike. He knew we were soon to be at a giant outdoor store near Omaha, Nebraska. Our family had already been in gift shops all over the Midwest on this trip, so my son had witnessed all kinds of toys. For some reason, while in the car this day, he suggested he wanted a toy Northern Pike. I thought it was a great idea. A toy Northern Pike, yes of course! Why not? His epiphany must have been that he had all the sharks and dinosaurs he needed, and he wanted something else. I said, ok. We will buy one if we can.
Arriving at the big store, we went straight for the big aquarium. After the excitement died down a bit and we had identified all the fish species, I was reminded that I needed to find the “toy Northern”. I searched the toy section. Nothing. There were no small toy fish in the store. I searched for 20 minutes in the tackle aisle, finally finding a Northern Pike looking fishing lure, with hooks. It looked a lot like a Northern Pike. Even the skull was shaped well. I bought it and removed the two very sharp treble hooks. He enjoyed the “toy” with all its inaccuracies, no tail or fins and the odd looking diving lip. His enthusiasm for the “toy” was immense. As we drove across Nebraska we discussed how awesome it would be to have toy northerns and gar fish and sturgeon and bass and trout and . . . . . . you get the idea. I told him we could have our own toy fish made. They would look like the real thing. That was the start of Replica Toy Fish Company™. It was 2009. We proceeded to sell about 170,000 toy fish by the end of 2017.
We relaunched the company in late 2017 as "Toy Fish Factory". Our new company has two new products and 18 more after that slated for release. These products are fish collections of 5 fish each in a standard sized collector case with labels. There are 87 species represented by this 20 set group of collections. Think of Christmas and the birthdays coming up and buy all four Collections for your special fish enthusiasts.
We mostly practice catch and release when we fish. Perhaps your family can enjoy our native river monsters as much as we do.