Michael Lerner

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1891 - 1978
1998 Inductee

Michael Lerner's towering contributions to sportfishing are among the greatest of any of the early pioneers of big game angling. He is the founder of the International Game Fish Association which held its first meeting at the American Museum of Natural History in New York on June 7, 1939. In the 1930's and early '40s, Lerner and his wife, Helen, also a world-class angler, fished for blue marlin at Bimini, striped marlin and swordfish off Chile, black marlin in Australia and New Zealand, swordfish off Peru, and tuna off Nova Scotia. Lerner's distinction among all other greats of angling can be summed up in one word -- science. Lerner possessed the skills, the enthusiasm, and the vision required to create major scientific research opportunities. As a founder of the national chain of Lerner's clothing stores, he also had the ability to finance his ideas, and he was generous. Beginning in 1935, Lerner developed a relationship with the scientists of the American Museum of Natural History. Over the next six years, the Lerners organized, financed and led expeditions under the Museum's auspices to Cape Breton, Bimini, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Chile and Ecuador. The expedition parties included scientists from the Museum and provided unprecedented opportunities to study fresh, whole specimens of large game fish. The knowledge gained through these pioneering trips broke new ground in the scientific understanding of saltwater game fish, and became an invaluable resource to scholars, anglers, and conservationists around the world. The scores of international awards and citations Lerner received suggest the depth and breadth of this man's commitment and contribution to angling. He was decorated with the highest honors by the governments of Nova Scotia, France, Chile and the United States. He received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Miami, and was awarded the first Gold Medal Angler's Award by the International Oceanographic Foundation for being the "sport fisherman who has accomplished the most for marine science."