In 1966 a young Connecticut muskrat trapper encountered a local game warden and the rest is history. While trapping for muskrats with his homemade “colony trap” at Black Point, Jim Laggroteria was approached by Game Warden John Woods. Officer Woods questioned the legality of Jim’s trap and in lieu of a fine and not really knowing what he [Woods] was looking at, Jim was asked to attend a meeting in Hartford to explain the “workings” of his trap. Jim was not fined, and his trap was deemed legal, but Jim walked away with a concern, “There’s no one out there ‘for’ the trapper, no one has the trapper’s ‘back’.”
Surrounded by his wife and kids, in their Niantic, CT living room in 1966 the first, “unofficial meeting” of the Connecticut Trappers Association (CTA) was held. Those in attendance included “Fred Sr., Tip, Sally, the Frenchman, Leon, and Dombroski,” stated Jim.
In 1967, the Connecticut Trappers Association was “officially” born with Jim as its first President. Sally and Leon Balukas designed the CTA emblem which is still flown today. Jim was able to secure free advertisement from the “Fur, Fish & Game” magazine and often travelled across the country with his wife & four kids in their station wagon as they continued to promote the CTA by attending numerous trapping conventions in NY & NJ.
In my conversation with Jim he recalled many stories and made heartfelt statements, “Trappers are not bums, they are awfully nice people.”He was the first to trap state highways, securing a $5000.00 bond in order to do it. He remembers thinking, “How am I going to come up with that kind of money.” As he chuckled, “It only cost me $5.00.” State Police Colonel Ives and his men would often check on Jim when they saw his Datsun truck alongside the highways.
Jim traded muskrat musk glands with “Grawe’s Lures”, E.J. Dailey of Ogsdensburg, NY and Bill Nelson of the Cascade Mountains, a practice that still occurs today. Trapping was a way of life and another means to “support his family”.
Jim is an easy man to conversate with, having had two meetings with Jim and each time he asked, “What’s going on with the association?” As I briefed him on things such as the education grant, financial status, the bear hunt raffles and planned events, his eyes and body language displayed that of joy and humility. His passion is as strong today as it was in 1966, always having the best interest of the association in the forefront of his mind.
I have taken away a few things from Jim; the importance of supporting other organization’s rendezvous and their events, support the CTA in by any means that you can, the tradition trading amongst trappers must continue, never forget the values and premise of the organization and always keep the trapper in mind. Jim was awarded the Connecticut Trappers Association’s George Finch Lifetime Achievement Award during our 50th Anniversary Celebration this past October.
If you get a chance to talk with Jim or any of the other three remaining forefather’s: Sally, Fred Sr., or Tip, please do so. Their level of passion and commitment would not only invigorate you but your understanding and commitment to the CTA would be energized and you most certainly would be not only entertained but educated by the stories they tell.
Alex Breen Jr.