Roly-poly fish heads: Cod Toss keeps May 17th event on target

Photo: Bob Giles
All the prizes are fish themed: 2012 adult female winner Lori Gronstad holds a glass fish-shaped hors d’oeuvre plate, girls winner Sonja Gronstad took home a painted fish vase, and the (returning) boys champion Sverre Finn Sears won a bowl decorated with fish. Erik Duus was the winner of the “Oh My Cod” plaque that year.

Louise Giles
Huntington Woods, Mich.

Did ancient Vikings keep their warrior skills sharp by throwing dried fish for sport?

Well, one Sons of Norway lodge in Michigan believes that they might have—and the lodge used that notion to invent a game that’s now a staple of its Syttende Mai celebration.

Of the many games played at Nordkap Lodge’s gathering in suburban Detroit, there are perhaps none as popular as its infamous “Cod Toss.”

The basis of Nordkap’s Cod Toss is throwing frozen fish for distance. Individuals compete in categories for kids, adult females, and adult males, and there are nominal prizes—all with a fish theme—for the winners.

But the real test comes in handling the heavy, cold, slimy fish heads and throwing them without appearing ridiculous.

Bob Giles, who instituted the game at the lodge, offers these tips: “You could always try an overhand toss or a twirling windup like in shot put. But the most effective way I’ve found is the underhand toss. Remember, it’s not bowling. You should try to throw a slider, as they do in baseball.”

With a favorable tailwind, he adds, “You could have a throw of 120 feet, which, for something that slippery and slimy, is a pretty good toss.”

Bob says he started the Cod Toss as a fun activity and believed it would appeal to kids “as something outrageous that they thought would make their parents feel awful.”

Photo: Bob Giles
2011 winners Sverre and Sverre Finn Sears pose with their fish heads and the coveted “Oh My Cod” plaque.

The formula seemed to work, but it’s proved as popular with the parents, who are regular competitors, as it is with the kids.

For those who think the sport is wasteful of good food, Bob points out that a local fish store in Royal Oak, Michigan, donates the fish heads: “It’s part of the fish that would probably be tossed out anyway, so Superior Fish tosses it to us for our Toss.”

The public is invited to be part of Nord­kap Lodge’s celebration on Saturday, May 13, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Swedish Club, 22398 Ruth Street in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

They will fly the Norwegian flag, sing the Norwegian national anthem, turn out in bunads, and enjoy Scandinavian music and games—including the Cod Toss.

There will be a parade around the beautiful Swedish Club grounds, and a general store will offer imported cheeses, lefse, herring, candy, books, and other gift items for sale. At lunchtime, there will be pølse, Norwegian waffles, and other treats available for sale. In mid-afternoon, a buffet of Norwegian desserts and coffee will be served.

It’s a great time for the whole family. Here’s the rundown of events:

11:00 a.m: Swedish Club opens with Nor­wegian food and gift items for sale

11:30 a.m: Parade begins

12:00 p.m.: Greetings from Nordkap and Norway’s honorary consul to Michigan, Dennis Flessland

12:30 p.m: Picnic-style foods and Norwegian waffles available for purchase

1:00 p.m: Special activities and games for the children, including the “Cod Toss” for kids and adults

2:00 p.m: Norwegian dessert buffet

3:00 p.m: Event concludes

This article originally appeared in the May 5, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.