Lake Michigan's Fishing Legacy
Today, Fishtown is one of Northern Michigan's most vital, and charming, commercial and cultural destinations. Long before European settlers came to this area, however, the natural fish ladder found where the Carp River meets Lake Michigan made this a favorite fishing ground for Native Americans.
Beginning in the 1830's, settlers to the area began to fish there. That accelerated in 1854, when a dam and mill were built on the Carp River by Antoine Manseau. It attracted more settlers, including fishing families, who lined both sides of the river with wooden shacks, reels to dry nets, icehouses and smokehouses. Those families used pound nets and gill nets to catch Whitefish, Lake Trout, and Menominee(a type of chub). Their catch was taken to market by boats carrying lumber.
Fishing peaked in the 1930's and then declined due to species depeletion from overfishing, introductions of exoctic species, and regualtions favoring sport fishing.
Today, Fishtown has some commericial fishing, as well as charter fishing, the island ferry service, and numerous shops for tourists. It is being preserved by the Fishtown Preservation Society and will be cooperatively managed by the Leelanau Historical Society and the Inland Seas Education Association.