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"Harbor Commercial Fishermen" by Robert Carlton

I noted your brief story on "Fish Tugs" and would like to single out Eagle Harbor's relationship with the subject, as it stands out in my youthful memories.

In the summer of 1937 the village became a thriving commercial fishing center, much to the dismay of many of the summer elders. Jack Brown of Brown Fisheries from Whitefish Point, Michigan, arrived with a hardy crew of watermen.

Brown rented Mike Shutte's house (now Bernie's) and it became the dormatory and mess hall for the single crew members. Clare Smith had a summer ice cream stand located in the empty corner lots just south of Jake's gas station, which became the home of some of the married crew. The buildings located across the street from Shutte's house became the "fish house". Mrs. Hepting, Eddy Hepting's (the longtime supervisor of Houghton Township) mother was the head cook.

The Harbor soon became used of the large steel hulled, diesel powered fish tug "LaBelle". She had a captain and a chief engineer plus several crew members. The pilot house stood above the weather deck and a galley and sleeping accomodations for eight stood just aft of the conning station. An engine order telegraph between the pilot house and the engine room was used by the captain an engineer for manuvering and speed control.

The LaBelle was rigged for gill nets and several time a week would get underway at first light for the days net lifting chores. Several hours after departing Eagle Harbor the buoys would be located and net lifting commenced. The nets, some five miles long, would spew forth great quanities of fish. On good days the yield may a ton or so of native trout. The nets then were reset and the run to Eagle Harbor light began.

As the vessel passed through the cribs on entering the Harbor, the captain sounded one long blast on the air horn to alert the shore base members get to the "Fire Dock". Fish were loaded on a truck hauled to the Fish House, iced and packed for shipment. The time element was critical in order to make the departing Copper Country Limited which left Calumet about five thirty PM.

The following morning the fresh fish were supplied to Chicago markets by Booth Bros. the large fish distributor. Lake Superior weather often created a delay in making the one day from Eagle Harbor-Chicago a reality.

I can attest to the above operation of the "Fish Tug LaBelle"; Paul Kumpala and I made several trips as helpers and on one of the trips with ten or twelve footers cresting over the bobbing vessel during netting operations, Ibecame a bit woozy.

Brown Fisheries brought in several other craft in ensuing years. The "Stuart Barry" and a smaller vessel plus some barges to support "Trap Net" fishing for whitefish. Nets were set in Sand Bay, Keystone and the Bete Grise area.

Brown's moved on to happier fishing grounds but not untill Eagle Harbor native, Florence Lamerand married Jack Brown and left to raise a family elsewhere.

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