When you visit Cornucopia on the north side of Wisconsin's Bayfield peninsula, protruding out into Lake Superior, if it's painted green, it's part of Halvorson's Fisheries. Phil Moy, writing for the the April-May 2001 issue of Lake Superior Magazine, commented then, "We must not take the fisheries of Lake Superior for granted; they are a gift that must be nurtured and cherished." That certainly holds true for Halvorson's.
August 11, 2007
Back in April 2007, we took our "rookie run" around the Bayfield peninsula along the shores of southwest Lake Superior. Our story, "Northern Wisconsin's Bayfield Peninsula, what fun!" highlighted a place in Cornucopia named Halvorson's Fisheries. This summer we returned, and got a better look at the operation.
Cornucopia is located on Siskiwit Bay on the northern side of the Bayfield Peninsula. This is a fascinating place. It has just turned 100 years old.
This next photo is one we took of the fishery area back in April 2007.
As we would learn when we talked with the owners, if it's painted in this green color, it's part of Halvorson's. The painting scheme projects a Scandinavian heritage. In the foreground is Jackie II, a fishing tug. She is likely to be an older model with her pilothouse mid-ship. The large green building is Halvorson's Fisheries, offering fresh and smoked fish and local specialties such as whitefish livers and trout cheeks.
We'll return to the outside in a moment, but let's first go inside, which we did not do during our first visit to Corncuopia, better known as "Corny." We understand from our research that the Halvorson family is the only one left that fishes commercially out of Cornie.
As soon as you enter the large green Halvorson's building, you know you're in a first class fish shop. A variety of fish is set out on display, for the pickin'. On this day, they had Brown Sugar Trout and Whitefish fillets, herring, chubs, chunk salmon, and smoked whitefish and several other dips. They also carry a ready supply of good old cheese.
Lake Superior supports the only remaining naturally sustaining population of lake trout in the Great Lakes. Lake Herring has always been abundant, but people's taste for it has diminished, though it remains very popular at Christmas time. Whitefish and sturgeon, along with lake trout, remain very popular.
Directly behind the fish case is this window looking into the work area, and you can see they were working, a crew of four. Note the etching in the glass, "Open daily, sometimes."
We were very reluctant to step back here into the work area, because it was obvious these people were working and we hated to interrupt their work. This is especially true since we learned that places like the local Village Inn buy Halvorson's fresh fish daily and serve it to their customers. The Inn carries Lake Superior Whitefish and Trout on its "Specialties" menu, "broiled or deep fried with our light breading." The Inn proudly boasts that these are freshly caught by Halvorson's.
Being "pains in the patoot" that we are, we did interrupt for just a moment. The lady in the background left, we believe, is the boss. She was very kind to let us walk around and take photos. In response to my question, the man on the right proudly boasted that they were of Norwegian ancestry. Everyone was so busy we refrained from asking them their names.
Mounted on the wall in the front retail area is a whitefish, the number one commercial fish in the Great Lakes.
Let's go back outside. This is a marvelous setting. In almost every photo you see of the Corny area, you'll see a photo of Halvorson's.
There's Cindy Marie, in the water at the Halvorson's dock.
In our opening photo, we showed you the fish tug Jackie II in the water. That was last April. Here's where she was in August.
She's up on dry-dock; don't know why, and didn't ask!
The designs of both vessels are very representative of the kind of boats used for commercial fishing in Lake Superior.
We have always had enormous respect for the Great Lakes and the people who ply their waters. That is especially true of Lake Superior, where we know things can get very rough.
The first problem is the ice. We noticed these two photos hanging on the wall of Halvorson's interior.
That's Jackie II and Cindy Marie "breaking ice" in March 2005.
This is Cindy Marie, photographed on the same day, but from the rear. No doubt there is a heck-uva-story behind these photos.
There were a group of old boats on the grass not far from Halvorson's. They are not part of Halvorson's, but they reflect on its lineage and its profession. They were clearly on display, as prideful reminders of those who have fished these waters aboard boats such as these.
We have learned, through the Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine, that members of the Wisconsin Conservation Corps (WCC) from Bayfield County were asked by the Town of Bell to restore and protect three old fishing boats. These boats were part of a commercial fleet that employed 22 fisherman around Cornucopia, where the magazine reports:
"At one time fishermen produced one million pounds of trout, herring and 'longjaws' (Cisco) per year valued at $65,000."
Twin Sisters of Cornucopia, Wisconsin
A look inside Twin Sisters from her rear.
The Bayfield WCC crew did some work, we believe, in 2000. They replaced some broken and rotten trusses and ribs inside the hull of Twin Sisters. They then stripped off the old roof and added a layer of plywood along with roofing paper and tar. The Ruby and Eagle were also given new roofs, caulking and other minor repairs. Now that we know the WCC people did this work, we'll bring some large green trash bags next trip and hop in there to clean her up a bit.
You might wonder why anyone would want to do any repairs on these old timers. James R. Marshall has commented on that in a way that hits home, in an article published by the Lake Superior Journal entitled, "Our newest treasure," which was about the Bayfield Maritime Museum. He said this:
"Having been a Lake Superior boater for some years, I’ve always been taught that old boats, once clearly abandoned, should be burned. Not so, we find, with family-owned fishing boats. Years ago Captain Dave Strzok of Apostle Islands Cruise Service enlightened me. 'Jim,' he asked me, 'would you burn the image of your mother, father or grandmother?'
"Immigrants all, mostly Scandinavian, they spoke limited English and settled around Lake Superior 'because it looked like home.' If their early efforts were rewarded, they might buy their first fishing boat. And, if they did, it often carried mortgage payments that continued into the next two generations. It was a member of the family. Burn it?"
One more short quote that hits home. Phil Moy, writing for the the April-May 2001 issue of Lake Superior Magazine, said this:
"We must not take the fisheries of Lake Superior for granted; they are a gift that must be nurtured and cherished."
We're sure big believers in that, and that certainly holds true for Halvorson's.