America · Historic Towns · Logistics · Maritime · Mobility · museums · Travel

The North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum on Lake Superior

Minnesota’s small towns are delightful. From well-known small towns like Ely, Pipestone and Nisswa, to the truly tiny towns there’s nothing quite like exploring a small Minnesota town with family and friends.

The Superior Hiking Trail is a 310-mile-long hiking trail that follows the rocky ridgeline above Lake Superior. Access the trail from many points from Jay Cooke State Park, through Duluth, and along Hwy 61 from west of Two Harbors to north of Grand Marais. Great for both day hikes and backpack camping, enjoy scenic overlooks, waterfalls, forests and wildlife. 93 free back country campsites spaced every 5-8 miles.

lake superior hikingTofte is one of the many small communities dotting the North Shore. It’s a popular jumping-off point for kayakers paddling through the beautiful sea caves found on the shore.

The North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum on Lake Superior’s North Shore is a unique experience of the maritime heritage engrained in the landscape and people who call this country home. Governed by the Tofte Historical Society, the North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum is dedicated to the collection, preservation and dissemination of historical knowledge in commercial fishing and the early lifestyles on the shore and waters of Lake Superior.

twin-fish-house-paintingMaritime Objects, artifacts, photographs and images are at the heart of the museum’s collections. The museum is a replica of the twin fish house in Tofte. In the upstairs rooms, safe from the rain and snow, old nets were dried on net reels and new nets were seamed during slow periods. The second floor had a porch away from the lake that was used to oil and dry corks. In good weather, rope and cord were hung over the porch railings to dry.

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Museum Exhibits from the fjords of Norway to the isolated, rugged shoreline of Lake Superior, the Museum’s exhibits take you across the cultural landscape of North Shore commercial fishermen and their families. From the stories about surviving the raging seas of the Lake to the details of traditional North Shore boat building techniques, you can hear the stories directly from the fishermen themselves.

Steamships were crucial to the development of tourism on the North Shore and Isle Royale

steamships and tourismCommercial Fishermen began to take in overnight guests in the 1920’s to supplement their income. Rustic, cold water cabins and luxury hotels have proven to be a lasting part of the economy of the North Shore. Steamships helped this fledgling industry by promoting the resorts and transporting potential guests. The steamship captains, representing a link to the outside world, were important personalities along the North Shore. They are remembered as nearly inseparable parts of the ships they commanded.

Lake trout and herring were the two predominant commercial fish on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Whitefish, important on the south shore, lacked proper habitat along this rocky coast. The increasing population of sea lamprey in Lake Superior in the 1950’s greatly harmed the trout populations, and effectively ended their commercial harvest. Lampreys were originally prevented from reaching the Great Lakes by Niagara Falls. With the construction of the Welland Ship Canal in 1835, lampreys began to make their first inroads into the eastern lakes, and steadily moved west. They first appeared in Lake Superior in the 1940’s.

fishFishing Techniques gill netting and hook line were the two primary techniques used by North Shore fishermen. Although gill nets were used for both trout and herring, the hook line was used only for trout. Nets were set in the beginning of the season and moved several times; new anchors were needed with every move. Attached to a coil of strong rope, the anchor was slipped overboard very carefully as the rapidly descending line could entangle and pull a person overboard. Many fishermen used local rocks for anchors. When rocks with suitable natural shapes were unavailable, grooves were chiseled in rocks of the appropriate size.

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