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M-22 highlighted in red
M-22 highlighted in red

Fish tugs, Janice Sue and Joy, in Leland's historic Fishtown. Photo credit: Keith Burnham.

Coastal northwest lower Michigan is filled with scenic landscapes, orchards, woods, and coastal towns—and rich in Great Lakes fisheries heritage and tradition. These coastal fishing towns are known today for diverse tourism, recreational boating and fishing opportunities. In fact, the Lake Michigan coastline of northwest Michigan and its Leelanau County peninsula was once lined by numerous commercial fishing operations fishing. 

 A strong remnant of these commercial fisheries remains active today. Both tribal and state licensed commercial fishers operating out of Peshawbestown and Leland’s historic Fishtown. Fishing for food, they return catches of whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) and other species for local restaurants and families. In addition, fishing for fun (and food), recreational fisherman actively troll and fish waters of Grand Traverse Bay and open Lake Michigan for a variety of species including King & coho salmon, lake trout, perch, smallmouth bass, and others. Both the commercial and recreational sides of fishing on Lake Michigan reflects a way of life for many in this region, contributing  to community culture and character as much today as they have in the past.

The  Michigan’s Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Trail offers a great opportunity to learn about fish and people of northwest lower Michigan, bringing to life today’s Great Lakes fisheries through exploration of the historic fisheries of our past. This statewide trail highlights a wealth of places and experiences available to those interested in learning more about our Great Lakes fisheries. Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension have been collaborating with many museums, university, agency and fishing industry partners from across the state in establishing this heritage tourism trail as a resource for communities and travelers, alike.

Here are a few places well worth exploring to experience fish and fishing heritage and traditions of northwest Lower Michigan:

  • Leland and Leland’s Historic Fishtown—at Fishtown, you can experience a living active fishery, both tribal and state licensed, where food fish arrive dockside several times per week. Whitefish are caught in trap nets and brought aboard historic fishboats, such the Joy and Janice Sue. You can enjoy the smell of smoked fish in the air, purchase fresh or smoked fish at Carlson’s Fishery or grab dinner at the Bluebird Restaurant & Tavern where authentic images of commercial fishing families of Leland hang.  You might also want to visit the Leelanuau Historical Museum just a few steps away from Fishtown to view exhibits interpreting local maritime history.
  • Glen Haven and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore— visit the turtle-back fish tug  Aloha on display on the shore at historic village of Glen Haven.  Explore the world of small craft including  life-saving  boats at the nearby Cannery Boat House Museum in  Glen Haven. Just a mile west along the shore find the  1902 Sleeping Bear Point U.S Coast Guard Station Maritime Museum.  Life saving crews based at the Sleeping Bear Point  Life-Saving Station stood watch to rescue mariners from the sometimes treacherous waters of the Manitou Passage between the mainland and the Manitou Islands. 
  • Northport— Great Lakes sport trolling with home-made gear was made popular off Northport in the 1930s. The equipment and methods that George Raff,  his wife Nell and the guides at  Raff's Camp developed have spread throughout the Great Lakes.  A Michigan Historical Marker notes this key development inside the G. Marsten Dame Marina in downtown Northport.
  • Peshawbestown— fresh and smoked fish may be available for purchase if you stop by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indian's  Arthur Duhammel Marina on the shore north of the Village of Peshawbestown. 
  • Suttons Bay— visit the  Inland Seas Education Association education center and sail aboard schooner Inland Seas where you can learn about native Great Lakes ecology and aquatic invasive fish like the Asian carp, which threaten to enter the Great Lakes.
  • Greilickville—TheDiscovery Center – Great Lakes  and Pier offer opportunities to get close to boats and maritime heritage. Kids looking for a place to explore and learn about fish? Visit the Great Lakes Children’s museum where fun hands-on activities are found in abundance. On campus find  the Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Center and the Maritime Heritage Alliance's boat shops and small boat display. On the shore at Discovery Pier see the tall ship Madeline a reconstruction of a 19th century Great Lakes schooner and the other tall ships in the region's fleet of schooners. 
  • Traverse City—How about hands-on fishing with captains of the Michigan Charter Boat Association? A future fishing pier is under active planning and development in Traverse City at the mouth of the Boardman River in Downtown Traverse City.

Interested in learning more about our Great Lakes fisheries of past and present? Michigan Sea Grant offers online educational resources, including publications such as “The Life of the Lakes: A Guide to the Great Lakes Fishery.”

Places
Arthur Duhamel Marina (Click to show on map)
Tribal Commercial Fishing Marina
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Bluebird Restaurant & Tavern (Click to show on map)
A riverfront restaurant the historic Fishtown community that serves local Great Lakes fish dishes.
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Great Lakes Sport Fishing Historical Marker (Click to show on map)
Historical Marker - Great Lakes Sports Fishery
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The Fishtug Aloha (Click to show on map)
Historical Great Lakes Fishtug
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The Cannery Boat Museum (Click to show on map)
Museum with fishing equipment and boats
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Maritime Heritage Alliance (Click to show on map)
Boat displays
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Inland Seas Education Association (Click to show on map)
Inland Seas Education Association provides water-based environmental studies and programs.
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The Cove Restaurant (Click to show on map)
Waterfront dining at this restaurant in Leland, Mich. offers Great Lakes fish menu options.
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Great Lakes Children's Museum (Click to show on map)
Hands-on boat exhibits for youth
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Discovery Center & Discovery  Pier (Click to show on map)
Home of five water-focused nonprofit organizations.
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Fish Tug Janice Sue (Click to show on map)
Historical Fishtugs Janice Sue and Joy
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Michigan Sea Grant Extension Office, Northwest Michigan (Click to show on map) Info
Carlson's Fishery (Click to show on map)
Fresh and smoked fish retail market and wholesaler
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Leelanau Historical Society Museum (Click to show on map)
Local historical museum with an archive that includes oral interviews with commercial fisherman and historic photographs of Fishtown and fishing industry.
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Sara Hardy Farmers Market (Click to show on map)
Regional Farmers Market
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Fishtown Welcome Center (Click to show on map)
Fishtown Welcome Center
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Fishtown (Click to show on map)
Fishing Heritage Site
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Fishtown Preservation Administrative Offices (Click to show on map)
Non-profit owning and managing Leland's Fishtown property.
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More Information
Photograph of the Fishtug Aloha
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Photograph of the Fishtug Violet
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