Michigan Sea Grant

It all starts in a small city located in Marinette County. It is cloudy, peaceful, and all around a beautiful day. This city is Peshtigo, Wisconsin, which is around 139.48 miles in a Southern route from Milwaukee WI. It is the year of 1915 and, this fishing vessel has now been created. A young man named Thomas Durs wants to buy this amusing, freshly painted, top-notch fishing partner in crime. This beauty is made out of something along the lines of oak, brass or iron, and a small engine. Finally, the decision is made and the young man acquires the vessel. Thomas most likely decided on the name of the fishing vessel through a family member or a close friend although, the D in Bernice-D stands for his last name of Durs.

It is their first time out on the water. The water is choppy, and the sun is stifling. The partners in crime venture on and, search for a location to place the nets. The Bernice-D comes to a slow stop, the water settles, and the sun reflects off of the water like a mirror. All is quiet, Thomas reaches for the pound nets. He throws the nets into the water, and the water splashes back. Pound nets are similar to cattle fences, and this vessel would use them to corral the fish and make them easier to catch. The nets are held down by these long stakes that reach from the bottom of the lakebed up to the water's surface. Thomas places the nets down and preps them for the long season ahead. A few days later on a slightly colder morning, he takes the Bernice out to their spot. The net is full of whitefish and lake trout, they jump up at the net like excited children on too much sugar. Scoop by scoop, he takes these fish aboard. The whitefish dangles from the man's grasp like Rapunzel's hair out of her tall, stone tower. As he holds each fish up to the sunrise, you can see the vibrant colors. The two go home that day, knowing that they had gotten a great catch.

Pount Net Illustration
Pound Net Illustration
Image from Bogue (2000) Fishing the Great Lakes, an Environmental History

Sometime later, the adventures with Thomas end, and a new journey begins. The Bernice-D passed through three other owners over the years. The Bernice-D’s paint is slowly crumbling and, chipping away, but there is still plenty of excitement to come. It is now in the hands of a man named Gregory Goudreau in Sault Ste. Marie. He purchased the boat in 1977 but, the last recorded use of the Bernice-D was in 1981 in Sault Ste. Marie. Local tradition says that on a dark, murky night when the thunder was pounding and the rain was pouring, the Bernice-D was stuck. It was stranded and lost near the middle of the Black River. While it was attempting to navigate through the storm, the waves began to get angrier, and they knocked the Bernice about. The water was slowly tearing the poor Bernice to pieces. Within moments a bigger ship (maybe a freighter) came into sights and, the waves thrashed the ship against the small, helpless Bernice. The Bernice-D’s suffering had come to an end and, it slowly sank to the bottom of the Black River.

Eventually, they found the Bernice-D and, it is currently a part of the Maritime Museum at Sturgeon Point Lighthouse. The Bernice-D, generally speaking, has had more adventures than imaginable. The maritime museum at Sturgeon Point Lighthouse allows us to view the history of things such as the Bernice-D. Knowing the history of things such as the Bernice-D is good because we can grasp a better understanding of the past. When we know more about the history of our hometowns, we feel more connected to these places. It gives us an understanding of our founding families and the experiences they have had, and how it has lead us to where we are now.

Written By: Emily Weiss


-Interview/Wayne Lusardi, state archeologist at NOAA /May 2019 Phone: (989)-884-6207   

-Hostmaster,” Sturgeon Point Lighthouse.” Michigan, 29 Dec. 2016,

  -Pound Net info/Brandon Schroeder, Sea Grant Extension Educator, Michigan State University Extension/June 2019 Phone:  (989) 354-9885 | Mobile:  (989) 980-4032