This history of the Lixey family fishery in Iosco County is summarized by the Iosco County Historical Museum (updated 5/8/2015). Summary is as follows:
Joseph Alex Soudriette was the son of Alexander Soudriette whose grandfather was born near the River Raisin in 1724. Alexander was married to Elizabeth Campeau, niece of Joseph Compeau of Detroit history, and had a trading post near what is now Bay City. The Indians had trouble pronouncing Soudriette and used the name Lexy for Alexander and thus the name Lixey was born. Joseph began fishing in Saginaw Bay in the late 1840's. Some years later he moved to the mouth of the AuSable River, where a fishing settlement had sprung up, and began fishing there in 1860. Cotton gill nets were used in those days and were laboriously made by hand during the winter months. They were set and lifted by sailboat. The fish (whitefish, lake trout, herring, and pickerel) were salted and shipped to market by lake going schooners.
Henry Lixey joined his father in fishing in 1887. He moved to the East Tawas area in 1897 where he began his own fishing company and had two Indians in his employ. Pound or 'pond' nets were now in use. They were made of cotton twine which had to be treated with tar to prevent rotting and were held in place by long poles driven into the lake bottom. Boats with engines came into use shortly after 1900 and the fish were iced and shipped to such distant markets as New York by train.
In 1926, Henry with brother John, son Ralph and Eli Herrick, formed a new fish company in East Tawas located at the end of Alice Street. In 1932 , they began using the submarine trap net They were constructed with 'pots' which trapped the fish and allowed them to swim freely. Whitefish spawn had been saved by the fishermen and was used by the Alpena hatcheries to restock the lake annually as since the 1890's they had already shown signs of depletion. After 1932 this practice was terminated and the whitefish catch fell off drastically. There were at this time 13 major fishing companies and several smaller ones from the losco County line to Oscoda. These folded rapidly and by 1950 were out of business.
In 1957 , Richter and Donald Lixey, sons of Henry , formed their own company, and with a third brother, Mervin, resumed the family occupation. They built their nets of nylon twine which did not require tarring or coppering and lasted indefinitely. Whitefish were still not plentiful and the catches were modest. The pollution of Saginaw Bay, the whitefish spawning grounds, and the infiltration of the lamphrey eel through the St. Lawrence Seaway was blamed for this.
In 1978, the use of gill nets, which kill all fish becoming entangled in their meshes, became outlawed. Another method was sought to catch the round whitefish or menominees for which the gill net was successful. Donald Lixey designed a trap net under the supervision of the Federal Sea Grant biologists from the University of Michigan. This net uses a much smaller mesh and has proved to be very successful as well, catching perch and whitefish, also with no damage to undersized fish which can be returned to the water. They have also developed their own retail and wholesale marketing and rarely ship to city markets.
Richter Lixey died in 1980 leaving Don and Mervin to continue until Mervin died in the 90's. In the present day Don Lixey continues the company and enjoys working in the market. Whitefish, menominee, and perch as well as salmon (purchased from Indians) are sold at the market.
This long time family business will probably come to a close when Don decides to quit as none of the younger generation has been interested in continuing. The Lixey Fisheries have long been part of the growth and development of losco County but in today's fast paced world operational costs, long hours, hazards of the sea and low profits do not make fishing an attractive occupation for the new generation.
Information furnished by the Lixey family, a name and industry woven into the history of losco County.