Fishing

Native people of the Midwest fished the lakes and rivers at least as long ago as 3,000 B. C., using a hook and line, spears, and traps. With time, the technology advanced. For example, harpoons allowed for greater efficiency. Another major technological development about A. D. 1,000 was the gill net, which allowed men to deep-lake fish. All these methods continue today.

In the Great Lakes region, men fished year-round taking advantage of their knowledge of local species and waters. They brought the fish back to camp, where the catch was dried, smoked, or frozen by their families. In the spring and fall, fish approached the shallow waters near shores to spawn. In the spring when sturgeon and pike congregated for spawning, fishermen speared or harpooned them. At night they fished for walleye pike with pitch torches, and later with modern lights. Today, at Lac du Flambeau, for example, men use gas engine aluminum boats and wear construction helmets on which they have duct-taped automobile headlights attached to six-volt car batteries. Walleye pike have large eyes that reflect light so they are easily seen from the boats. Halogen lamps also are used in night fishing. As in the past, religious ceremonies take place at the spring fishing sites to petition and thank the spirit beings that allowed fishermen to take fish.

In the fall, men caught huge numbers of whitefish and trout. At St. Marys River rapids, fishermen took whitefish standing in a canoe, thrusting a spear with a net pocket on the end—difficult and dangerous work. Whitefish also were taken in the deeper waters of Lake Superior with the gill net. Nets were spread in the lake with cedar buoys attached and stones fastened at the bottom to hold them in place. Women made the fiber for the nets, and men made the nets themselves. Today nets are made of synthetic fiber and have plastic floats and lead sinkers.

Men fished through the ice in the winter, using nets, spears, and hook and line. Today fishing supplements wage work for many families in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

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