The Good Will of Fish Town

fish town me  boat 2

Today my family  and I visited Leland, Michigan, one of the most beautiful places on this green earth – I swear! It has been years since I visited this place known for the old fishing shanties lining the Leland river. It’s a great place to get smoked White Fish, Salmon and Lake Trout brought in fresh daily by the fishing tugs such as the Joy (pictured above) and Janice Sue. Fish Town has, in recent years, been the benefactor of a preservation society. There are wonderful placards placed around Fish Town to relay the history of the families who made their livelihood there. These families were the Carlsons, the Johnsons, the Steffens, Langs, and Bucklers to name a few. The area was originally one of the largest Ottawa settlements of the area. There has always been fishing along the Leland (Carp) River. Fish Town emerged in the 1880’s and was a prosperous commercial fishing center until the early 1980’s. There is still a commercial fishing presence in Fish Town and the Carlson family has been a mainstay from the beginning. While the Carlson family still operates commerical fishing tugs, they also have a wonderful place where you can purchase fresh and smoked fish. The Carlsons, originally from Norway are now a fifth generation fishing family. In the August of 1941 Will Carlson and his son, Lester, had a tragic fire aboard their wood fishing boat, The Diamond. The Diamond’s gas line sprung a leak, the boat was in flames. Sixty-three year old Will and his son Lester tried to swim for the Manitou Islands offshore. Tragically, the boat and Will were taken by the lake. After twenty hours in the water Lester was rescued. Because the family depended on the boat for their livlihood, the townspeople took up a collection and donated a boat so young Lester could feed his family. They called the boat Good Will.  Again, just recently, the townspeople and Bill Carlson rallied to preserve Fish Town. The townspeople, many whose parents and grandparents chipped in for the Good Will, now dug into their pockets to put together 3 million dollars to buy Fish Town for preservation. I find the story of Fish Town to be a love story. A story of love for community, love for the lake, and love for the heritage of commercial fishing as a livelihood.

Ccarlson signfish town gill netsfish casefish town boats


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