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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: fishing industry in Wisconsin

Definition: The fishing industry was among the first commercial enterprises to achieve some level of success in Wisconsin. The rich spawning areas of Lake Michigan, Green Bay, and Lake Superior, along with inland riverways, provided large numbers of skilled fisherman with a livelihood during the 19th and 20th centuries. The primary regions that experienced the strongest commercial fishing development were the Door Peninsula, the Two Rivers-Manitowoc area, and the Bayfield-Apostle Island areas. The early years of fishing were dominated by independent fisherman. Fur trading companies established networks of local fisherman, both white and Indian, to provide raw fish for packing and marketing in the East. Originally intended as a supplement to the fur trade, fishing quickly became a major industry. The American Fur Company was one of the first commercial firms and its headquarters at La Pointe had become a fishing and warehousing center for the entire Lake Superior and Upper Mississippi region by the 1830s. Fishing remained a significant part of the local economy in Bayfield although little expanision occured until the late 1880s with the arrival of the railroad. The industry was boosted again in 1895 when the legislature appropriated funds for the first fish hatchery program. By 1900, Booth Fisheries of Bayfield (with branches in Green Bay and La Crosse) had become the dominant packing concern in the region. The entire Lake Superior fishing region experienced highly productive years from the end of WWI through the 1930s. By the late 1950s, the combination of over fishing and predatory species began to have a disastrous effect on the industry in Lake Superior, initiating a steady decline.


The promise of superior fishing banks had drawn the first settlers to the Door Peninsula in the 1830s. Fishing camps supplied nearby markets in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Green Bay, and along the southern shore of Lake Michigan, allowing the region to remain a significant regional fishing center throughout the 19th century. The area remained rich in commercial and sport fishing well into the 20th century because of the lack of growth in heavy industry on the Peninsula. Production levels declined from 1880 to 1900 due to over fishing and depressed markets, but rebounded in the first decades of the 20th century. Unfortunately, the devastation of the whitefish and trout populations by lamprey and other environmental factors destroyed much of the reorganized industry by mid-century.


Scientific breeding, restocking programs, and environmental restraints on the harvesting of fish have allowed the industry to maintain a modest commercial position. State-sponsored fish hatcheries and the Federal Fish Control Lab in La Crosse played an important role in the sustained development of the fishing industry in the 20th century.

[Source: Wisconsin's Cultural Resources Study Unit, Wisconsin Historical Society]

117 records found

facing (railroads)
factor
factory system (fur trade)
fall (maritime)
Fallen Timbers, Battle of
Falling Waters, Battle of
fallowing (farming)
Falls of St. Anthony
false front or boomtown (architecture)
fantail (maritime)
Fantus Report
farina (farming)
Farmers' Guards (Civil War)
fastening (maritime)
fathom
fattigmanns bakkels (food)
federal (architecture)
Federal Guards (Civil War)
feed crops
feldspar (mining)
Fender-boom (logging)
fermented milk (dairy)
fetch (maritime)
fetlock (farming)
fettle, fettling (railroads)
fieldstone (architecture)
Finagle (Civil War)
firebox (railroads)
fireman (railroads)
fires in Wisconsin
First Capitol
first rate (Civil War)
first school in Wisconsin
First [sic] Workers' Compensation Law (Historic M
firsts
Fish (logging)
fish boil (food)
fish fry (food)
fishing industry in Wisconsin
fittings (maritime)
flank (farming)
flatcar (railroads)
flitch (farming)
flocculent (farming)
floods in Wisconsin
flookan (mining)
fluke (maritime)
Flume (logging)
fluted (archaeology)
flying junction (railroads)
folle avoine (Fr.)
following (maritime)
Folsom culture (archaeology)
Fond du Lac Badgers (Civil War)
forage (Civil War)
fore (maritime)
forecastle (maritime)
forest fires in Wisconsin
forest products
Forest Union Rifles (Civil War)
Fort Armstrong
Fort Blue Mounds
Fort Catarokouy
Fort Crawford
Fort Crevecoeur
Fort Dearborn
Fort Duquesne
Fort Edward Augustus
Fort Frontenac
Fort Hamilton
Fort Howard, Brown Co.
Fort Kaministiquia
Fort La Baye
Fort LeSueur
Fort Mackinac
Fort McCoy
Fort Michilimackinac
Fort Orange
Fort Perrot
Fort Piankeshaw
Fort Pitt
Fort Shelby
Fort Snelling
Fort St. Antoine
Fort St. Croix
Fort St. Francois
Fort St. Joseph
Fort St. Louis
Fort St. Nicolas
Fort Wayne
Fort Winnebago
forts
forty (survey)
forty-eighters
forward (maritime)
four-foot (railroads)
Four-Wheel Drive Auto Company
Fox and Wisconsin River Improvement Company
Fox River Zouaves; North Wisconsin Tigers (Civil W
Fox Wars (ca. 1710-1740)
frames (maritime)
frametops (maritime)
Frank Holton Company
Fredericksburg, Battle of
Free Soil Party
Freedom from Federal Supervision Act (1953)
Fremont Guards (Civil War)
Fremont Rifles (Civil War)
Frisked (logging)
Frog (logging)
Fugitive Slave Act
fur farming
fur trade companies
furloughs (Civil War)
fusee (Fr.)
Fusée (Fr.)
futtock (maritime)

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