Catch a bit of history at Fishtown

Catch a bit of history at Fishtown in Leland, Michigan
We’ve witnessed much growth and development in Northern Michigan over the years, but a bit of Lake Michigan’s commercial fishing heritage remains alive at Fishtown in Leland.

The small gaggle of fishing shacks and docks bustle with activity in the summer with tourists, shoppers, fishers, and boaters checking out the scene as they weave through racks of drying fishing nets, stop at the Cove Restaurant for chowder and beer, or check out the boats on their way out to Lake Michigan.

Quiet descends upon Fishtown during the colder months when tourist traffic tapers off and many of the dockside businesses close for the winter season.

Visitors can easily imagine themselves in an early 1900s fishing village, but they might have missed that opportunity to experience living history if not for a fishery owner who managed to purchase a cluster of weathered wood shacks in 1971 and help preserve the area before eventually selling it to an non-profit organization dedicated specifically to preserving Fishtown and its northern Michigan maritime history.

Bill Carlson, owner of Carlson Fisheries, worried that a way of northern Michigan life might simply vanish, bought a large piece of Fishtown property with several buildings on it in 1971. Carlson bought several other pieces of Fishtown properties over the years, renovated some of the buildings, and rented them out to small, mostly seasonal, businesses to help fund the project.

Carlson hoped all along to sell Fishtown to a group that would preserve it, but he had no luck over the years in gaining the interest of the National Park Service or Michigan Department of Resources for purchasing the village.
The Fishtown Preservation Society formed in 2001, and, in 2004, began negotiating with the Carlson family to purchase the village.
The non-profit group of community volunteers acquired the fishing village, with its 7 historic buildings, in early 2007. Efforts continue to raise additional money to pay off the property, continue preservation efforts, and develop educational and interpretive programs to highlight Fishtown’s history.

These days, Fishtown still appears much as it did more than a century ago. It is fun to compare vintage photos of the fishing village from the preservation group’s site to our own memories of Fishtown through many summertime, autumn visits, and wintertime in Leland.

Held Michigan Record Brown Trout Record for Many Years


Jack Duffy is US Coast Guard licensed and has 35 years experience fishing and navigating the Great Lakes. Catching BIGGER and BETTER game fish is his main ambition.

It was early July, 1973, when he took a day off from chartering, and caught a 31 1/2-pound brown trout to set a state record for the species. It was, for him, a day he’ll never forget and he held the state record for years.

Call 231-883-7530 to book your fishing adventure with Capt Jack Duffy.

Whitecap Charters in Leland, Michigan

There are fishing trips and then there are fishing adventures. A fishing trip may be nothing more than catching panfish on live bait near home. A fishing adventure is something else indeed. It is a happening, a wonderful outdoor experience, and one filled with angling excitement that will keep a hot fire burning inside every person aboard the boat.

Capt. Jack Duffy is the kind of licensed charterboat skipper who has a zest for life, a burning desire to make every fishing trip memorable and the stuff of which fishing dreams and legends are made. He is outgoing, wildly in love with fishing Lake Michigan for trophy Chinook and coho salmon, and the creamy-spotted lake trout that makes anglers enjoy catching fish. He also catches brown trout and high-jumping steelhead.

One thing about Duffy: A trip from his home port of Leland, is an unforgettable adventure. He works very hard to get clients into fish. He’s a one-of-a-kind, genuinely unforgettable fishing expert. His 27-foot Tiara is well-known as the “Whitecap.” It is designed for comfort and safety with plenty of room in the stern to do battle with big fish. All the latest electronic equipment will help anglers catch fish. Leland has been the Lake Michigan port for big Chinook salmon since the early 1970s, and nearby North and South Manitou islands helps funnel these hard-fighting game fish into his fishing area. It’s here, off the Manitou Islands during the summer months where the possibility of limit catches attract destination-oriented and walk-on anglers.

Fishing with Capt.Jack Duffy on the Whitecap is an adventure that anglers will want to book from one year to the next. His boat, moored in historic Fish Town, puts anglers close to the fishing action within minutes of leaving port. Fishing with this master angler, featured in Outdoor Life and Sports Afield, is one of life’s great experiences. Call 231-883-7530 to book your fishing adventure with Capt Jack Duffy..