The Lake Superior fishing tradition: Prior to Eurpoean contact, Ojibwe tribal fishermen used large birchbark canoes and gill nets constructed from twisted and knotted strands of willow bark to harvest fish from Lake Superior. As Europeans entered the Great Lakes region, the Ojibwe used fish to trade with French and English outposts. Fish soon became one of the mainstays in the diets of the early fur traders. Some of the earliest visitors enjoying Lake Superior whitefish, lake trout, and lake herring included: Etienne Brule (1620), Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médard Groseilliers (1654), Fr. Claude Allouez (1665), and Sieur DuLuth (1679). In 1843 the American Fur Company began a fish processing enterprise at La Pointe (Madeline Island) and shipped four to five thousand barrels of fish that year on the John Jacob Astor, a 111 ton schooner, and other sailing vessels.
In the late 1800's and early 1900's Lake Superior's commercial fishery experienced rapid growth with the arrival of new immigrants and railroads. In 1885, the Alfred Booth Packing Company expanded into Bayfield (Wisconsin) and employed several hundred men to catch 2.5 million pounds of fish from the waters of the Apostle Islands. Alfred Booth then formed a powerful monopoly, establishing fish processing operations in Sault Sainte Marie and Whitefish Point (Michigan), Duluth (Minnesota), and Port Arthur (Ontario).