From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library:
When you live near Lake Superior, it’s assured that someone is fishing somewhere nearby.
Throughout the years, it is fish that have attracted people to the Gros Cap area beginning with the First Nations people, drawn because of the multitudes of whitefish. Gros Cap boasts an impressive waterway that is easily accessible and so over the years, fishing expeditions of varying sizes have always taken place.
At the Government Dock, down in the Hamlet of Gros Cap, boats launching in and out of the water was and still is a common sight!
At one time there were approximately seven commercial fishermen operating off the shores of Gros Cap. Commonly recognized fisherman’s names are the Daigles and the Neveaus.
Landing with the day's catch meant that someone was going to enjoy a meal of fresh fish on their dinner plate!
At one time, Robert Bennett related that he and his brother had a territorial fishing license for Gros Cap which included the surrounding areas of Pointe des Chenes to Parisienne Island.
Robert was a member of the Bennett family who had been part of the expropriation move from Whitefish Island. He and his wife, Marie Louise (famously known in the area as Mugsy) Daigle lived beside the Government Dock.
In the book, Township of Prince, 1897-1997, a Royal Experience, Robert said that much of the fishing was done in the winter. With the help of horses and dogs, sleighs loaded with nets and fish were pulled over the ice. The most common catches were herring, whitefish and lake trout.
Robert recalled that in the 1930’s the price of fish ranged from two cents to twelve cents a pound.
When there was enough fish for them to sell, the fresh fish was taken to Sault Ste. Marie and sold to stores and individual customers. Fish was also sold to American customers who would pay anywhere from six to twelve cents a pound and a penny in duty.
One day in 1938 when Bob and his brother were out on the ice, hauling in their fishing nets, a most unique occurrence happened.
An airplane landed right near them! A few men from Chicago jumped out and expressed their interest in buying the local’s catch. The best news was that the buyers were willing to pay the unheard-of price of $1 per pound of whitefish because they needed it for a Jewish religious holiday. Unfortunately, that day their nets were full of herring.
Back in the day, buying local wasn’t just a catchphrase, it was common practice and a way of life.
This was definitely the case in Gros Cap. With the abundance of fish caught in the waters that surrounded the hamlet, logic would have it that someone would operate a restaurant.
This was the motivation for restaurateurs Mr. George Daigle and his wife Mrs. Louise (Gagnon) Daigle. With a view of the water, their home also served as a restaurant situated close to Ironside Drive.
The couple operated the popular little restaurant serving delicious Lake Superior fish. The meal also included Louise’s fresh-cut fries and famous, homemade baked beans.
To this day, there are local octogenarians (and maybe a little older too) who recount their fond memories of dining at the Daigle’s.
Wes Hill, a longtime Prince resident holds great memories. He recalls that it was a very popular place on the weekends and customers could wait an hour or so for their deep-fried lake trout.
His father Clarence Hill, a local farmer was often called upon for the sale of his potatoes to make the french fries.
Norman Triplett’s memories are of a Sunday afternoon drive with his Mom and Dad for a fish dinner. They parked their car and a waitress would come out to place a number under their windshield wiper. When it was their turn they’d be called to come and have a seat at one of the large tables in the Daigle’s living and dining rooms.
Although these are just a few memories, there are still people who love fishing and those who love to eat fish. Great memories will continue to be made as there is still plenty of fish in the waters of Gros Cap!
Each week, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and its Archives provides SooToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.