Fishtown (Leland, Michigan)
Fishtown is a collection of weathered fishing shanties, smokehouses, overhanging docks, fish tugs and charter boats along the Leland River in Leland, Michigan. Once the heart of a commercial fishing village, the structures and docks are real places where people can walk through, see and feel a connection to Lake Michigan’s fishing heritage. For the past half-century it has been enjoyed and appreciated by thousands of visitors and regional residents who find the shanties, fish tugs and docks that make up the property a living legacy of our maritime culture.
Even fish tugs are like family in Fishtown. In 1958 Louis Steffens launched the newly built Janice Sue, which he named for his three-year old niece. Better able to endure ice and waves, steel-hulled tugs replaced hand-built wood tugs. The Janice Sue has since been owned by other Leland fishermen, including the Carlson family, but Leland has always been her home. The Joy, a trap-net tug, was launched in 1981. The Janice Sue and the Joy are Fishtown icons that were purchased by the Fishtown Preservation Society. In Leland’s historic Fishtown, today’s visitor can experience one of the few remaining commercial fishing complexes on the Great Lakes.
The Fishtown Preservation Society, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization made up of dedicated community volunteers who have come together to save this historic site.
The Fishtown Preservation Society (FPS) was originally created in 2001 through the efforts of local citizens dedicated to promoting and preserving the historical and fishing heritage of Fishtown. In 2004, the Carlson Family decided to sell Fishtown and hoped to sell it to an entity which would preserve it. FPS soon after became the vehicle for the community to acquire Fishtown. In June 2006, FPS reached an agreement to purchase Fishtown for the amount of $2.8 million for the Fishtown real estate and $200,000 for the two fishing boats, and related fishing licenses and equipment from the Carlson family.
Thanks to the outpouring of support from individuals and foundations, FPS announced it had acquired Fishtown on February 7, 2007. FPS now needs to raise an additional $2.5 million to complete the necessary payments of the property and to move forward with plans to maintain and preserve Fishtown’s historical structures and to develop educational and interpretive programs. Thanks to our many donors who are helping to preserve Fishtown for future generations!
The Fishtown Preservation Society seeks to preserve the historical integrity of Leland, Michigan’s Fishtown property and ensure that it continues as a publicly accessible and authentic connection to local and regional history, Great Lakes commercial fishing, and maritime traditions and experiences.