Pickerel Spears, Ice Shanties and the Fishing History of Saginaw Bay

February 19, 2008

Saginaw Bay Ice Shanty c.1925

Saginaw Bay Ice Shanty c.1925, photo by oldog_oltrix.

Larry writes that this photo was taken by his grandfather at his ice shanty on Saginaw Bay (probably near Bay Park) in the mid-1920s. The 6′ bar between the shovel and the axe is a “spud” used with the axe to make the hole in the hole in ice and the pole coming from the top of the shanty is likely a “pickerel spear”. The This is one of the photos in his Oldog’s OLD PHOTOS set, and it also appears in the Michigan Thumb Memories group.

Over on Michigan Sportsman, Capt. Dan Manyen has written a nice little article titled The Fishing History of the Saginaw Bay. In it, he shares a number of old photos and provides a nice overview of the last few centuries of fishing on what I’m going to guess is Michigan’s largest bay. Capt. Manyen writes that walleye was mis-identified by many back then as pickerel and sold in great numbers to both local fish market outlets and buyers from the eastern states. He says that for many in the area, the burgeoning auto industry…

…did not stop or ease the pain of the Great Depression during this time. What did for many though, including my own Grandfather, was the plentiful fishing and hunting resources the Bay area offered. When Grandpa couldn’t get a job unloading the (Bean Boat) as he called it for .50 cents a day, he’d be out hunting or fishing for a meal for his family. Grandpa talked often about spending all winter out on the ice on Saginaw Bay in a (Pickerel Shanty) spearing pickerel.

I’m not sure where you might want to take this, so here’s the Wikipedia entries for Pickerel, Walleye and Saginaw Bay. You might also be interested in the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network, the Saginaw Bay Fishing Report and a more recent photo of ice fishing on Saginaw Bay.

Also see Saginaw Bay on Absolute Michigan’s Map of Michigan.

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