Brill on Red Lake fishing
Information originally copyrighted by the author in 1971.
The Martins, Kingbirds, Johnsons, Siganas, Frenchs, Clouds, and other fishermen of Ponemah and Redlake are a sturdy, weather-wise breed of men...They can move with a catlike balance and agility in a tossing metal boat filled with nets and wooden fish boxes...Although they now cross the lake in aluminum boats pushed by forty-horsepower motors, and their rnets are machine woven from synthetic fiber, the activity of setting and pulling a net has not changed for a hundred years. Fishing is still a way of life, a challenge, and in a very quiet manner competitive. Almost daily during the months of July and August, while the sun is still cool and the grass wet, the fish-heavy nets are transported, usually in the trunk of a trail-battered sedan called "the fish car," to fish camps near the village. Here, in the shade of the hardwoods, the older members of the family clean the fish taken from the three-hundred-foot gill nets, sorting them into ice-filled boxes. Children, just tall enough to reach the cross rods of the drying poles, expertyl untangle the nylon fibers, hanging the plastic floats on one end, the lead sinkers on the other. Although some families haul their own catch to the fishery each day, most rely on the daily run of fish trucks. For more than a quarter century George Pemberton and sons have transported boxes of iced fish between Ponemah and the fishery in Redby, where they are filleted, scaled, and shipped by semitrailers to the markets of Minneapolis and Chicago. If a man sets his nets in the evening he must pull them early the next morning. Only in the late fall and winter are the nets allowed to remain in the water for more than a day. If the nets are not pulled, the warm summer water and air temperatures will cause the fish to turn white and become "soft," unacceptable for market. To save the fish a man is often forced to cross six or more miles of rough whitewater and struggle for hours in a pitching, rolling boat, pulling his heavy nets in a strong crosswind. During the last days of late fall fishing there is the risk of "icing over."...
Charles Brill, Indian and Free: A Contemporary Portrait of Life on a Chippewa Reservation (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1974) 57.58.