Malone Fishery

three log cabins with man cutting tree in front
Malone Fishery in the Summer of 1909.

William S. Cooper Collection


The following collection of photos derive from the William S. Cooper and Elizabeth Sutherlin collections at Isle Royale NP. Cooper was a naturalist who primarily focused on the island's wildlife, but he did also capture people and places. His photograph was taken during a 1909 visit. Although Sutherlin's story is not presently known, we gather from her photographic journal that she was an acquaintance of the Smith family in Tobin Harbor. The journal covers her 1915 visit to Isle Royale, originating in Duluth and then circumnavigating the island with numerous stops along the way. Although many photographs were taken during the Cooper and Sutherlin visits, of special note are those taken at the fishery on Malone Island. Both visits suggest that there was more to the fishery than just fishing.

Beginning with Cooper's 1909 image, the small log buildings could be fishery related, but they also remind us of the old rental units seen at the old Park Place Resort or Minong Resort near east side of island. Most curious is the larger structure in the background. The mirrored doors and windows suggest that it was a duplex; a log partition/wall is barely visible through the open door. Additionaly, there's nice lattice work facing the porch exterior. One might wonder just what sort of fishery bothers with such detail in 1909.

The large building appears unfinished as there are no actual doors or windows, only the openings. One can see in Sutherlin's 1915 image that it has since partially collapsed. Still no doors or windows so it likely remained unfinished. So for whatever reason, the place appears to have been abandoned by 1909, and even more so by 1915.

Separate images in the Sutherlin collection show a basic dock on the water. No fish house or boat house, which are somewhat ubiquitous elements to a fishery complex. However, the third image presents a large wire basket, or net. So fishing was a component to Malone Island history. Maybe one of the Malone's, having fished for a year or so, entertained a side project such as a small resort. The photographs suggest that this construction effort was short-lived, possibly related to reduced funding or interest.

Per Tim Cochrane, the fishing basket is a fyke net, which saw little use at Isle Royale when compared with other methods. They are like mini pound nets that would be used in shallower water and could be set by one person, versus the production of a traditional pound net, which required driving long poles into the bottom. Fyke nets do require posts, but not as big, nor extensive of a wing (that leads fish to the pot). The image shows the basket of the fyke net which gets smaller and smaller until fish collect at the back end. The trapped fish would usually stay alive in the basket until you pulled them up.

Journal of Elizabeth Sutherlin, 1915

shoreline of fishery, cabins on left, waterfront on right
Shoreline of Malone Fishery as seen and captured by Elizabeth Sutherlin in 1915.

Elizabeth Sutherlin Collection

Page Header: Malone’s – Siskowit Bay.

Two of the cabins where the Malones lived.
The one with a white roof was full of household goods, fishing tackle, old rusty guns, a crucifix, some lighthouse records and books.
On the window frames one of the Malones had written messages for the others, saying he had been there and where he was going.
The other cabin was empty, save a chair and a stove, and in that Mr. Northey and Russell camped while they were there.

view of small, perhaps one room cabins at Malone Fishery
Cabins at Malone Fishery in 1915.

Elizabeth Sutherlin Collection

We left them for a few days, but had to go back for them sooner because the day we were to go an excursion was coming, and on such occasions the islanders summon everyone to the colors, to guard their islands.
Some old letters and other personal belongings were scattered about the ground. Someone had made free with the Malone’s chattels apparently.

dilapidated cabin, roof completely fallen in
Tumble-down cabin at Malone Fishery in 1915.

Elizabeth Sutherlin Collection

Page Header: Malone’s

This old, tumble-down cabin is the central one of the group on the island. Malone had twelve sons and they all lived here – once.
Lower picture shows E.K. B. at our fire near the dock. There is an old landing dock which some fishermen had been using. Part of one of their nets shows.
These nets are suspended in the water with long stretches of net leading out to make a run-way to guide the fishes into the net proper. These are buoyed up with peculiar floats at just the right level, with markers on the surface to show where they are.

girl holding a large fishing net
Fyke net at Malone Fishery in 1915.

Elizabeth Sutherlin Collection

We found a lot of wild currants along the edge of the clearing and around the cabin that shows in lower picture.
Between Elizabeth and the water, back of her a ways a lot of nets are wound up on reels to dry.
These two pictures were taken just before we started back on the journey home that took all night.

Isle Royale National Park

Last updated: August 24, 2020