Food and the World – The Tradition of Fishing – by Shelby Olson. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
[Photo of my dad and I with the Northern I caught]
Before European colonists migrated west from the Eastern coast of North America and settled in the midwest, Native Americans lived near and fished from the abundance of lakes and rivers. Groups such as the Dakota and Ojibwe practiced what is known as subsistence fishing where they fished as a form of meeting their needs instead of for leisure or profit (The History). Nowadays, fishing takes on the more common forms known as commercial fishing and recreational fishing. Commercial fishing takes place on a much larger scale as it tends to be profit based. As shown by the book The Sushi Economy, commercial fishing can even be done to meet a global need and fish can be transported all the way to the other side of the world (Issenberg). The type of fishing I will be focusing on is recreational fishing, which is done as more of a sport or leisure activity.
Growing up, a common family activity would be for my parents, two older sisters, and I was to go up to our cabin for the weekend to spend time outside and fish. Located about an hour north from Duluth in a small town called Cotton, my cabin served as a getaway from busy city life as well as a familial gathering place where aunts, uncles, and grandparents would come visit. We’d often times take the pontoon out and my dad, sisters, and I would all cast out the lines of our fishing poles as my mom would just sit there and be along for the ride. Similar to in the video when Anthony Bourdain learns how to eat Senegal’s national dish, when the children learn values and patience through not being able to talk or take from the middle of the communal dish, fishing taught my sisters and I how to be patient as we waited for someone to catch a fish. We would even make it a competition to see who would catch the most or biggest fish by the end of our trip. After spending a few hours out on the lake and growing hungry, we would then head back to the cabin. Once we returned, my dad would then clean and fry the fish outside for us to sit down and enjoy our freshly caught meal.
On one specific occasion back when I was in elementary school, my family and I went fishing on part of the lake that we didn’t typically go to. It was just off of a point on the shoreline where the reeds jutted out into the lake. We trolled the boat around the area a couple of times and then I suddenly felt a fish on the line. My pole bent towards the water as I set the hook and began to reel in the line. The line began to drag as this fish pulled away and without thinking I grabbed the line and got what’s known as line burn from the line quickly being pulled out of my hand. After a few minutes of trying to reel in the fish and minorly hurting my hand, I tried to pass the fishing rod off to my dad but he wanted me to catch the fish. The fish had tired out after a while and when it finally broke the surface I saw the biggest fish I had ever seen before (at the time). It was a northern pike that was over half my height. We soon realized that our net wouldn’t be big enough to get the fish out of the water so we tried to flag down a passing boat to see if they had a bigger net; which the didn’t. My dad ended up having to net half of the fish and grab its tail to lift it into the boat. Instead of cleaning the fish that day, we brought it back to Duluth to get it taxidermied so that we could hang it on the wall next to the large northern my dad had caught before I was born (the fish I caught was, of course, bigger than the one he had).
Now that I’m older and no longer fish, I still find a sense of pride in having caught the large northern pike and in the skills I learned from fishing. At the same time, I learned a sort of respect for my food – especially for the life of the fish that I’d catch and later end up eating – that I don’t think I would have learned in any other ways since I typically get my food from a grocery store. While I think my dad still wishes that I fished and that my family could make it up to our cabin more often, it’s become a lot harder for us to all find time from work or school to partake in what we consider one of our family’s traditions.
Issenberg, Sasha. The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy.
Gotham Books, 2008.
“The History of Fishing in Minnesota.” Department of Natural Resources,
From Professor Liang’s Fall 2019 Politics of Globalization class. Shelby is a student of GCL.
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