Commercial fishing is the oldest continuous enterprise associated with Knife River. The American Fur Company began commercial fishing in 1834 and soon profits exceeded those of furs. In 1839 they established a fish collection station at Knife River. It included a trader, carpenter for boat building, a cooper for making barrels and crates, and laborers. The AFC provided the boats and fishing gear for local Native Americans who did all of the fishing.
Company schooners transported the fish to Fond du lac in far west Duluth for processing. In April 1838, the AFC schooner MADELINE was crushed by pack ice at the mouth of the Knife River and so became the first total loss American shipwreck on Lake Superior. Commercial fishing out of Knife River continues today.
The Knife River Harbor was the result of local fisherman who bought shares in a cooperative to finance construction. Photo from early 1950s.
Fishing out of Knife River started out as a fishing camp like this one.