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Thursday, May 23, 2024 at 5:58 PM




With Lake Huron to the east, the Straits of Mackinac to the south, and Lake Michigan to the west, it should come as no surprise that fishing has been central to life in St. Ignace for generations. And with several locally owned and operated fisheries in town, you are guaranteed all the fresh fish you can eat! Local favorites include perch, walleye, and trout, but what the area is famous for is Great Lakes whitefish. You will find it on nearly every menu in town prepared using the traditional methods of grilling, frying, or baking, as well as those that incorporate nouvelle cuisine. Keep your eyes open and you may even find whitefish livers on the menu, a prized delicacy.

Another seasonal favorite is smelt, a relatively small silvery fish closely related to the trout. It returns to Great Lakes streams and tributaries to spawn in April. During the spring smelt run, anglers in hip waders stand at the mouths of rivers and streams with their nets and scoop up hundreds of smelt at a time as the slippery, slender fishes make their push upstream to spawn. The fish’s mild flavor and white flesh make them a much sought-after menu item in local restaurants and around dining room tables.


The Upper Peninsula is known for pasties (pass-tees) – a traditional meat pie filled with a mixture of ground beef, diced potatoes, onion, and rutabaga. The mixture is encased in a half-moon-shaped buttery flakey crust and baked until it’s golden brown. Pasties are served alone, or depending on your preference, may be eaten with ketchup or gravy, although Yoopers may roll their eyes if you ask for gravy.

Immigrant copper miners from Cornwall, England, brought pasties to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the early 1800s. The meat pies were portable and made for a quick lunch when working 12-hour shifts in the mines. Pasties were wrapped in newspapers or towels and would stay relatively warm in the miners’ lunch buckets or pockets, or miners would place them on a shovel and heat them over a fire. When Finnish immigrants arrived to work in the mines alongside the Cornish miners, they adopted their co-workers’ meat pie lunches, and added carrots to the recipe. This is yet another Yooper delicacy you will want to try.

There are several pastie shops in the St. Ignace area that sell hot, ready-to-eat pies or frozen pasties that you may take home and bake in your own oven. You will also find pasties on the menus of many restaurants, or you will find them in the local grocery store in the freezer section.


Visitors to the area are often called “fudgies” because when they vacation here, they usually buy fudge. Mackinac Island, known far and wide for its world-famous fudge, is perhaps the largest purveyor of fudge in the entire state, however, there are several fudge shops in downtown St. Ignace that make and sell the sweet concoction. Fudge shops also offer caramel corn, saltwater taffy, caramels, and Michigan-made ice cream. It’s guaranteed that your sweet tooth will be satisfied!


Commercial fishing was central to life in St. Ignace from the last half of the 1800s and early part of the 1900s. Prior to that the abundance of fish made it a food staple for Native Americans and the early European traders, explorers, and settlers.

Today, the Straits area is noted as a premier vacation destination and known for its Great Lakes whitefish. This freshwater fish with its slender, elongated body averages about 15 inches in length and weighs up to 20 pounds. The largest whitefish on record was caught in 1918 off Isle Royale in Lake Superior weighing in at 42 pounds. The fish is known for its exceptionally fine white meat and mild flavor and is considered one of the most valuable commercial freshwater fish.

Many restaurants in St. Ignace have whitefish on their menus. You may also buy it fresh-caught at local fish markets where they also offer it smoked or whipped up into a delicious whitefish spread. Below is a listing of fish markets and a food truck in the St. Ignace area that offer whitefish. Call ahead or visit their Facebook pages or websites for the types of fish they have available and their hours of operation, as they vary seasonally. 

Mackinac Straits Fish Company
109 W. Elliott Street, St. Ignace
(906) 643-7535 • Facebook

Manley’s Fish Market
810 N. State Street, St. Ignace
(906) 643-8930 • Facebook

Massey Fish Company
1442 West Road, St. Ignace
(9060 984-2148 • Facebook  

King’s Fish Market & Restaurant
4035 N. M-123, Moran
(906) 643-1068 • Facebook

The Fish Trolley food truck
W930 US-2 • (906) 298-1246


Who doesn’t love homemade buttermilk pancakes with sweet Michigan maple syrup drizzled over them or melt-in-your-mouth maple candies? For generations, families have been making maple syrup and other sweet treats in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula. Trees this far north are generally tapped in March with local producers frequently hosting demonstrations about the syrup-making process. Michigan Maple Syrup Association members participate in the annual Michigan Maple Weekend held in late March and early April. In 2024, participating Upper Peninsula maple syrup makers held demonstrations the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, April 6-7.

Maple products from Eastern Upper Peninsula producers may be purchased at St. Ignace retailers, local farmers markets, retailers south of the Mackinac Bridge, and online.

Besteman Maple Syrup Products
15689 S. Tilson Road, Rudyard
(906) 478-5412 • www.bestemanproducts.com

Michigan Maple Farms / CDL Michigan Maple Equipment
11866 W. Thompson Road, Rudyard
(906) 478-1037 • Facebook

Michigan Maple Farms will show how maple syrup is made only on Saturday, April 6.

Postma Brothers Maple Syrup
15471 S. Tilson Road, Rudyard
(906) 478-3960 • www.postmabrosmaple.com



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