Commercial Fishing Along the Illinois
The central Illinois River teemed with huge populations of native fish such as
the channel catfish, largemouth bass, gizzard shad, and smallmouth buffalo. Native Americans,
French explorers and missionaries, and Euro-American settlers all fished the
As demand increased, fishing grew to become an important industry and way of life for nineteenth-century Illinois river people. With the fishing industry grew up peripheral businesses such as making and servicing fishing tools, boat building, net-knitting, fish-trap making, fish markets, ice houses, and other trades that made products or offered services in the harvesting, processing, and sale of large quantities of fish to meet market demands in large cities. The common or European carp was introduced to help meet demand. The industry lasted until the 1950s, by which time the increased industrial and sewage pollution of the river habitat had decreased the viability of many of the commercial species.
Documents include a narrative of the industry's local history by a local resident of Meredosia and photographs chronicling the commercial harvest.