The Rochefort family fishing heritage began in the teeming waters of Lake Michigan’s Bay de Noc.
Like many others in the Upper Peninsula, the first Rochefort fished part time. Stanley Rochefort was the first to do it full time, going for the abundant herring and walleye near Fayette harbor in his youth. His son Dave started in 1957, picking chubs from the gill nets and helping dress them for distribution.
The operation is now based in Alpena and uses trap nets to glean whitefish from Thunder Bay. Most of Rochefort’s fresh catch is destined for pickup by a trusted area wholesaler, but he also takes pride in supplying restaurants and retail customers with the freshest fish they can find in the area.
He thinks the fish from lakes Huron and Michigan are even better than those from the fabled Lake Superior. “The weather warms up, and they get to put more fat on, and they have a totally different taste.”
He remembers a record haul of 17,000 pounds out of one net in a single day, but doesn’t expect to see its like again. Things that haven’t changed over the years and distance are the hard work and the challenges, especially from nature. The wind can play havoc with setting nets and anchoring them safely. The waves can make it treacherous to pull the pot with its prized catch. Depressed prices for fish and rising fuel costs make a serious dent in an already slim margin of profit. But Rochefort, who tried a stint in a factory job and as an auto mechanic, relishes his independence, accepts those challenges and prefers them to punching a clock or working for someone else.
The Rocheforts usually start operating for the season in March and run ‘til the end of October. After a November hiatus for the whitefish spawning season and a bit of hunting, it’s back on the water through December and part of January, then a mid-winter break until the cycle begins again.
Stanley is retired now, but Dave’s son Ryan—a fourth generation fisherman—is working with him and will probably continue if he can make a living at it…challenges and all.