When she first saw it, Rebecka Jolma had no idea what the critter crossing the road near her rural Marengo home was.
“I remember thinking, ‘That is a huge bear,’” she said. “Then I thought it was a horse, but nobody around here has any horses. But then I realized it wasn’t either a bear or a horse, it was a moose.”
Pulling her car to the side of Government Road, she started shooting video on her phone. The young bull moose obligingly sauntered over, seemingly completely unafraid, and lingered a while, crossing right in front of her vehicle before trotting off into the woods.
Jolma was so amazed that when she got home she called the Department of Natural Resources.
“I thought maybe it escaped from some zoo somewhere,” she said with a laugh.
She was told that no, it wasn’t moose on the loose from a zoo, but was most likely a visitor from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan or possibly from Minnesota.
Eddie Shea, the DNR’s wildlife biologist for Ashland and Bayfield counties, said a small and variable population of moose — probably 20 to 50 animals — does live in Wisconsin and though they are seldom seen for much of the year, bulls do become more visible in the fall during mating season.
“Typically what you will see are young males that are going out on their own and looking for reproductive opportunities,” he said.
Shea said any moose sighting causes a stir — and a rash of calls to the DNR.
“In general, I am not surprised to hear periodic reports about them,” he said. “Especially the young bulls are going out and trying to find potential partners and they do that by putting on miles.”
The Upper Peninsula herd of moose comprises about 500 animals and continues to expand slowly. In Minnesota, the population is much larger — 3,400 to 6,700 animals — and remains stable following a steep decline some years ago.
“So it’s not surprising that they come down here, checking the area out,” Shea said.
But range as he might, the young bull isn’t likely to contributed to a surge in the local moose population.
“Northern Wisconsin is probably naturally on the southern range of moose, anyway, and then you have brainworm and climate change that presents challenges to moose,” he said.
Brainworm is a parasite carried by whitetail deer. While it has little effect on them, it can have severe neurological effects on moose, leading to their deaths. So where deer numbers are high, moose tend to be scarce, Shea said.
But scarce doesn’t mean never. In 2008, another young bull moose caused a commotion at Northland College as it strolled through campus in the middle of the day. Shea said a moose has also been spotted in the Hurley-Ironwood area, and another was seen in the Hayward region.
“There was one that was seen near the Ashland airport, and I was able to go and get some pictures of that one,” he said.
Shea said that he was familiar with a report that placed a moose as far south as the Eau Claire area, giving proof to the observation that young bull moose are great wanderers.
“Putting on 20 miles a day doesn’t bother them at all,” he said.
For her part, Rebecka Jolma said that whenever she leaves the house, she keeps an eye out for the young bull moose.
“But I haven’t seen it again,” she said.
The video of the encounter with the moose can be seen at the Jolma Family Farm Facebook page.
For the past 70 years, the crews of the Everett’s Fisheries of Port Wing have plied the frigid waters of Lake Superior, wresting nets full of cisco chubs, lake trout, herring and whitefish from the big lake.
A third generation of the Port Wing fishing clan established by Everett Johnson continues to fish and produce the smoked fish and Jeff Johnson intends to keep that tradition alive. To back up that determination, he recently purchased a new fishing boat, the Avis J, to add to Everett’s two-vessel fleet.
Well, new to them at least.
According to the Historical Collection of the Great Lakes, maintained by Bowling Green University in Bowling Green, Ohio, the 50.33 foot-long, 12-ton boat was built by Paasch Marine Service of Erie, Pa. in 1950, making it two years older than Everett’s Fisheries. It was manufactured for the Barcelona Fish Company of Erie, which operated it for a decade before selling it to a commercial fisherman operating out of Two Harbors on Lake Michigan. He fished with the tug from 1960 to 1974 before selling it to the Susie Q. Fish Company of Two Harbors, which operated the Avis J for 48 years before selling it to Johnson.
Since purchasing the vessel this summer, Johnson has had it moored at the Port Wing harbor as work has taken place to prepare it for Lake Superior fishing. In the next few weeks, as soon as the last of the renovation work on her is complete, she will join the Julie Ann and the Judy in the Everett’s Fisheries fleet.
Johnson said that when the boat came on the market, the price was right and he added it to provided backup for the other two boats, one of which was constructed in 1954 and the other in 1945, in the event one of them had a mechanical breakdown. That’s entirely possible in boats of this vintage, and in any event, there really wasn’t much choice, as commercial fishing tugs have not been built on the Great Lakes in decades.
“It would cost you a fortune to have one built now,” Johnson said. “Once they are gone, they’re gone.”
It is just one part of Great Lakes commercial fishing that is becoming increasingly difficult, Johnson said. Another issue is finding people who are willing to arise in the pre-dawn hours, head out over a freezing-cold lake to endure soaking spray, hard work pulling nets and the smell of fish all day long.
“It’s not super easy. Getting people to work is half the battle,” he said.
About eight people are employed at the fish-processing and packing plant in Port Wing, with another three or four fishermen out on the boats, Johnson said.
The business was established by Everett Johnson and taken over by his son, Eric “Smoky” Johnson. These days, Jeff Johnson handles the shore-side operations while his brother, Chris Johnson, serves as the fishing boat captain.
Everett took up the fishing trade from his own father, Alick Johnson, who migrated from Sweden to the Great Lakes in 1889. Everett began fishing in the 1930s out of Gill’s Rock in Door County on Lake Michigan.
“They came up here to go fishing, because I don’t think the fishing on Lake Michigan was that good,” Johnson said.
Still, Everett had to survive the sea lamprey invasion, which decimated the Lake Superior lake trout population, surviving by fishing for herring and chubs.
“A lot of that was before my times, but I’ve heard stories about it,” Johnson said, noting that when sales of fresh fish lagged, Everett Johnson turned to smoking fish in 1947.
Today, Everett’s products are sold throughout the Upper Midwest, still using the same recipe and smoking methods developed by Everett Johnson 75 years ago.
The Avis J will help continue that work, and her new skipper says he can’t wait to get her out on the lake.
“They tell me I’m a commodore now because of our fleet,” said Chris Johnson with a broad smile.
Chris Johnson said the Avis J also has a reputation as a stable boat, important on the often-rough waters of Lake Superior.
Demolition of the old Broke Down Palace Building in Washburn to make way for a new brewpub has been delayed from its planned Oct. 1 start date.
Developer Badger Colish said the delay comes as he awaits a grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. to help pay for asbestos abatement in the building, which must be completed before demolition can take place.
“What happened is that we became eligible for an additional grant and when grants are available, you need to pursue them, especially in today’s climate,” Colish said. “We could not even submit that grant until July first, the beginning of the new fiscal year.”
The grant process was done entirely online and the Lost Apostle Brewery and Brewpub submission was one of the first attempted under a new system being used by WEDC.
“We met several bugs in trying to submit our application,” he said.
Thus the submission was delayed until Aug. 2. After an eight-week review process, a $150,000 grant to do the asbestos removal was approved. Colish has already acquired a $30,000 match required to obtain the grant.
Colish said the final cost of removing the building is not yet known, but clearing the structure of asbestos found in floor tile and pipe insulation was a crucial first step.
Colish said there were no remaining hold-ups in plans to redevelop the property on Washburn’s downtown Bayfield Avenue.
He said the abatement process was slated to begin Oct. 24, and the process of building demolition is weather dependent.
The work is slated to be done by ACCT, Inc. of Cloquet, Minn., which specializes in hazardous material abatement in commercial and residential buildings.
Colish will appear before the Washburn City Council at its Oct. 11 meeting asking to adjust the timeline the city approved in March.
“We are going to move as fast as we are able. The bottom line is that there is nothing we can do to move this forward any faster,” he said. “We have done everything we possibly can.”
In the letter he sent to city council members, Washburn City Administrator Scott Kluver said that while the start date of Oct. 1 was obviously not met, there was good cause for the delay and the council should allow the project to continue.
“Working through these things is painstakingly slow,” he said.
He said the delay was not of Colish’s making.
“He is definitely going through the process and doing his due diligence to get this stuff done,” Kluver said. “He has a contractor scheduled to do the asbestos removal, and of course we are going to come up against the winter season which makes it a little more difficult, too.”
Kluver said another grant, also from WEDC, could help with the actual demolition.
“I think we are in a good position for it,” he said.
Meanwhile he will urge council members to give the project an extension.
“The agreement says we can adjust it if we have good cause, and I would argue that we do have good cause,” he said.
“So much time, energy and funds have been put into this already that it would be a black eye for the city not to see it through,” he said in the letter to council members.
The overall deadline to have the new building in place the end of 2023.
“It’s a matter of getting through this initial stuff, then you can hit the go button and that will be when people will be able to see the actual physical changes occurring,” Kluver said.