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The men who make the catch: Behind the scenes of a lakeshore fish market

Posted at 5:51 PM, May 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-13 19:01:57-04

TWO RIVERS (NBC 26) — Susie Q's Fish Market in Two Rivers draws people from around the state.

  • John Kolba Jr. captains the Susie Q II. He catches whitefish every day for the market.
  • I hit the seas on Lake Michigan to get a behind-the-scenes look at what they do.
  • In one day we caught 800 pounds worth of fish that will be served at the market.

But what shoppers don't see is the work that goes on long before the market doors open. We hit the seas to find out more.
We boarded the Susie-Q II in the early morning hours with Captain John Kolba Jr. to catch some whitefish.

"It's a lot of a thinking game, figuring out where they move to and where they go,” Kolba said.

But we didn't have to wait too long as John and first mate Kenny, netted a few dozen by the time work started for most of us.

Then they gut the fish, right on the ship.

“I could close my eyes and do this,” Kolba said.

The work is hard, but John knows what it means to the community.

"They're pretty happy because they get fresh fish every day that they come into the market,”said Kolba.

We went out on a warm day with calm seas, but Susie Q's is one of the only year-round fresh fish markets in the area, so it's not always that pleasant.

"Cold, cold. Everything is iced up”, Kolba said of wintertime. “Once in a while, I get flustered, you know, everybody gets flustered."

But even on the coldest days, John's still a fisherman at heart

"What's the feeling going through your mind when you reel in a big one?” I asked him.

“I got him! I got him,” Kolba exclaimed.

After throwing out the net five times and gutting 800 pounds of fish in a day, John says ...

"Time to go home.”

As we hit the shore, it was a wrap on a unique morning for us, on Lake Michigan in a classic fishing boat. But for John, it was just another morning for a man feeding his community.

"Average day,” Kolba says. “Same old, every day."

After a day on the water, Susie-Q II returns to shore and the fish it caught that day first starts in the processing room and then. Then, they officially make it to the market.