The Blessing of the Fleet ceremony has been a cherished tradition for decades, honoring the city's commercial fishermen. This year's ceremony is set for Sunday, June 2, 2024, at 1:00 p.m. in Bayfield’s City Harbor. The nautical procession includes commercial fishing boats, tugs, powerboats, sailboats, excursion crafts, kayaks, and rowboats, each receiving a blessing for safe passage and a prosperous season on Lake Superior.

The port of Bayfield has a long-standing history of commercial fishing, starting with the American Fur Company venture in 1835. By 1885, Bayfield had more fishermen than any other Lake Superior Port.  The shallow waters of the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior provide the perfect breeding ground for whitefish, trout, and herring. Nearly all the islands have been home to fish camps at some point in history. 

Blessing of the Fleet

Today, the fishing industry is still alive and well. Bodin Fisheries, Hoops Dockside Fish Market, and Red Cliff Fish Company supply businesses nationwide with fresh fish caught among the Apostle Islands. 

The Blessing of the Fleet honors dozens of Bayfield fishing fleet families who made their living fishing in the Apostle Islands. Now, the blessing extends to all boaters on Lake Superior.

The ecumenical service starts at 1:00 p.m. in Memorial Park and proceeds to the City Dock for the Blessing Ceremony. All boats in the Chequamegon Bay area are welcome to participate, and everyone is invited to join in this community event.  Click here to sign up to be part of the procession. 

People who would like to wish boaters a safe and prosperous season can gather at Memorial Park at 2 Rittenhouse Avenue at 1:00 p.m. 

Blessing of the Fleet Clergy

Commercial Fishing Memorial

Commercial Fishing Memorial

Year-round, people can visit the memorial to commercial fishermen at 19 Front Street, north of the intersection of Rittenhouse Avenue and Front Street. The memorial and the Blessing of the Fleet event honors the past, present and commercial fishermen of the Bayfield area. The memorial was dedicated in 1981, having been commissioned by Mayor Edwin Erickson, and designed by the late Harold Kerr, Ph. D. The sculpture was executed by Brian Kerr, with site preparation by Erickson Marine. The pilings are from the steamer Ireland, which ran aground at Gull Island; the chain is from Pretoria, which sank off of Outer Island in 1905. The birds are cut from a 3/8 inch steel boiler plate. The timbers are from the ore dock in Ashland. The large sandstone block comes from Outer Island; the other stones are from Sand, Oak, Manitou, Cat, and Outer Islands.

Learn About Bayfield's Fishing History

Madeline Island Museum

  • 226 Colonel Woods Avenue
  • (715) 747-2415

One of Wisconsin's most historic places beckons the adventurer in you. Heed the call!…