Neptune’s Kitchen, 1962

July 22, 1962


By Garth Germond, News-Tribune

Fishin’s fine most anytime at one spot in Duluth.

That’s in the new trout pond John H. (Red) Johnson has built behind his Neptune’s Kitchen seafood restaurant at 439 Lake Ave. South that he opened about a year ago.

The pond bears a marked resemblance to the kidney-shaped swimming pools now being built. Johnson designed it himself, using curved sectional plate pipe for its walls, lining it with plastic and assuring an ample flow of 45 to 48-degree water from a private well. The pool is about 33 feet long, 16 feet wide and about 4 feet deep.

It’s stocked with 300 to 400 brown trout furnished by a private hatchery. The owner has plans to introduce speckled and rainbow varieties occasionally.

The idea is to let the customer fish for his own dinner; the Neptune’s Kitchen staff will clean the fish and cook it to serve in the restaurant, or wrap it to take home cooked or raw; the charge is calculated by the inch. The fish range from nine to 14 inches in length.

"I’ve seen live-fish ponds at eating places around the country," Johnson says. "I thought something similar would do well in Duluth."

He’s found it to be an attraction to both tourists and area residents.

"Kids love it. They look so surprised when they pull a live fish out."

Fishing rods and poles and bait – worms, flies or spinners – are furnished at the pond. "The trout will take worms almost any time, but they really go after the spinners," the proprietor remarks.

Johnson thinks he can keep his pond open well into October. He plans to stock it with smelt when it’s reopened in the spring, switching back to trout as the season advances.

The fish pond is part of a plan Johnson has to develop a regular "Fisherman’s Wharf" on South Lake Avenue. "Maybe we’ll need another pond for bigger fish, and an outdoor patio serving area," he says.

Red’s a member of Duluth’s fishing Johnson family. His grandfather founded Sam Johnson & Sons Fisheries Inc. in 1897; Red has been associated with his father, John S., and his brother, Bob, in that wholesale commercial fishing enterprise, but Neptune’s Kitchen was his own idea.


Looking at the tourist-y Canal Park of today – and knowing how industrial it was in 1962 – makes Red Johnson and his "Fisherman’s Wharf" concept seem quite visionary.

Unfortunately, there are no photos of Neptune’s Kitchen in the Attic. Does anyone out there remember fishing for dinner at the restaurant? Does anyone know how long the restaurant stayed in business?

2 Responses

  1. Rick Fournier on 2/2/2009

    My Father Ernie Fournier rented half of the Sam Johnson Fishery on Lake Ave for his Poultry Business in the during the early 60’s. I remember
    them cleaning smelt in the fishery side during
    that time. I also remember the fish pond. The
    building was located on the property just north of The Jeno’s Building on South Lake Ave. Its a parking lot now.
    My father bought the building from Sam Johnson Fisheries. Neptune Kitchen was on the South Corner
    of South Lake Ave part of that building.
    After my Dad bought the building Neptune’s sat empty. He reopened it and a friend of mine and myself worked there for maybe one year. We were working there when the Halvorson brothers were
    swept of the canal that terrible day in 1967.
    The fish pond was gone by then. Canal Park was not like it is now in those days.

  2. Patt J

    I don’t remember Neptune’s Kitchen, but there was a huge fiberglass statue of King Neptune at Canal Park around that time. There was also a drive in there called King Leo’s, which had the best onion rings in the world. I remember when the statue burned down. I was going to Washington Jr at that time, and friends and I walked down there to see it. High entertainment at the time…

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