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?