Fish and Fillets – Idlewild Michigan 1977 & 1979

My mother, Doris Graham Cleage, holding a string of fish on Water Mill Lake.
My mother, Doris Graham Cleage, holding a string of blue gills she and Henry caught in Lake Idlewild in 1977.

On the left my Uncle Henry is holding a ten inch blue gill that he and my mother caught in September of 1977 in a boat off of my Uncle Louis’ dock on Lake Idlewild.  They would fillet them and freeze them in empty milk cartons.

On the right is a boat in front of Louis’ cottage on Idlewild Lake. I can’t quite make it out, but could be them catching the above string of fish.

In June, 1979 my mother sent to the Emergency Land Fund’s newspaper “Forty Acres and A Mule” her recipe for cooking blue gills.  I wish I had a plate of those blue gills right now.

idlewild lake with boat 1977:sept 10" blue gill from L. Idlewild

bluegill recipe - doris cleage******************************

I just remembered this letter with a drawing of a fish that my mother wrote to Henry from Idlewild in 1956.

Letter my mother wrote in 1956 from Louis's cottage in Idlewild.
From a letter my mother wrote in 1956 from Louis’s cottage in Idlewild.

“In between showers, the children & I go outside to see what’s up.  The lake is full of minnows & baby bass & even some half-size bass who stay around our beach.  But the rowboat isn’t even down the hill – and the other boats are too fast – everything is gone before you even get to it – including the lake.

I’ve spent two evenings with Louis & his guests – and they took me out to “night club” – but they’ve given me up, I think, as a confirmed “prude” – but a pleasant innocuous one.  I’ve been reading the book about Bronson alcott (no, I won’t tell you who he is) and also…”

kris,ma,pearlon dock
Me, my mother and Pearl on Louis’ dock that summer of 1956.


I was going to write about the time when we hand printed fish one spring in Idlewild. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to have saved any of our prints. I did not know printing fish was a Japanese art form called Gyotaku.  Ours were not as lovely as those at the link, but they were interesting.

Note:  My sister tells me she has some of those prints. Whenever she finds them, I will add them to this post.

To read other fishy Sepia Saturday offerings, CLICK!
To read other fishy Sepia Saturday offerings, CLICK!

16 thoughts on “Fish and Fillets – Idlewild Michigan 1977 & 1979

  1. I had never heard of printing fish. Very interesting. Thanks for the link. I really liked the colorful prints. Now sure about the dark & gray ones. But what an novel concept. Your Mom looks pretty happy with all those blue gills! Looks like they had an excellent day of fishing! Her batter recipe seems similar to what I use on small catfish & crappie.

    1. My sister says she may have one of the ones we printed. If she does and can find it, I will add it to the page.

      Yes, that was a very good day of fishing!

  2. You got it on both counts: wrote about fish, and even had a drawing of a fish! Love the shot of you and your mother on the dock — Pearl must be your sister, right? Old outboards and gas tanks with neatly coiled lines — nice!

  3. Perfect post on the prompt, including the sketch, and those blue gill look like they are an ideal plate size. Your mother sure has a heap of them in that furst photo! Your mention of fish printing reminded me that my artistic sister Louisa also did some of that, possibly while she was living in the US in the 1980s. My mother had one of her prints framed on the wall, but I don’t have it, and think Louisa probably took it home with her to NZ when we were sorting out Mum’s things.

    1. ps. Now your mention of fish prints has also reminded me of a fish-shaped little pot that my sister made and gave me as a oresent many years ago, and I’ve added a picture of it onto the end of my contribution this week.

  4. My mouth sure was watering as I read that recipe! Sounds delicious, but I don’t cook for anyone but myself now, so would have a lot of batter for just a few fillets if I did it. Perhaps I can cut it down. Bronson Alcott that your mother was reading about…interesting, father of Louisa Mae of Little Women! And it’s sweet that she felt she was a “prude” at nightclubs. Most young people feel that way I imagine.

    1. I have all my parent’s letters in binders so it’s not hard to find them.

      Going to look at your link. Nothing like a big bunch of fish to bring a smile. Especially if you have the fillet method down pat.

  5. I didn’t realize there was enough meat on Blue Gill to bother cooking them. Maybe they grow bigger at Idlewild.

    Love your mother’s drawing of a smiling fish.

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