The Arnesen family has inhabited Rocky Point, Minnesota since the site was homesteaded in 1897 by Bernhard Arnesen. Bernhard was soon joined by his wife Agnes and his parents Berent and Kristine. The primary occupation of the family was commercial fishing. The family fished with sail-powered boats and pound nets for sturgeon. The roe was processed into caviar on location and then picked up by steam-powered boats that would transport it north to Kenora, Ontario. From there, a rail link shipped the caviar to the eastern fish markets. Unfortunately the sturgeon population became over-fished and the market for this fish crashed.
With the decline of the sturgeon, the family switched species and gear and began fishing for walleyes with gill nets in the fall and summer. During the winter, they pursued burbots using fyke nets. Eventually they developed ways to use gill nets under the ice by using a machine called a jigger board to run a line that was used to pull the gill net behind.
Danger was a constant element the family faced. As a result, many tragic deaths happened during the early days at Rocky Point. Two of Bernhard’s brothers, Benjamin and Conrad Arnesen, and two of his and Agnes’ sons, Harold and Arthur Arnesen, all drowned on the lake at a young age. Another son, Bernie, was severely injured by a sail boom and died tragically young as well. Agnes was horribly burned trying to rescue two daughters, Grace and Clara, from a house fire. Unfortunately, she failed and the two young girls perished in the fire. Another son of Berent and Kristine’s, John, died in a hunting accident.
Although commercial fishing was dangerous, it was an excellent source of wealth and an occupation that one could pursue in Northern Minnesota in the late 1800’s and throughout most of the 1900’s. It was commercial fishing, and a lot of hard work, that allowed the family to prosper and stay in the area.
The Arnesen’s fished continuously until 1984, when the state of Minnesota decided to manage Lake of the Woods as a sport fishery instead of a commercial fishery. After 87 years, commercial fishing at Arnesen’s Rocky Point ceased.
It was at this time the family’s focus shifted towards developing the resort. Agnes had already begun renting cabins and boats and operated a small store in the 1930s. She also had a post office, which is why you will find Arnesen on the Minnesota highway map. By 1984, the resort had half a dozen cabins, a small convenience store, campground and mobile home park.
Today, after more than one hundred years, the family now in its sixth generation continues to provide a quality fishing and resort experience on Lake of the Woods. The once decimated sturgeon population has been replenished and is abundant again. The resort aspect of Rocky Point has been expanded extensively to include our Rock Harbor Lodge, thirty rental units, a two hundred unit mobile home park, and what is probably one of the world’s largest ice fishing operations with a whole fleet of track vehicles.
While much of the early history of Arnesen’s Rocky Point revolved around tragedy and hardship, there is much to celebrate as well. Without commercial fishing, there wouldn’t be the Arnesen’s Rocky Point that thousands of people enjoy annually today. The Arnesen family looks forward to another century of celebration and memories.