Tag Archives: Bayport Fish Sandwich Festival

Bay Port Fish Sandwich Festival

Michigan’s Upper Thumb Festival Season Starts in Bay Port

Bay Port, Michigan – As late summer rolls around the days get a bit shorter and the evenings around the campfire can have a bit of chill in the air. It’s also festival season! If you’re in the Upper Thumb the first weekend in August, head to Bay Port. The Bay Port Fish Sandwich Festival is the granddaddy of them all. Since 1978 folks come in and lined up for a fish sandwich that “takes two hands to hold one.” At $4.00 it’s a deal. It’s a family friendly event but its proximity to the historic Bay Port Inn make thoughts of having a “short one” prior to hitting the craft booths not uncommon.


Bay Port Craft Show
Craft and vendor booths are fun to browse

Events start on Friday, August 3rd at noon with sandwiches and a large continuous craft show, the crowning of the festival’s king, queen, prince and princess and fireworks on Friday evening at Saturday’s events start with a 5K walk/run then the festival’s parade kicks off at 10:30 a.m. Craft booths and fish sandwiches are sold throughout the day. 

The festival concludes on Sunday at noon with a fish eating contest. 

A Bite of Bay Port Fish Sandwich History

Bay Port Fish Sandwich Festival
Even the King makes sandwiches

The Engelhard’s family started the community’s Fish Sandwich Festival. In 1949 Henry and Edna began selling the famous fish sandwich. By 1953, the Engelhard’s erected a stand on the front lawn of their home, with a sign that touted Bay Port’s Original Fresh Boneless Fried Fish Sandwich.

The first Fish Sandwich Festival was held in 1978, and just like Caseville’s 1st Rib stock held years later, they quickly sold out. Today the annual number of visitors averages over 10,000. Back in the late 1940’s folks told them they were crazy, but the Bay Port fishery certainly captivated them and, after all, the Bay Port slogan is “Fish caught the Man.”

Bay Port Fish Sandwich Festival
Live Entertainment All Weekend

The fish sandwich is the prime attraction. The original sandwich is local caught freshwater Mullet is dipped in a secret batter, fried crisp, and served on a long bun with ketchup and mustard. Although not traditional, tartar sauce is also available. According to Henry, the fish should overlap the bun and  the sandwich should be so large “it takes two hands to hold it.” All day, the lines in front of the sandwich stand are long. It is not unusual to sell 12,500 sandwiches to people from as far away as Florida and the northeast.

Bay Port Michigan Fish Sandwich Festival
The lines move quickly

Henry was the festival’s primary inspiration, energy, supporter, and promoter. He wrote many stories regaling the fish sandwiches’ power to please and to heal. Through his efforts, the festival has been featured on NBC’s Today Show, ABCs 20/20, and in many national magazines and newspapers. In recognition of their contribution to the Fish Sandwich Festival, Henry and Edna (she died in 1992) were honored as “Mr. and Mrs. Bay Port.”



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Bay Port Fish Company Reigns Over Saginaw Bay

The biggest commercial fishing harvests recorded in the Great Lakes history dates back to 1889 to 1899 when 147 million pounds were recorded. After that period, the fish population declined due to over fishing and poor water quality. Recently the walleye population has increased in Lakes Erie and Huron, Lake Trout improved in Lake Superior and Salmon has established a foothold in Lake Ontario. Researchers in several Great Lake’s fishery departments estimate that 25 to 40 percent of trout and salmon population in lakes Huron, Ontario and Michigan are currently self producing, giving credit to better water quality, improved stream conditions as well as improved habitat. Currently is estimated that $4 billion in revenue is produced from recreational and the small commercial fishing industry in the Great Lakes. Apart from the tribal fishermen, only around 50 businesses hold fishing licenses for commercial purposes in the Great Lakes. In Michigan’s upper thumb, the Bay Port Fish Company can be found plying the waters of Lake Huron.

Bay Port Fish Company has been a commercial fishery in Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay since 1895. Currently the fish company is owned and operated by the William brothers. The Williams purchased the company in 1977 from Henry Engelhard. In 1949 Engelhard starting selling fish sandwiches in front of his house to pay his daughter’s college tuition, his sales grew and grew until in 1978 it became The Fish Sandwich Festival. The festival still offers the original fresh water mullet sandwich made from fish caught locally by the Bay Port Fish Company. The fish are cleaned by members of the Bay Port Chamber of commerce and coated in a secret batter recipe.

Bay Port Fish Company operates between spring and fall, depending upon the weather and has four boats: the Osprey, the Argo, the Patsy, and the Sunflower. You can see the Osprey and the Argo tied up in Caseville harbor at the fish house just south of the break wall. Fresh, smoked, and frozen fish can be bought from the retail store in Bay Port. They also can be found at several Farmers Markets in Michigan. Look for booths at the Port Austin Farmer’s Market, Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market, and the Davison Farmer’s Market