First Catch LLC

Paul Smith’s love of fishing turned into a source of income to support himself and his two boys while he was in college. When Paul completed his studies in criminal justice, he moved away from his hometown to become a police officer—and stopped fishing.  

When he moved back several years later, Paul rediscovered his passion for making a living fishing. He opened First Catch LLC, featuring Lake Trout and Whitefish that come straight out of Lake Superior, with one net and a sixteen-foot boat.  

Paul’s local lender referred him to the Michigan SBDC to review his business approach. There he discovered a plethora of webinars and workshops, and met Senior Business Consultant Daniel Yoder, who Paul describes as “personable and straightforward. I think of him as a people’s translator to the banking world.”

Fast forward to today: First Catch expanded with a larger boat and has created several tribal community jobs, including a college internship. The wholesale side of the business includes local distribution to neighboring county businesses and international distribution through a Detroit buyer who reportedly sells to destinations as far away as Chicago, New York and New Zealand. The retail side is a fish fry food truck for community events.

As Paul puts it: “My experience working with the [Michigan] SBDC is great. It allows me to understand where I am in my business, where I want to be and allows me to think on how I am going to make adjustments to achieve my goals. My vision for my business is I would like to see it as a teaching center, or a teaching vessel.”


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