Isfeld Family
of Winnipeg Beach

Ólafur (Oli) and Helga

sleigh dogs
Oli with his dog team

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Taken from the Icelandic Appeal website, circa 2000.
Isfeld, Ólafur (Oli) and Helga

Dog teams were very important to the fishermen in the early years and Oli was proud of his sleigh dogs. Being among the best in the area, they were chosen for Rear Admiral Richard Byrd’s second Antarctic expedition in 1933.

Oli also took his dog team to Winnipeg to River Park for winter carnivals. He colourfully decorated his sleigh and took people for pleasure rides a mile up the river and back for 25 cents each.

Raising a large family through tough times and the depression required everyone to help. Helga and the children filleted the fish, peddled the fish to cottagers in the summer; seamed on the nets and boxed and spread the nets. Oli gave each of the children their routes to sell the fish. Aurora, being the oldest, got the best route. She sold to the boarding houses in Boundary Park. Coming home, her bicycle basket was always full of left over baking treats given to take home to her large family. Of course, she sampled everything before arriving home and the other children were always envious.

As the sons grew, each of them entered the fishery for various periods of time.

During World War II, Alex and John, when old enough, volunteered for service overseas. Tragedy struck the family again when Alex died by drowning in Holland on November 25, 1945 while serving in the Canadian Army. This deeply saddened and devastated the family; losing the oldest child and brother. After the war, John stayed in fishing until the early 1950s when he moved to Winnipeg.

Paul has been involved in fishing as well as working in the area.

Oliver also fished for a short time before moving to Winnipeg.


Ed, after working as an electrician, has followed in his father’s footsteps becoming a full time successful fisherman, having fished on the lake for the last 33 years. He is still fishing and has also been extensively involved in many aspects of the industry. He has served as a Fishermen’s Advocate; as President of the Lake Winnipeg Fisherman’s Association for 23 years and as an Advisory Representative and Director for the Freshwater Fish Marketing Board for 23 years. Ed, sharing his wisdom and knowledge of the lake, has been instrumental in many of the positive changes on Lake Winnipeg. Ed and Heather’s son Kristjan shares his passion for fishing and is following in his father’s footsteps as a 4th generation fisherman.

Oli and Helga’s home was one of great hospitality, kindness, and good cheer. The door was always open and coffee was always hot; especially at 4:00 PM for anyone who came to visit. There was always room for extra guests at their table.

Oli Isfeld on the lake

Oli died in Gimli on January 2, 1974, in his 86th year. At his request, his ashes were scattered by his sons on Lake Winnipeg, where he had fished for 67 years.

Helga, until the age of 94, had resided in the family home at Winnipeg Beach; moving then to the Betel Home in Gimli where she still leads an active life. She enjoys the company of her children, their spouses, 25 grandchildren, 44 great grandchildren and 2 great great grandchildren who visit her often.