The Early Days Commercial Fishing on the Oregon Coast
By Ingrid Mueller
Published: 06/30/2013  Updated: 08/08/2019
photo courtesy of Oregon State University, Special Collections and Archives Research Center

Commercial fishing has been a part of Pacific Northwest culture since the mid-1800s.

The Oregon Coast has a long history of commercial fishing and processing. Commercial salmon fisheries developed in the 1860s, supporting early salmon-canning enterprises in Astoria, Tillamook Bay, Yaquina Bay, and Gold Beach. By the turn of the twentieth century commercial fishing was an important part of the coastal economy. Fishermen supplied crab, black cod, halibut, albacore, pink shrimp, and several varieties of rockfish to packers and fresh markets.

By 1881 salmon canning was a major industry in the Pacific Northwest, and Astoria, by now the largest town on the Oregon coast, was its center. At the peak of the salmon canning industry there were 39 canneries along the Columbia, and many others on Oregon's coastal rivers.

This picture shows Chinook salmon dumped on the floor of the salmon cannery ready for the 'iron chink', a machine that beheads and roughly cleans the fish. Here the 'shiners' men and women are shown at their worktables ready to complete the cleaning process.
The Early Days Commercial Fishing on the Oregon Coast