Bodega Bay Commercial Fishing History
The fishing industry is one of the oldest and most primary industries along the North Coast of California. One of the reason California Indians were quite peaceful was the abundance of food, including fish. And since the Gold Rush era, fisheries have been profitable along California's streams and shoreline. Salmon, sturgeon, pike, perch, dake, chub, suckers, hard-heads, narrow-tails and more were being caught in large quantities.
The salmon fisheries were most important during the late 1800s—the fish were far beyond average size salmon caught along the Eastern Seaboard and ranged from 20 to 50 pounds. Fishing was an important commercial resource for California. Commercial fishing is a traditional industry with a colorful history of adventure, independence and hard work. Although fishing techniques have been enhanced with modern equipment, our fisherfolk must still endure the challenges of the sea with each fishing effort -- and those at home must wait the return of each trip.
Each year, Bodega Bay sponsors a Bodega Bay Fisherman's Festival, which includes a Blessing of the Fishing Fleet. These annual blessings had their start more than 50 years ago when the event was part of a celebration commemorating Lt. Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra (a Spanish Naval officer born in Lima, Peru) who sailed Northern California's coastline in 1775 while surveying for the Queen Isabella of Spain. Spain did not establish a colony at Bodega and they were followed by Russians aboard the otter hunting ship Peacock in 1807. By 1817 sea otters in the area diminished from international over-hunting.
By January 1842, the earliest European structures built at Bodega Bay were the wharf, warehouse and barracks of the Russian-American Company. Bodega Bay remained an active harbor for shipping lumber until the 1870s, when the North Pacific Coast Railroad was built, bypassing the coast in favor of a more inland route.
Today the celebration is part of the annual Bodega Bay Fisherman’s Festival.