Fish On! celebrates the “glory days” of recreational salmon fishing in our region by recording the stories, preserving small watercraft, and sharing images from this unique period of our maritime history.
A legacy of Recreation
In 1955 there were 4000 boats for rent on Puget Sound. These boats were rented from boathouses and resorts that were typically family owned and operated. The vessels were built locally, designed for the local conditions, and constructed with materials from the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Maintenance, lure manufacturing, bait supplies, and production of fishing gear combined with boat building and renting to create an industry and commerce unique to Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia.
Recreational fishing was a cultural experience. Beginning in the 1930s major fishing derbies throughout the region made heroes of a man or woman or child with a hand line, spoon, or bamboo pole and rented rowboat. After its peak in the 1950s, the “Boathouse Era” of recreational fishing declined slowly as a variety of factors changed the way folks spent their free time. By the mid 1960s private boat ownership, declining fish runs and more stringent regulations, and televised sporting events combined to forever change recreational salmon fishing in Puget Sound. Boathouses were replaced by public boat ramps, and resorts were sub-divided into vacation cabins. With this change fishing was converted from a community experience to an exercise in solitude.
The boathouses of Puget Sound
Cama Beach State Park is a restored fishing resort built in 1934. At that time Cama was just one of almost 2 dozen fishing resorts on Camano. Today visitors can immerse themselves in history and try their luck renting fishing and crabbing boats from CWB’s historic boathouse!
This tiny Kitsap County town once hosted a large concentration of boathouse resorts, including Erickson’s, Twin Spits, Forbes Landing and Point No Point. Famous for the big “Tyee” salmon the resorts drew fisherman from far away. Today, stop in at the Hansgrille store and restaurant, surrounded by the remnants of several resorts.
The quiet condominium straddling the ferry dock was once a bustling site for boat rentals at the Mukilteo Boathouse, home of the famous “Muk Boat.” Just up the beach was McConnell’s Boathouse, which stood until 1999.
Today drop by Ivar’s in Mukilteo to see artifacts and an original Mukilteo Boat hanging from the rafters.
Founded by Ray Litchenberger in early 1930’s and originally located on Harbor Island, Ray’s boathouse held annual youth fishing derbies which drew hundreds of kids from Seattle. In the first half of the 1900’s Ray’s was one of multiple resorts along Seaview Avenue. See the iconic neon sign and boat elevator at Ray’s Boathouse and Restaurant today.
West Seattle was an early destination for recreational fisherman. It held a prime location for urban fishing and supported multiple boat rental operations lining the shores at Duwamish Head and Alki. Today folks can still rent boats at Seacrest Park to chase blackmouth or stop in for a taste of salmon at Salty’s.
In 1950, the Point Defiance Boathouse was labeled the largest municipally owned boathouse in North America. Today it continues to offer Tacoma residents and visitors the opportunity to rent boats to fish or gather round the coffee pot and swap lies.