Fishing has been a fundamental part of the life of Fidalgo Island inhabitants from time immemorial. The harvest of seafood by the Samish and Swinomish tribes, for sustenance and trade, continued with the arrival of European and American settlers in the mid-nineteenth century. Anacortes’ fishing industry grew rapidly in the 1890s with the establishment of canneries built to process cod, clams and salmon. Salmon were caught using a variety of methods, including cannery-owned fish traps, reef nets, gill nets, trollers, and the definitive purse seine vessels that often were built right here in Anacortes.
John Tursi made a documentary film in 1953 which follows the path of salmon from the Skagit River spawning to the fishing in Burrows Bay, then from the cannery dock to the cannery floor. He narrated this film in the 1980s as it was converted from film to video, and the results are a valuable glimpse of mid-century Anacortes.
The Anacortes Museum contains a wealth of information on the fishing families and boats, as well as books on the subject including Fidalgo Fishing, Lost at Sea, Croatian Fishing Families of Anacortes, and, Pacific Schooner Wawona.