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1. Jones & Richardson Co.

Martin V. Jones and George Richardson in the autumn of 1876 established the first commercial fishery at the mouth of the Klamath. The Yurok protested their presence, and in 1877 they sought to force them to vacate their claim and fishery. Jones and Richardson refused to move. In August 1877 the Crescent City Courier reported that they have already put up a few cans of salmon, and Jones had gone to San Francisco to "lay in a supply of salt and other materials with which to carry on fishing on a more extensive scale." [13]

Captain Savage and his soldiers evicted Jones and Richardson from their property in June 1879, and the first commercial fishery on the Klamath was closed down.

2. Klamath Commercial Co.

The opposition of the Indians mollified, Jones incorporated the Klamath Commercial Co. for the "purpose of lumbering and fishing at or near the mouth of the Klamath." On August 27, 1881, the Del Norte Record announced:

The milling and canning enterprise on the Klamath River is now under way. M. V. Jones, who is the general superintendent of the work, has been on the ground for some weeks with a crew of men, and has the mill and building sites all ready. [14]

The cannery was to be erected on Hunter Creek, more than a mile from the river. The Indians would catch and deliver the salmon for so much a head. The scow Ester Cobos, drawing six feet of water, would be employed to trade between the Klamath and Crescent City. [15] As the cannery was off the Reservation and the Indians were benefitted by its presence, the military took no action to interfere with its operation.

3. The Klamath Packing & Trading Co.

John Bomhoff in 1886 received permission from the Indian Agent to build a saltery near the mouth of the Klamath. R. D. Hume of Gold Beach, Oregon, likewise decided to get into the business. In 1887 he sent down a scow, on which quarters were built, equipped to carry on the business of general merchandising and salting salmon. The craft was seized by a U. S. Marshal during the winter of 1887-88. After extensive litigation, the case was decided in favor of Hume, and he proceeded to build a cannery on the right bank of the Klamath, about one-half mile from the one constructed the previous year by John Bomhoff & Co. Hume's cannery was wrecked by the flood of 1890, and the two companies merged under the name of Klamath Packing & Trading Co. [16]

These early fisheries salted most of their catch. In 1887 Bomhoff packed 700 barrels of salmon, and R. D. Hume 500. The schooners Requa and Geo. Harley made frequent runs to the Klamath, bringing in tin, salt, and other materials for the canneries, and taking out barrels of fish. [17]

The Klamath Packing & Trading Co. found the years between 1894 and 1909 profitable. In the latter year, it was reported that Klamath River salmon bring the "top-notch in the market, as their reputation for superiority is far-famed." The plant in that year was owned by the R. D. Hume Estate and W. T. Bailey. For a number of years, Bailey had been plant superintendent. During the calendar year 1908, there were 6,500 cases of salmon shipped from the cannery aboard its gasoline-powered craft. This vessel made the run from Requa to Humboldt Bay, during favorable weather, with cases of fish which were transshipped to San Francisco. On her return, the vessel brought in items needed by the cannery and supplies for the area. [18]

4. Salmon Fishing on the Klamath

In the heyday of commercial salmon fishing on the Klamath, it was not uncommon during a good run for the netters, Indian and white, to bring 7,000 to 10,000 fish daily to the canneries. Seventeen thousand was the record catch in 1912. When several canneries were in operation, as many as 100 nets were in use. These nets, with buoys and weights, were about 20 feet deep, and usually of 7-1/2-inch mesh to permit the smaller fish to escape upstream to spawn. Old Timers recalled that "it was quite a feat to haul in a net of fighting fish into a dugout canoe and not lose any of the catch." When the canneries had all the salmon they could handle for the day, a signal was given for the netters to cease operations. [19]

For over 50 years commercial fishing on the Klamath flourished. Many Yurok found employment in the industry for several months each year. Fish were caught, salted or canned, and shipped out in small schooners. Commercial fishing was declared illegal on the Klamath and Smith rivers in January 1934, and the Klamath Packing & Trading Co. closed. [20]

This action was followed by illegal netting, the guilty parties employing nets with as small as three-inch mesh. These allowed nothing except the fingerlings to escape. So flagrant and defiant of the laws were these people that they loaded their trucks with netted salmon in broad daylight, then trucked to Oregon wholesalers for sale and distribution. This condition got so bad during World War II that Del Norte sportsmen telegraphed Governor Earl Warren, either to take immediate action to stop the depredations, or they would.

Governor Warren accordingly ordered Otis Wright, a hard-boiled warden, to Del Norte. From the day that Wright stopped his first truck-load of fish on U.S. 199, en route for Oregon, illegal netting was on its way to extinction. [21]

Today the Klamath is a mecca for sport fishermen. During the salmon runs thousands of fishermen work the waters near the mouth of the Klamath, eager to catch the big Chinook salmon and the wily steelhead.

5. Comments and Recommendations

The story of commercial and sports fishing at the mouth of the Klamath is one that lends itself to on-site interpretation. As the bar at the river's mouth and "Anchor Row" will be overrun with fishermen, during the salmon runs, the Service should cooperate with the owners of Dad's Camp to insure maximum use and enjoyment of the area.

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Last Updated: 15-Jan-2004