Catch of the day: Coos Bay’s fishing culture

Fishing is more than just a hobby or a way to get food, it is a cultural tradition with a long history all around the world. From communities that have relied on fishing for food for thousands of years, to present recreational fishers, fishing is a shared experience that brings people together. In many coastal fishing areas, it’s an important part of the social structure and economic values. 

Coos Bay is no exception. Coos County has a long and proud history of fishing. For centuries, the community has been deeply connected to the ocean and the reward it provides. Charleston is home to a large commercial fishing fleet and is also the home to the fisherman’s biggest supporter, Charleston Fishing Families.

“Our coast is known for commercial fishing,” said Jackie Chambers, President of Charleston Fishing Families. “There are boats and ports all along the Oregon Coastline. I think it’s a huge part of our lives and community and most of us will know someone in the industry. People come here just to get local, fresh seafood which I think is pretty cool.”

 Fishing has a unique culture that is shown by a strong and loving community, a respect for the world, and a deep appreciation for the abilities and knowledge needed to be a great fisherman. Whether you are fishing in large lakes, freshwater streams or the open ocean, fishing is a well loved and honored activity. It is a time to interact with others and a way to carry down traditions from one generation to the next. 

 “I do enjoy coming from a fishing community,” Chambers said. “Honestly, before I met my husband I didn’t even really think much about where crab you buy at the store comes from. It was just there. Now I know how much goes into getting it from the ocean to the grocery store. It is a lot of hard work and can be very dangerous.” 

Lately the local salmon, steelhead, and halibut fishing has been very up and down. Environmental conditions and changes in migration patterns can all have an impact on this. Some years may be more productive than others, but this cannot be predicted. It is common for fishing conditions to fluctuate and be less favorable than in previous years, but this can also be due to a variety of factors that vary from year to year. Despite this many people enjoy crabbing and clamming as well. 

Clamming is a very popular activity in the world. People from all over the world come to Coos County, just to go clamming. There are many locations around Coos Bay that are conducive to clamming such as the North Spit, Clam Island, and along Cape Arago Highway.

While fishing can be dangerous it is also very beneficial for Oregon’s Bay Area community. Fishing is an important part of the ecosystem and it provides food for many animals and humans as well.

“I think fishing is great for the community,” said local resident Jerry DeGan. “It provides a lot of jobs and if fishing is good, and plentiful, it provides items that can be exported and sold to out of the country. If you are in a community where there are different rivers and streams as well as the ocean to fish in then there are a lot more species of fish that you can try to catch.”