Bibliography Background About KRIS

Big River History: Events - Fish and Fishing

Photos provided courtesy of the Mendocino Historical Society and the Held Poage Memorial Home and Research Library. From the collection of Robert Lee.  The Bancroft Library at U.C Berkeley also allowed use of a few select photos of the area from their Watkins collection. Further use of photos must be approved by the Mendocino Historical Society or the Bancroft Library. Click on the images to view at full size.

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Man with large chinook salmon A good catch of rock fish. (423 KB) Abalone there for the picking.


The following excerpts are from Mendocino City, A daily Journal  1852-1938

by W. Francis Jackson. Mendocino Historical Research, Inc. Copyrighted.

February 1, 1855 Great quantities of smelt type fish, from four to six inches long, was being caught in the river. (In September of 1880 a sardine type of fish, two to three inches long, were being washed upon the beach, probably spawning)

April 1, 1881 Two men caught 250 trout as the trout law had expired. (they began fishing from near the old logging dam on the Little Northfork, thence up the river to what is referred to as Kelly's Crossing, near the lower end of the Lower Ranch)

June 4, 1881 News item: "William H. Kelly expects to take 1,000 fish out of his pond. (Many of them have been exercising and displaying their jumping capabilities. Yellow catfish and trout will be removed)

January 2, 1886  Joe, the Italian fisherman, caught five sharks in the bay. (The largest one was over five feet in length and weighed more than 100 pounds. In later years, a shark entered the river and chased out all swimmers.)

October 22, 1886 Nearly two tons of salmon were shipped on the schooner Yaquina, by the local Italian fishermen. (Commercial fishing, including taking abalone, was being done at a rapid pace during this time)

September 9, 1890 Five foot shark caught in the Bay, one that had disrupted local fishermen. (It had prevented many persons from catching grain sacks full of fish which had been swarming along the coastal waters for days)

September 18, 1890 Herring type of fish were good enough to catch a bear on the Heeser Ranch. (C. H. Joy used them as bait, and the wily black bear placed his foot delicately on top of the trigger, thereby snared himself. The ranch was in East Mendocino)

September 15, 1897 New trout fishing ordinance went into effect. (It was declared a misdemeanor to fish for trout in any stream by using a net, wire netting or traps. Punishable by a fine up to $500.00)

December 6, 1900 79 nice big fellows, as Nathaniel Smith seined a great haul of salmon on the river. The market was soon flooded by the salmon he was bringing to town and selling at 25 cents each.

November 15, 1902 24 salmon were caught on Big River by a young man using a trolling outfit. (Described as the best run of salmon ever, it was a poor fisherman who returned empty handed. There are reports that even better catches were made)

September 21, 1904 J. S. Neto and Ruel Armas landed a 103 pound halibut. (They took over one hour to land the five foot long fish. The fish was caught approximately two miles off the shore.)

December 21, 1909 Fred Seymour arrested for seining salmon on the river by Game Warden A. L. Reynolds. (This was the first time that he had been arrested, and due to his age, he was let off with a minimum fine of $10.00.)

March 22, 1913 Five were fined for fishing above tidewater during the closed season, paying $25.00 each. (Judge Wm. Wallace levied the fine at the local Justice Court. Fined were: Andrew Metti, John and James Borgnia, John Gurino and John Calpella)

November 5, 1913 Clams will not be shipped anywhere outside of the County line, an ordinance passed by the Mendocino County Supervisors. (Chinese were taking and soon would have eliminated all of the clams, principally on Big River)

September 2, 1914 53 pound codfish caught in the Bay by fishermen Joe Luce (Lenhares), Joe Vierra and Domingo Valador. (When it was cleaned, an 8 pound devilfish was found in its stomach)

June 21, 1919 32 pound codfish caught in a net by Thomas Doyle. (He was crabbing off of the boomsticks at the mill and in pulling up the net, found the fish. He needed help to subdue it and after it had surfaced, a mill worker tamed it with a hammer)

More fish stories from the past - quotes from Mendocino Historical Society publications.


HPPC13.jpg (120653 bytes)People / Pioneers


Fish and Fishing

Infrastructure - railroads, boats, bridges, etc.

Events - floods, storms, shipwrecks, etc

Logging / Mills - operations and events at mills, logging activities

Also see, Big River Was Dammed (excerpts) and Fish stories from the past