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The History Behind These Gargantuan Oregon Salmon Is Beyond Fascinating

The History Behind These Gargantuan Oregon Salmon Is Beyond Fascinating

Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress

Anglers in Oregon who love salmon are in luck – they can be pulled from rivers all over the state, year-round. In the spring, you’ll find Chinook salmon in the Columbia, Willamette, and Rogue. In the summer, the Columbia is the place to fish, and in the fall you’ll want to head to Astoria. During winter months, the best salmon fishing is found in Oregons coastal rivers.

Today’s angler might be thrilled to pull a 30-40 pound Chinook from the river, but at the turn of the 20th century they were so huge that some were over 100 pounds.

At the dawn of the 20th century, the Columbia River was full of huge Chinook salmon – some weighing 100 pounds or more.

As the salmon made their way down the Columba River, they were scooped up in huge nets.

The gigantic salmon were so plentiful that it seemed they could be harvested forever.

Unfortunately, that was not the case. In the early 1940s, several dams were built that hampered the salmon’s spawning ability, and the fish that did make it were only about half the size. Combined with over fishing, loss of habitat, river pollution, and other factors, the days of the ginormous Chinook were over.

In 1874, the first salmon cannery opened in Astoria. By 1876, 17 salmon canneries were operating there.


Bumble Bee purchased several of the canneries, and in the 1960s, Bumble Bee’s production in Astoria was the largest seafood canning operation in the world.

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