Front Door to the Pacific for Over 120 Years
The building seen in the foreground is one of the first salmon canneries on the Columbia River and is utilized today as the Ilwaco Landing Fishermen Corporate office. As a testimonial to the high winds of the area it is now occupied as a one story building.
Ilwaco was incorporated in 1890 but did not officially become a city until 1987
In the early 1900s the dock and offload facility had been constructed to support the existing Salmon Cannery (white building lower left). This dock and building are still being utilized today as Ilwaco landing.
At the turn of the century there seemed to be inexhaustible Salmon runs.
By the 1930s the effects of over fishing and upriver habitat changes had begun to significantly reduce the Columbia Rivers Salmon runs.
lwaco’s smaller fishing operations continued however by looking beyond Salmon and start targeting crab and other species of seafood.
The removal of fish traps from the river lead to increased accessibility for sport fishing creating a sport fishing frenzy by 1940 when as many as 1,000 sport boats would be fishing at one time near the mouth of the Columbia.
By 1953 there were more than 3,000 sport boats on the river. Most coming by way of Ilwaco either by boat ramp or mooring.
With the increase in recreational boating the Port of Ilwaco worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge to deep water and built the 1,800-foot stone dike known as Jetty A to protect the moorage basin.
With the Salmon populations remaining low the once “all the rage” sport fishing was quickly fading away. Charter fishing boats hit a high in 1978 with 130 boats and dropped to only 9 boats by 2010.
After over a decade of ups and downs the relentless and diversified fleet of Ilwaco fishermen still remain. To make up for the declining Salmon runs they looked to additional species like Dungeness Crab, Pink Shrimp, Albacore tuna and Rockfish to support their livelihood.
In 2003 14 million pounds of Albacore tuna was landed in Ilwaco which was worth more than all the other fisheries combined.