Fishing during the Fraser River Gold Rush

Fishing during the Fraser River gold rush was made difficult by the large number of gold seekers who wanted to occupy the same bars in order to find gold. Captain B.C. Donellan, former chief of San Francisco police force, travelled to the Fraser River with a group of gold seekers in July, 1858. He gave a personal narrative of his trip, upon returning to San Francisco in which he recalled the pact reached at Washington Bar.

There was at this point a rancheria or a village of natives, who lived principally upon the salmon caught in the river; and it was reported that these natives would allow no miners to stop or congregate in their neighbourhood….The natives, for a while, were surly; but in a short time an amicable understanding was entered into, by which the miners agreed to faithfully pay for everything they obtained from the natives, and not disturb them in their fisheries. These fisheries were carried on with scoop or dip nets in the early mornings, and in the evenings from about 4 o’clock till dark… It was for fear that the miners would work in the water and disturb their fisheries that the natives looked with disfavour upon their approach; but upon the agreement that during fishing hours the miners would keep away from the river, everything was arranged to the satisfaction of both parties – and the pact was kept.

The pact was just for Washington Bar; elsewhere fishing during the Fraser River gold rush was disrupted because of the placer mining activity and conflict ensued. The use of the Fraser River had changed from harvesting fish to gold extraction. This was one of the factors which led to the Canyon War.