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Point 7 - Historic Fishing Communities

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Point 7The first inhabitants of our region were Ohlone Native Americans. In time, Spanish explorers and settlers spread through the region. Both fished for subsistence. Fishing practice transformed into to an exportable commercial venture with the appearance of Chinese immigrants in the 1850s and 60s. They built boats like the ones they knew in China: sanpans and junks.

By the 1880s, Italian immigrants assumed a prominent presence in the region and fashioned boats after the their Mediterranean ancestors, the Felucca sailing skiffs, 18-24 ft. long. With the advent of the internal combustion engine, these were all soon sporting "new" motors, although not especially reliable ones. By 1910, the Monterey style boat became prevalent. These boats themselves were modeled after the ancient "feltucca" boats. An example of a Monterey style boat is the Marcella Boat Exhibit behind Wharf Boat Rental.

These kinds of boats lined the sides of the Wharf before our present-day railings existed. Lowered from davits to the water each morning before dawn, they would forage out into Monterey Bay for everything from salmon to sea bass. Returning, they would be raised to the Wharf deck for protection from the waves. Just like now, the summer sea conditions were idyllic and the winter storm waves were unforgiving.

Actually, the Genovese using the sailing feltuccas would go out at night fishing with their nets and return the next dawn. They would go to their "fishing grounds" set their nets and drift all night. They had learned that the fish would see the nets during daylight hours and escape, so they fished at night. They could more easily spot fish schools by the telltale phosphorescence in the water. Phosphorescent plankton will "ignite" into visible light when physically jostled by anything. The practice is still quite common today, especially for squid.

The influence of 60-plus Genovese families would last over 50 years and further develop the local commercial export fishing market into a multi-million dollar industry. Such family names and businesses such as Carniglia, Ghio, and Stagnaro fish or open their restaurant doors for business to this day. Sports fishing also attracted an avid following early on. In the 1870's "party boats" were leaving the old railroad wharf with weekend Sinbad-the-Sailors. Santa Cruz Boat Rental opened its doors and lowered its 16 ft ocean skiffs starting in the 1940s.

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Last updated: 6/30/2009 4:47:55 PM