Sooke’s fishing fleet at the Government Wharf, foot of Maple Ave., circa 1980. (Sooke Region Museum photo)

Sooke’s fishing fleet at the Government Wharf, foot of Maple Ave., circa 1980. (Sooke Region Museum photo)

SOOKE HISTORY: Fishing evolves at foot of Maple Ave.

Fishboat activity at the foot of Maple Avenue has varied greatly over the years.

That particular point of harbour frontage was the centre of fishtraps operations from about the time of World War I to 1958, when Sooke Harbour Fishing and Packing Company dominated the salmon harvesting industry.

Earlier, from 1904, J. H. Todd & Sons, who initiated the fishtraps operations on this coastline, had established their headquarters close to the foot of Murray Road.

The major fishtraps structures, extending out into the Strait, of course, intercepted the salmon as they headed towards their spawning rivers.

After World War II, it was returning servicemen that set off a surge of independent fishboat entrepreneurs, and it wasn’t long before the fleet at the foot of Maple Avenue changed from fishtraps Company packers and pile drivers to an assortment of independently owned vessels.

Even long before WWII, one of the earliest independent vessels was the Atalasco, a 45 ft seine boat owned by Danny George. In the early 1940s, it was Louis Heggelund that brought his troller LouVel to Sooke Harbour, where he became an independent force of some repute. Initially fishing for cod, he went as far north as Cape Scott.

Today, members of the third generation of Heggelunds continue to fish on the coast.

Another successful fisherman in those days was Bill Pitre, who bought the 62 ft seiner Pacific Belle in 1949.

Today’s photo was taken by Sheila Whincup, who stood at the foot of Maple Avenue and looked toward the northeast to take the shot, which shows Billings Spit, centre left background.

Sheila’s image was used to make a jigsaw puzzle we sold at the museum in the 1980s.

Many Sooke youth got their first jobs as deckhands in the fishing industry during the last half of the 20th century. By the 1990s, it was sports fishing that began to take a more significant role in the salmon fishing community of this coast.

Today it would be fair to say that in our area, sports fishing now takes a more dominant role than commercial fishing. Several private marinas accommodate most of the sports fishing boats nowadays.

While the vessels shown in port here include half a dozen pleasure craft, the majority are trollers. As we see only one gillnetter in the photo, the gillnetter fleet must have been elsewhere at photo-time, c1980.

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Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.