Unsheltered: Commercial Fishing Out of Trinidad

commercial_fishingThe history of commercial fishing in Trinidad, California is a rich one. It is a tale full of storms, danger, hardship, success, community, competition, skill, and luck. The story is enriched by a cast of characters one could not make up, even with the wildest of imaginations. The men and women who make up Trinidad’s fishing community are best described as a salt bunch. This community is bound together by an intriguing combination of what may be called an ethical code of conduct, friendship, loyalty, and, above all, fierce competition.

Many people seem to misunderstand fishermen and their often gruff exteriors, but what truly sets them apart is their love of the sea and their need for the adrenaline rush that their chosen profession provides. There was a time when commercial fishing thrived in Trinidad and town modo’s included: Trinidad, a drinking town with a fishing problem; and Trinidad, where the West ends and the fishing begins. Now that time has passed. A greatly diminished commercial fleet of 17 boats fishes for dungeness crab from December 1 through July 15 yearly, but salmon season has all but vanished.

For most people the time between Thanksgiving, at the end of November, and the New Year is a time for holiday festivities, spending time with family, vacation time, breaks from school, and generally a time for relaxing. For fishermen on the North Coast this period of time means three things: work, exhaustion, and money. Every year with the holidays, comes long hours on the unforgiving ocean. These hours stretch into days and the days into weeks. For a crab fisherman out of Trinidad, the time between December 1, when the commercial season opens, and January 31 represents the majority of his annual income.

Photographs in this exhibit courtesy of Bob Hallmark, Zach and Susan Rotwein, Fishermen’s Wives Association, Tom Kraasch, David Peterson, Greta Daniels, the family of George Collins, Marge O’Brien, HSU Katie Boyle Collection, Times-Standard Archive and Trinidad Museum.

The exhibit was produced by Tom Sharp, Alexandra Cox, Grace Rotwein, Katie LaSala, Scott Baker and Patti Fleschner.

On Display Until May 2016

  • Hallmark pier circa 1947. Earl H. Hallmark (1900-1958), chemist, lawyer, and fisheries operator, came to Trinidad with his family from Charleston, Oregon in 1943. He built Trinidad Bay pier in 1946 “because crabbing was good here, and secondarily, salmon, and it was easier to fish out of Trinidad Bay than out of Humboldt Bay” according to son Bob Hallmark. The catch was shipped to the Bay area. Note future “live crab tank” under construction to the left of the pier under Little Trinidad Head. (Photo from the Hallmark Collection)

Fishing Exhibit: Expanded Captions     Fishing Exhibit: Captains & Ships    Fishing Exhibit: Crab Fishing 

See also Humboldt Historian Winter 2018 for article by Bob Hallmark, “A Brief History of the Trinidad Pier”