Fishing is an important part of American history. Not only did it help people survive long before the United States was ever formed, it has advanced our economy, provided millions of jobs throughout history, and given outdoor enthusiast a chance to enjoy the water.
Without fishing, America would certainly be a much different place. It has influenced presidents, changed names of regions, and helped put food on the table for centuries. Let’s explore how our American history has been effected by this all-encompassing sport.
From the very beginning, many U.S. Presidents have been fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts. George Washington set the pace for presidential angling by being a passionate fisherman who loved being outdoors, including fishing in the Potomac River near his Mt. Vernon estate. He had a commercial fishing business for a short time, and legend holds that he escaped the monotony and frustration of the Continental Convention by (you guessed it) fishing. After General Washington, presidents like Grover Cleveland, Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, and Jimmy Carter have been known for being big fans of the rod and reel.
Long before the United States was even a concept, the area that we now know as Cape Cod, the protruding peninsula of Massachusetts, was called Cape Saint James. However, when the English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold visited the area in the early 1600’s, legend has it he was so impressed by the sheer volume of available codfish in the surrounding water that gave it the name we know today. Cape Cod remains a popular commercial and recreational fishing destination, maintaining a tradition that has lasted for centuries.
Without a vibrant fishing industry, the colonies (and eventually the states) of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Delaware would have been much different. While these areas had other industries, fishing was an essential part of their economy, providing jobs and attracting many people to the region.
While commercial fishing was a large part of the northern economy, people in the south, a largely agricultural area, made fish a large part of their diet. With the availability of salt and freshwater fish, the European and Native American people all across the continent fed themselves with fish.
When Meriwether Lewis set out with William Clark to explore the western reaches of the Louisiana Purchase, they had one essential mission: to find a northwest passage. They also had a long list of sub-missions, including the documentation of wildlife. Lewis brought back extensive information on new fish species, which fascinated President Thomas Jefferson, who was a renowned naturalist and outdoorsman.
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