June 1956 – August 1956
Frontierland – Guests could fish off Tom Sawyer Island, along the eastern dock. To find the fishing area, guests would cross the river on the rafts, and follow the walkway on the right side until they reached the mill. Today, this area is right below the raised stage for Fantasmic!.
Tom Sawyer Island opened one year after the rest of the park, in 1956. At first, the island was largely bare, with just small camp activities and nature trails for guests to explore. The most interactive feature on the island was the fishing pier, where guests could test their skills catching real catfish out of the Rivers of America.
Guests borrowed fishing poles from the shed along Huckleberry Finn’s Fishing Pier. They would cast a line into the fiver, hoping to hook one of Disneyland’s catfish! Once a fish caught the line, guests were encouraged to bring their fish to the River Belle Terrace, where it would be cleaned and chilled until park closing (or the guest was ready to go home). This unique attraction gave guests the chance to catch their dinner in the park!
Before long, this small attraction on Tom Sawyer Island became a huge problem across the entire park. Most guests didn’t bother to bring their fish to the River Belle Terrace, and instead decided to carry them around, or abandon them altogether in trash bins or lockers. It didn’t take long for a fishy smell to sweep across the park, and Disneyland finally scrapped the fishing altogether in just a matter of weeks.
Disney did not stock the whole river with fish for guests to hook. Instead, there was a small netted pond hidden within the larger river, which housed all of the fish.
Becky Thatcher, Walt Disney, and Tom Sawyer trying to hook a catfish!