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California. I • <*£%?* ^
Biennial a • 1870-1873.

(bound volume)


California. Dept. of Fish and Game,.
Biennial Report 1870-1873.


(bound volume)


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California Resources Agency Library

1416 9th Street, Room 117

Sacramento, California 95814


Resources Building, Room 117

1416 -°th Street

Sacramento, California



California Fish and Game


Volume 19


No. 1

Report of Commissioners of Fisheries

of t lie State of California Cor the

Years 1870 and 1871




E— 2013




To His Excellency, H. H. Haight, Governor of California :

The Commissioners of Fisheries for the State of California, appointed under
an act of the Legislature, entitled "An Act to provide for the restoration and preser-
vation of fish in the waters of this State," approved April second, eighteen hundred
and seventy, respectfully submit their first biennial report.


California has a seacoast extending through ten degrees of latitude, and a
shore line of nearly eight hundred miles. The Coast Range of mountains, which
adjoins the coast line for the greater part of this distance, creates by its western
watershed nearly one hundred streams and rivers emptying into the Pacific Ocean.
These streams and rivers vary from twenty to sixty miles in length. The drainage
of the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, through seven degrees of latitude, forms
several hundred streams, whose united waters make the Sacramento and San Joaquin
rivers — the first navigable for a distance of one hundred and eighty miles, and the
last navigable one hundred miles from the ocean. The waters from the eastern
slope of the Sierra Nevada flow into brackish and salt lakes, in the State of Nevada,
having no outlet into the ocean. Pyramid, the largest of these lakes, receiving the
waters of the Truckee River, is forty miles long and twenty miles wide. The inland
bays and fresh water lakes of California cover more than six hundred and fifty square
miles — an area half as large as the State of Rhode Island.

These few statistics are given that it may be clearly understood how extensive
is the field over which, under the law, the Board is expected to prevent the wanton
destruction of fish and required to compel the owners of dams to permit the free
passage of fish to their native spawning beds. When it is further understood that
- the members of the Board neither receive nor expect compensation for their services
other than the satisfaction of doing something towards the preservation of the fish
now in our waters and adding to the food supply of the people by the introduction
of new varieties, it will be acknowledged that if but a beginning has been made in
this work, at least public attention has been called to the importance of the subject.
If a few men of intelligence, living on the banks of each bay, river, and lake, will
inform themselves of what has been done in other states and countries for the propa-
gation and preservation of fish, they will create a public opinion that will cause the
enactment of proper laws and compel their enforcement. The result will be that
after a few years our river fisheries will be largely increased, giving employment to
a large number of men, and furnishing a cheap supply of nutritious food to many
more people.

2 — E-2013

IL' mi:


;i of the ii" 1 .-. in cur r
r rill «l.

few .-ii' l t.»

! Bah, after

irticolai rivulet in which th<

< h the particular spot and the parent bed of
able dai

ad leap by th<' hour ti the

led by which the fish can i

mi will be without fish. A fish

iffair that it would ieeng that men

would, if infori rithout Hi' 1 requirei of a

ladder for u intain streams is made

in ii both ends, four feet wide and thi

i i ed .-it ill'' top "f tlf dam, the other end oded

in the center of the poo] below the dam. In the inside <>f the boi

• if plank about four feet apart, placed trans-
Ued "riffles." Bach riffle i^ about a font high. 'I files '1<> not

iy about two-thirds 'I'" illustrate:

if tl ide "f I he bOI :it :i right angle t'i

it v. '1 thirt; '. four feel above, will be fastened

ii<l thirty inchi it : and so on. alternately,

until thi I. The water passing into the top of thi ight by

erted right and left by them until it reaches the stream below.

ming up th" stream to the dam seek and explore every crevice and

viriL' wh< -. If tli'- lower end of the fish way is placed near the

center of the pool below the dam, they readily find it. and immediately enter it.

o if the ladder is placed at g at an angle as forty-five degrees, the fish have
no difficulty in % through it; they will jump through almost any current a

four feet, ;i;. i each riffle gives them a resting place behind which they
recover for the next jump. At one dam on a tributary of the Truckee a mill owner
ed to put in a fish way, at the earnest solicitation of one of the Commis-
sioners, and to prevent the expenses of a suit. He said the law was an infringement
of his rights, and when the Legislature passed an act to compel him to spend money
in such foolish bu hey should have appointed a schoolmaster to teach the

trout how to use the contrivance; he did not believe a fish could be coaxed to go
near it. The ni • ning after the fish way was placed in position the fish were

pas very few minutes; the mill owner became a convert to the practical use

of fish ways. He soon tore away the cheap and temporary affair built to comply
with the law under compulsion, and has erected in its place a substantial ladder
that will last for years. A fish ladder is but an artificial imitation of the means by
which river fish in their annual migration pass up rapids. After reaching the foot
of a rapid the fish rest ; they will then suddenly dart up the stream and seek shelter
in the slack water behind some rocks ; here, after more rest, as if to recover strength
for the next great exertion, they will dart again and get behind another rock ; and

•>n, until the rapid is passed. From the description given of an ordinary fish
ladder, it will be seen that they are easily built and that the cost is but a trifle.
The average cost of all fish ladders in Maine, including permanent stone structures
over manufacturing darns, does not reach two hundred dollars. Many statistics have
been kept showing the increase of fish as a result from the construction of fish ladders,
especially in Great Britain. As an illustration, I quote from the report of Charles
G. Atkins, Esq., Fish Commissioner of Maine. In comparing the salmon fisheries
of Europe with those of Maine, he says : ''Their fisheries were nearly exhausted
through excessive fishing and the erection of barriers, and by a careful management,
including the construction of fish ways, have been made to yield large returns. I will
instance the river Galway in Ireland. The salmon fisheries of the Galway are owned


by Thomas Ashworth, who came into possession of them in eighteen hundred and
fifty-two. They were in an exhausted condition. Mr. Ashworth had good* fish ways
built over the dams, of which there was one at the head of the tide; had fishing
restricted and protection given to the fish on their breeding grounds. What success
attended his efforts is shown by the annual catch as exhibited in the following table :

fear Salmon

Eighteen hundred and fifty-three 1,603

Eighteen hundred and fifty-four 3.15S

Eighteen hundred and fifty-five 5,540

Eighteen hundred and fifty-six 5,371

Eighteen, hundred and fifty-seven 4,857

Eighteen 'hundred and fifty-eight 9.03!)

Eighteen hundred and fifty-nine 9.240

Eighteen hundred and sixty 3.177

Eighteen hundred and sixty-one 11,051

Eighteen hundred and sixty-two 15,43]

Eighteen hundred and sixty-three 17. 995

, Eighteen hundred and sixty-four 20.-112

"Thus the produce of this fishery rose in twelve years from one thousand six
hundred and three to twenty thousand five hundred and twelve, and this in spite of
a dam at the head of the tide, where five-sixths of all the water is used by mills and
canals, only the one hundred and sixtieth part running through the fish way, where
all the salmon must pass; in spite of civilization, in spite of the disappearance of
forests and the cultivation of land. The fish way through which pass all the salmon
that ascend this river is supplied with water I>y a gate two feet square, and through
this aperture forty thousand salmon are estimated to have passed in one year."

The law, so far as it relates to fish ladders, appears to operate satisfactorily.
Thus far all mill owners on the Truckee and its tributaries, whose dams obstruct
the passage of fish, have, with om- exception, constructed fish ways. The Commis-
sioners have furnished many mill owners with plans for the construction of fish ways.
From our experience during the past two years, it would seem that as a rule the
mill owners, with but few exceptions, are a body of intelligent men, who only require
to have made clear to them the fact that the construction of fish ways does not
interfere with their business, while it adds to the public good, to induce them to
place fish ways over their dams.


The salmon is the most important visitor to our rivers. It has appropriately
been called the "king of fish." The richness of its flesh, its large size, the certainty
of its annual return from the ocean, the rapidity with which, under favorable condi-
tions, it is multiplied, all render it an important article of human food. It has
probably been the chief source of subsistence to more people than any other fish.
The question as to whether the number of salmon is gradually decreasing in the
Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers seems difficult to be answered. Some of the
fishermen contend that it is, and others point to the catch of eighteen hundred and
seventy in proof that it is not. There are no fish weirs to trap them, and but few
dams on the tributaries of these streams to prevent them from reaching their spawn-
ing beds. The weight of testimony is on the side of those who believe the quantity
to be decreasing ; and the most intelligent of the fishermen are so firmly convinced
of the fact that they ask that a law be passed and enforced to prevent, for a certain
period, the catching of fish while they are filled with ripe spawn. But there is no
concurrence as to when this "close time" should be. The fishermen in one part of
the river say it should be at one time, and the fishermen in other parts say it should
be at others. When the great army is passing by Rio Vista, it would be, in the
opinion of the fishermen of Rio Vista, a proper season for a close time at Sacramento
and Tehama ; and when this army has reached Sacramento, it would, in the opinion
of the Sacramento fishermen, be a proper season for a close time at Rio Vista and
Tehama. What would be just to all the fishermen, and give the next generation a
chance to eat this delicious food, would be to prohibit, by strict law, rigidly enforced,


Mm of salmon .rim; twenty-four hours each week; say,

midnight of Saturday to midnight of Banday. Probably 1 1 » « - most seriou

for ' ir rivci from mining. It li the most Berious,

qoI 1>'- i ilmon were plenty and largely canghl

by tli>" Indians ii. Feather River, in the Tuba, and in tin- American; but of bite

•. isit these rivers, it i» not because the waters of these
re muddy. All migratory fish thai seek rivers In which to deposit i h<i r
spawn, <i" so i» the season when the I the water to !»• muddy. They

will rough muddy water, if beyond they find clear water .* 1 1 n 1 clean gravelly

t>. .r t <■!:;- . The gravel beds thai formerly existed In these streams arc now covered
with :i deposit of mud, washed down from the mines; and on 1 1 * i ^ the eggs of ill"
s;ilni"ii will not batch. Neither will t! of the salmon or trout hatch in water

taining any considerable quantity of Bediment. A small quantity of the dj
sedimenl deposited on the <-^^^ prevents it from hatching.

Salmon, after tin- Becond year from being hatched, pa^s the greater pari of
t li« • time in the ocean; they there find their principal food. While in fresh water
their growth is slow, in snl t water they increase in size mid weight with great
rapidity. Tiny can only breed in shallow streams of cool, fresh water, such as they
find in the tributaries of our river- ding from die mountains. To roch pit

they annually resort; and to reach them, they will make the most extraordinary
■dons. Salmon are caught hy the Indians in the small streams that empty into
the Sacramento from the sides of Mount Shasta, at an elevation of more than four
thousand feet above the level of the sea: to reach which they must have passed
through at least fifty miles of almost continuous rapids. Bishop Farr states that
salmon are also caught in the headwaters of Snake River, east of Salt Lake. As
Snake River is a tributary of the Columbia, these fish must annually make a journey
into the interior of more than c thousand miles from the ocean.

Some breeding fish enter our rivers (luring the summer, but they do not deposil
their eggs until late in the autumn. During the time they remain in fresh water
they lose in weight, and the quality of their flesh deteriorates ; its color becomes
nearly white, and it ceases to he firm. The great army arrives in our rivers after
the first heavy rains. Upon arriving they seek the brackish water in the vicinity of
where the salt and fresh waters meet. Here they remain for several days, or
perhaps weeks. It is supposed that the brackish water kills the small parasites which
attach to them in the ocean. It is this instinct that retains them in brackish water
that gives to Rio Yista its prominence as a fishing point.

The salmon, like most other fish, reproduces its kind from eggs which are
extruded from the female fish in an undeveloped and infeeund state. The male fish
performs his office of fecundation after the eggs are in the water. It is a remark-
able fact, that the salmon will return, year after year, to deposit its spawn in the
particular stream in which it was hatched. Salmon hatched artificially in Scotland
and kept in breeding ponds, were, for several years, marked before being dismissed
to the ocean ; the salmon, thus marked, invariably returned to the stream in which
they passed their infancy, and, so far as is- known, these marked salmon have never
been taken in any other river. The pair having arrived in their parent stream,
find a gravel bed, where the water is clear and cold. The female burrows a hole
in the gravel about four inches deep, and of a diameter nearly equal to her length,
then pressing her body against the upper edge of the hole, the eggs are extruded
and fall into this nest. The male, who is in close attendance, extrudes his milt into
the water which flows over these eggs, and they are thus fecundated. The female
immediately busies herself in covering the eggs with the gravel. This process is
again repeated in a few days, as more eggs become ready for extrusion, until the
season's work is over, when the fish return, poor and thin, and, after remaining for
a short time in brackish water, leave for unknown places in the ocean, to return
the following season, largely increased in weight. The only condition requisite for
the hatching of the eggs is that cool, pure water, free from dirt or sediment, shall
constantly pass over them. In from ninety to one hundred 1 and thirty days the
young fish are hatched. For the first twenty or thirty days they require no food,


other than the yolk sac which is attached to them. The young fish remain in the
river from one to two years before leaving for the ocean. It has been observed in
Scotland, where the artificial breeding of salmon was first largely practiced, that
of a given quantity of eggs hatched in one season, about one-half the young fish
would leave for the ocean the same year, while the other half would remain until
the following season. This has been found to be the unvarying rule. No reason
has been assigned why this migratory instinct should control but about half the
young fish in the year in which they were hatched, other than that Providence, while
apparently not caring for the individual, makes stringent laws for the preservation
of the species.

The preservation of our salmon fisheries is a subject of great importance.
Salmon were formerly as abundant in the rivers of New England as they are now
in California and Oregon : but traps, weirs, ponds, seines, gill nets, and the erection
of darns without fish ladders, at last nearly exterminated them. Now these sta
are making appropriations for the artificial hatching of these fish, and the rivers are
being successfully restocked.

So much more is known of the habits of the salmon than formerly, that it is
not difficult to determine what may be done to increase the number of fish, and at
the sum time increase the quantity that may be caught. The men who pursue the
business of fishing for salmon, appreciate the necessity for their preservation and
acknowledge the propriety of laws requiring a "close time," as well as laws against
pounds and weirs, and laws regulating the size of gill nets. We believe the time
has arrived when the present and future interests of California require careful and
just legislation. We would, therefore, recommend that a standing committee be
appointed in both houses of the Legislature on coast and inland fisheries. These
committees could visit the fishermen, and, after learning their views, so amend the
ent law and frame new laws as to protect legitimate fishing, and at the same
time provide for an increase of fish in the future.


This fish is found in nearly all of the streams that discharge into the Pacific
Ocean from the Coasl Range of mountains and in the greater number of the mountain

streams of the Sierra Nevada. They vary greatly in size und appearance in different
waters and at different seasons, but so far no variety is exactly similar to any of
the brook trout of the New England state-. The large brown and silver troul of
Lake Tahoe and the Truckee River are pronounced by Mr. Seth Green — who is con-
sidered to be an authority in such matters — not to be trout, but species of the sebago
or land-locked salmon. These fish make annual migrations from Lake Tahoe to the
brackish waters of Pyramid Lake. Many of the fishermen of Tahoe insist that the
so-called silver trout does not leave the lake, but as they are occasionally caught in
the river, it is probably they also migrate, but perhaps at an earlier or later season.
The habits of the trout are similar to those of the salmon. It seeks a bed of gravel
or coarse sand in clear running water, near the head of a stream, burrows a nest
and covers its eggs. In the streams of the ('oast Range of mountains the trout
spawns in November and December; in the streams of the Sierra Nevada in March
and April. Trout will also spawn and the eggs will hatch in lakes which are sup-
plied by springs that rise in the bottoms. In this case they will deposit their eggs
among the gravel where the spring rises, the motion of the water from the spring
having the same effect in bringing the eggs to maturity as the water. It has been
observed that there are no trout in our mountain streams above large falls. The
trout will migrate from one part of a stream to another. If there were ever trout
above these falls they would pass below them in their migrations, and the falls
prevent their return. In many places a very little work would create a passage for
the fish, which would have the effect of greatly increasing the numbers of this most
delicious species. The reports of our assistants, from which we have largely copied,
will show how rapid has been the destruction of the trout in this State. It is to be
hoped that the dissemination of intelligence as to the construction of fish ladders
and the enforcement of the law against trapping and illegal fishing, as well as the

i \ pish a mi:

h no trout were found, and the restocking
which they hi red, will have the effect to repair the waste

ing been noticed that on man; streams on which

mills, the tri.ii' ppeared, ii i that

nnw killed the fish, but as in other on

•ill trout to Im- found, tli"

• . (I much ii i ound

that trout ; and ue> rr seemed lit.

where the mills elow the gravel spawning I

till plenty, but where the mills were above the fish had
1 red the spawning beds, tli<'

;•. after :i I ippeared, for the trout ha

tin- Balmon it ipawn in the particular stream in which it was hatched.

1 inada, which is in advance of most of our states in her laws for the preserva-
tion of her fisl under | . - ill sawmills from running
into the str< i in a short time it will be requisil imilar laws in this
State, for, in addition to the di >n of trout, the sawdust will cover t J i « - spawn-

tually as the mud from mining 1ms their gravel beds
in the American, Yuba, and Feathers rivers. On the Truckee River, about five
miles above the town of Truckee, the Brothers Comer havi tablishment for

the artificial hatching of trout been engaged in this business for the

M,l have successfully hatched and have in their ponds more than
half a million of fish. Their business is a success in every respect except fin a nciall y.
There is not in this State, as yet, a large demand by individuals for the young trout

:ock streams, and the feeding of so large a number of fish kept in small ponds
requires a considerable outlay. The commissioners have been n pend

some portion of the appropriation at their disposal in purchasing a part of
oung fish to be placed in streams that are now without trout. It would
be an appropriation of money within the spirit of the law. but there is some
doubt as to whether the wording of the act authorizes this kind of expenditure.
Several of the states have hatching houses in which various kinds of fish
valuable for food are hatched, and distributed to all who desire to stock lakes
and streams. The destruction of our native fish has not gone so far that a similar
plan is required in California, but we believe it will be found that the drought of
the past two years will have had the effect of materially decreasing the trout in all
the streams. The sand and gravel beds at the heads of streams where they deposit
their spawn must, to a great extent, have been bared by the receding water before
the eggs came to maturity. If authorized, we will expend a portion of the appro-
priation in purchasing young fish to be distributed to restock stream dace in
streams and lakes which have no trout in them.

The Comer Brothers procure their eggs for hatching from the fish caught in
the small streams that discharge into Lake Tahoe. Their plan of operation is
similar to that of other breeders of trout. Having caught a number of trout, male
and female, at the season when they commence to go up stream, they are kept in a
small trap or pound until the females are found to be ready to deposit their eggs.
This can be readily told by an examination of the fish. The first operation is to
procure a tin pan or other shallow vessel of water, a male trout is then taken from
the pound and his belly placed in the pan, a gentle pressure of the hand will express
a few drops of the milt ; he is then returned to the pound ; a female trout is then
taken, and by the same process her eggs are also expressed into the same pan. The
water in the pan is then gently stirred so as to insure all the eggs coming in contact
with the milt. In a few minutes the water containing the milt is washed away and
replaced by pure water. These impregnated eggs are then placed in the hatching
boxes, which are a series of shallow wooden boxes nearly filled with fine gravel, over
which a stream of pure cool water is slowly but constantly passing. A trout yields
from five hundred to four thousand eggs, depending upon its size and age. A salmon
yields an average of a thousand eggs to each pound of its weight. The eggs are

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