G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

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"The same remarks as to the agency of the Alewife in attracting the deep-sea fishes to the
shores, and especially near the mouths of rivers, apply in a proportional degree to the Shad and



The Branch Alewife, C. vernalia, Mitchill, has of late years attracted considerable attention
in Cayuga and Seneca Lakes, New York, and in Lake Ontario. The United States National
Museum has received a great many individuals from each of these lakes, and upon examination
they were all found to be the species above named. This would be expected from the well-known
habits of the Branch Alewife, which ascends far up the streams and pushes its way into the inte-
rior, while, on the other hand, its relative, the Glut Alewife, appears never to penetrate far beyond


the limits of tidal waters. The United States Commissioner has received many letters concerning
this Alt-wilt- from persons living on the shores of Lake Ontario and in the vicinity of Lakes
Cayiiga and Seneca. Some thought that these fish were Shad; others, however, recognized the
fact of their disagreement from that fish, and spoke of them as a species of Herring. It is note-
worthy that the Alewife, so far as we know, did not appear in Lake Ontario until after the intro-
duction of Shad into that lake by the Fish Commissioner of New York. We have been unable to
obtain any evidence of its occurrence in that lake before the Shad was introduced. Again, Lakes
Seneca and Cayuga are separated from Lake Ontario by obstructions which could not well be over-
come by spawning fish. The only theory on which the fact of the presence of this fish in these
\e\\ York lakes can In- explained would appear to lie either that yomifj Herring have been intro-
tlnccd by the employe's of the New York Pish Commission when instructed to place shad eggs in
the lakes, or that young Herring have been taken out of the cans in the act of changing the
water upon the shad spawn prior to their transportation to these waters. It is a significant
fact that these broods of young Herring have been found only in the lakes in which Shad have
liceii introduced.

We are in possession of information which seems to establish conclusively that the Alewife
does not occur in the lower waters of the Saint Lawrence Kiver, nor was there any evidence of ite
presence at Montreal until within the last nine years.

The name which is most universally applied to this species wherever it is known along the
Saint Lawrence Kiver is "Gaspereau." In the vicinity of Cayuga Lake it sometimes receives the
name "Cayuga Lake Shad."

"The Alewife is known to exist in Lakes Seneca and Cayuga, and in Lake Ontario, specimens
from all these waters being amongst the collections of the National Museum. It is said to occur
also in the headwaters of the river Saint Lawrence, and the probability of its presence there is
strengthened by the following extract from a communication to "Forest and Stream," August 13,
1878, by a gentleman who writes under the pseudonym "Piscator":

"... a lively little visitor which came to us in shoals a few weeks ago, and disapi>eared
again. The visitor in question was a little, silvery fish, very similar to a Herring, but having its
belly (as 1 found to my cost in taking it off my flies) serrated or edged with sharp spines. I pre-
sume it is the same fish which has appeared in such abundance in the Upper Saint Lawrence and
Lake Ontario."

Mr. Fred. Mather, in a letter dated July 22, 1878, says: "I have heard of their being taken
with a fly at Quebec (where they are called Gaspereaux), and also above there on the Saint

They appear to be little known, however, in the Province of Quebec, for Mr. J. F. Whiteaves,
of Montreal, in a letter dated July 26, 1878, writes: "So far as I know, the Gaspereau, or Alewife,
is not found at all in the waters of the Province of Quebec. I have never seen a living or recently
caught specimen."

SCARCITY OF ALEWIVES IN THE SAINT LAWRENCE. Professor J. W. Dawson, writing from
Little Metis, Province of Quebec, July 30, 1878, states as follows: "The species is quite abundant
in the Northumberland Strait and the Bay de Chaleur and rivers entering these, but so far as I can
learn rare in the river Saint Lawrence. ... At this place (Metis, which you will find on the
south side of the Saint Lawrence a little below Father Point), I am told that Gaspereaux are mere
stragglers, api>e:mng only very rarely and in small numbers; but that they are more plentiful at
Matane, thirty miles farther east. I do not know of their occurrence on the north shore opposite
this place, but have no positive information. I have never heard of the occurrence of the Gaspe-
reau at Montreal, though the Shad ascends the river to that place, and far up the Ottawa."


The above extracts concerning the appearance of the Alewife in the Saint Lawrence tend to
prove that, at least until a very recent period, it has been almost unknown in the lower waters of
that river.

Specimens of the Alewife, obtained by Prof. S. F. Baird, from Croton River, Sing Sing, New
York, are in the collections of the United States National Museum.

Prof. Hamilton L. Smith, Geneva, New York, furnishes the following information, obtained
from an old angler, concerning the appearance of Ale wives in the vicinity of Seneca Lake: "Their
first appearance in the neighborhood of Seneca Lake was in the dam below the rapids at Waterloo,
near Geneva, in June, 1868. In the spring of 1869 the surface of the water in the lake here was
covered with them." The species was known in Cayuga Lake as early as 1868.
According to Mr. E. Tyler, of Henderson, New York, it was first noticed in Lake Ontario in June,
1873, when large quantities were taken in pounds and trap-nets.

Mr. W. Ainsworth, of Cape Vincent, New York, wrote on August 13, 1878: "This fish (the
Alewife) first appeared in Lake Ontario and the river Saint Lawrence at Cape Vincent, in 1873, in
large quantities."


stated, there seems to be no reasonable doubt that the Branch Alewife was introduced into Lake
Ontario with Shad, prior to whose introduction no evidence of its occurrence in that lake appears.
It is an undecided point whether Alewives go down the Saint Lawrence to the ocean in the fall
and return in the spring, as they do upon the Atlantic slope, or whether they spend the winter in
the deeper waters of the lake. We have not the specimens at hand to enable us to establish the
facts concerning the migrations of this species through the Saint Lawrence. It is uotewonhy,
however, that when they appear in the waters which they frequent, they come in immense schools,
and at the time of, or a short time prior to, their spawning season. The first schools that appear
seem to consist of large, adult fish. It may be that the schools descend the Saint Lawrence in the
fall and ascend in spring. However this may be, we are justified in believing that Alewives were
artificially introduced into Lake Ontario; and this is a more reasonable view of the case than to
admit a total change in their habits, such as would be involved by their sudden departure from
their accustomed waters into new and untried regions.

As to their presence in Cayuga and Seneca Lakes, New York, we have grounds for believing
that they have, of their own accord, penetrated thus far into the interior of New York State. Mr.
Fred. Mather writes that he has seen Alewives go up the canal locks at West Troy, and Prof. H.
L. Smith, of Geneva, who first noticed them in the neighborhood of Seneca Lake in June, 1868,
states that the canal was opened about that time, and thinks that they might have come into the
New York lakes from the Chesapeake or Delaware Bays through Elmira and Painted Post.

We learn from Prof. Hamilton L. Smith that Alewives obtained near Geneva, New York, in
June, 1868, were eight to nine inches long. He also sent to the National Museum specimens from
Seneca Lake, four of which were, respectively, three and two-fifths, four and four-fifths, four and
nine irn! hx and six and one-fifth inches in length. One specimen, forwarded by Prof. D. S.
Jordan from Cayuga Lake, measured five and three-tenths inches. Two spent females, received
from Horton Brothers & Ainsworth, and obtained by them in Lake Ontario, ranged from eight to
nine and a half indies in length. Nearly all the specimens received from the interior lakes of New
York are small considerably smaller than those from Lake Ontario, and present a somewhat
starved appi-arancc. This characteristic was specially noticeable in the individuals which were
found dead in immense numbers. The specimens from Lake Ontario are, on an average, equal in
length to those which enter streams on the Atlantic coast. Mr. Ainsworth says that those cap-


turod at Cape Vincent vary in length from one and a quarter to eight inches. He never saw one
that would weigh over half a pound. Mr. E. Tyler writes that the largest individuals are about
nine inches long.

Reference has already been made, in another place, to the statement of Prof. H. L. Smith con-
cerning the abundance of this fish in Seneca Lake, New York, near Geneva.

Mr. A ins worth says that they wen- present at Cape Vincent in large shoals in 1873, and that
they increased in numbers until, in 1878, immense quantities were taken throughout the waters of
the lake and in the headwaters of the Saint Lawrence. He also states that he knew one fisherman
t<> lake fifteen barrels of Alewives from a small pound-net at one time. Mr. Tyler corroborates
the statement of thoir abundance in June, 1873, and in a letter dated July 27, 1878, adds: "Now
our waters are literally filled with them. In hauling seines they are often a terrible nuisance.
Surli i-oiint less millions are hauled ashore at times, that it becomes necessary to lift the seine and
let them run out; it could never be got ashore with safety."

Messrs. Clark & Robbius, in a letter dated December 19, 1879, state that "they [Alewives]
interfere with pound and trap net fishing, as they fill the nets to the exclusion of other fish."

Mr. George Burn, of the Exchange Bank of Canada, Montreal, says, in a letter dated August
20, 1878, that the Alewives come into the Saint Lawrence in great shoals at first, " the water being
fairly alive with them."

MOVEMENTS. It will be observed, from what has already been said, that the Branch Ale
wife is found in the waters under consideration, just as in the coast streams, at or near the
surface of the water in immense schools. Mr. W. Ainsworth, in a letter previously quoted from,
writes: "They swim in large schools and rise to the surface, and, when the water is still, they cause
a ripple upon it similar to that produced by a school of mackerel."

Mr. George Burn, it will be remembered, has stated that in the Saint Lawrence River they
appear in great shoals at first.

It would seem that the disappearance of the Alewife from these waters is as sudden as its
appearance. Mr. E. Tyler, under date of September 1, 1878, remarks: " If possible for you to wait
until October, I will be able to give you every grade from three inches in length to full-grown fish.
The pound-nets at that time will be hauling, and barrels of them are taken at each haul. We can
get the large ones at any time with cisco gill-nets." Mr. Tyler was, however, unable to secure
specimens for us at the time when he supposed they would be abundant, and on January 20,
1879, he wrote: "We set to work every kind of device to get the Alewives. Our cisco fishermen
could get none in their gill-nets here, and I went to Sacket's Harbor, a distance of nine miles,
and made arrangements with the fish-dealers to notify all the pound-net fishermen to save some;
but only one was caught in Chaumout Bay during the fall. I also went once, and sent twice, up
the shore towards Oswego, seven miles, where an immense seine is hauled, and where, in the
summer, these Alewives are so abundant that it is impossible to get the net ashore at times; I
certainly thought I could not fail there; but only one was taken during the fall. Our cisco nets
are often in one hundred feet of water, and no Alewives are gilled after the 1st of September.

Mr. George Burn has observed the sudden disappearance of the Alewife at Montreal, but he
believes that they sometimes reappear after their first disappearance. It would seem from the
above statements that different schools of Alewives are present at various -times during the
summer, and that all of them leave late in September or early in October. It seems also as if
they go into the deeper water of the lake, and are sometimes caught in gill-nets. Mr. E. Tyler,
writing from Henderson, New York, Octobers, 1879, makes the following statement: "The


Alewives left us, as usual, about August 10, and the Shad also ; at least none have been caught

In a letter dated June 14, 1879, he says: "Since about August 25 [1878] no Alewives were
seen in these waters until the first of May last [1879]. . . . This spring [1879] I made arrange-
ments with the owner of the seines (six miles south of Henderson) to send me the first ones taken,
and he brought me five on May 14. ... I drove over next day, but not one could be found in
the net; but in a short time there was an abundance here, but all of one size. The first that came
appeared to be large. ... In answer to your question as to the route by which they come, I
can only reply that the first seen of them was the last of April [1879] ; the trout taken at the
mouth of Saint Lawrence were filled with them. From the best information obtainable, they come
here from the ocean with the Shad, and return with them in the fall to the same place."

Mr. W. Ainsworth, whom we have frequently quoted, writes that the spawning season for the
Alewife in Lake Ontario is in June.

Mr. N. H. Lytle, of Ogdensburg, New York, wrote, September 26, 1879, concerning the Ale-
wife as follows: "In June, 1878, a fisherman came into the 'Journal' office with several of these
fish. He was not able to give them a name. I had frequently seen Shad on the butchers' stalls,
and was of the opinion that they also were Shad. ... I opened the fish and found them full
of eggs and almost ready to spawn. A few days later they came up the Oswegatchie River in
thousands as far as the dam, and many were caught by the boys. They were then from seven to
ten inches in length. . . . This year they made their appearance again in the latter part of
June, and came up the Oswegatchie River. They were noticed at many points on the Saint Law-
rence and in Lake Ontario. Steamers passing up and down the river reported seeing them in
schools of millions."

The following note was sent by a correspondent, "H. W. P.," at Waddington, May 31, 1878,
to the Ogdensburg Journal, and forwarded to us by Mr. Lytle: "A colony of ... Shad
appeared here yesterday in full spawning order. John Stark caught thirteen, measuring eight
inches and under." It is evident from the size of these fish and their spawning condition that
they must have been Alewives. Two large females, received from Horton Brothers & Ainsworth,
who collected them in Lake Ontario September 17, 1877, were spent.

ENEMIES AND FATALITIES. According to the statements of persons living on the shores of
Lake Ontario, Alewives are largely consumed by lake trout (Salvelinw namaycusti), pike (Esox
lucitu), pickerel (Esox reticulatun), muskellunge (Esox nobilior), black bass (Micropterus salmoides
and M. dohmiei). There is no doubt that other predatory fishes destroy large numbers of the
Alewives, the wall-eyed pike (Stizostedium) and burbot (Lota maculosa) doubtless proving very
destructive to this species. The yellow perch (Perca americana), species of Lepomis, Ambloplites,
and other centrarchids doubtless kill vast numbers of the young.

According to the testimony of those who are familiar with the fisheries of the lakes, incredible
numbers of Alewives are destroyed by the use of fishing implements intended for the capture of
edible fish. Vast quantities of dead Alewives have been observed upon the shores of Seneca and
other lakes of New York. Examples of such fish have been received by the United States
National Museum from Seneca Lake, whence they were forwarded by Prof. Hamilton L. Smith.
An examination of some of these specimens shows that the air-bladder is abnormally distended,
filling the major portion of the abdominal cavity. What may have been the cause of this disten-
sion is of course unknown, but it will account for the presence of the dying fish at the surface.

Appended are two extracts (the one from the " Utica Herald" and the other from the " Rochester
Union"), which may throw some light upon this subject:



"Tin- cause [of tin- sudden death of vast numbers of lish] is the explosion of dynamite. Fish-
deposii crabs and other bait to attract particular species of fish, and when they [the tishj
arc supposed to be collected, they [the fishermen] drop a cartridge, charged with dynamite, to
which is ait. idicd a fuse, and the explosion of which will kill every fish within a radius of sixty to
eighty feet, and shock those at a greater distance, which, though they do not immediately rise to
the sin-face, in their gasping, weakened condition, take into their gills the sand set free by the
explosion, which ultimately produces death. By this means thousands of tish, not large enough
for profitable sale or use, are destroyed; and, if the practice be continued, it will neutralize all
efforts of our Fish Commission to stock our lakes and rivers. The quantity of black bass and
other choice fish of Lake Erie and Niagara Hiver daily exposed for sale in the fish markets has
been and is suspicious, and led me to make diligent inquiry as to their mode of wholesale capture
and destruction."

The second extract reads thus :

"Although 'Game Constable' Swartz succeeded in cleaning all the nets out of Irondiquoit Bay
lie has continued to observe that fish were brought from that locality and sold in larger quantities
than could be taken in a legitimate manner. At an early hour this morning he set out for the Sea
Breeze, arriving there about three o'clock. Nobody was seen fishing; but all along the shore of
the sand-bar, about two hundred yards east of the Sea Breeze House, were found quantities of
dead fish of all kinds, in some places piled three or four deep, and covering a considerable space
of ground. These fish, consisting chiefly of bass, perch, bull heads, and sun-fish, were all small.
On cutting open and examining a number of them, their air-bladders were found to have burst, as is
always the case when fish are killed by means, of uitro-glycerine cartridges exploded in the water.
The conclusion is, therefore, irresistible that the fish were killed in this way. When they come
to the surface they are all scooped up and taken ashore, where the big ones are sorted out, and
the little ones left on the sand. The deadly explosive kills every living thing, old and young,
within reach of it."

CAPTURE. Specimens have been dredged, by Prof. B. G. Wilder, in Cayuga Lake. Vast
numbers, too, are taken about the foot of Lake Ontario in pounds, traps, and seines. Small
numbers are caught in gill-nets, even in the cisco nets, which are set in very deep water. Mr.
E. Tyler writes that at Henderson, New York, Alewives take a fly quite readily. Mr. Fred.
Mather writes that he has heard of their having been taken wifh a fly at and above Quebec
on the Saint Lawrence. Mr. George Burn, of Montreal, states that he has caught Alewives with
artificial flies at that place.

Inquiries have been made as to the methods of utilizing Alewives as the basis of fertilizers,
but we do not know that anything has yet been attempted in that direction. Mr. \V. Ains-
worth writes under date of August 13, 1878, as follows: "They furnish excellent food for salmon,
trout, pike, pickerel, and black bass. They have increased the quantity, as well as improved
the quality of these fish."

Mi. K. Tyler wrote on July 27, 1878: "So far I consider them a blessing. They supply
all our edible fishes with an abundance of food, so that the young fry of bass, trout, pike,
pickerel, and muskellunge are not destroyed as formerly, but are allowed to mature, and to-day
all the above fishes are more plentiful than for many years past."

There can be no doubt that the Alewife would prove useful as food and bait for other
fishes. The annoyance which it causes by filling the seines and pounds will, undoubtedly,
be offset by its usefulness in the fisheries of the future.
38 F



This fish, which is found in many parts of the Mississippi Valley, has recently been found by
Mr. Silas Stearns in the salt water off Pensacola a surprising circumstance, since the species was
thought to be an inhabitant of fresh water exclusively. "It is known to most inland fishermen as
the ' Skipjack,'" writes Professor Jordan, "in allusion to its habit of leaping from the water. It is
also sometimes called 'Shad' and 'Herring.' It is abundant throughout the Mississippi Valley in
all the larger streams. In the neighborhood of the ocean it descends to the Gulf, but in the upper
courses it is permanently resident. It has also entered Lake Michigan and Lake Erie since the
construction of the canals. It reaches a length of a little more than a foot. It feeds on small
crustaceans, worms, and the like, rarely taking the hook. As a food-fish it is regarded as wholly
worthless, its flesh being poor and dry, and full of innumerable small bones."


NAMES. The following notes on the names of the Shad are taken from an unpublished man-
uscript by Mr. Goode upon the fisheries of Florida. The Shad appears to have been considered
by early American writers on fish identical with the Shad of England, Chtpeafinta. The first to
give to it a distinctive name was Alexander Wilson in the American edition of Eees' Encyclo-
paedia. 1 I quote his description in full, since it was claimed by Eafinesque, whose remark has
been since frequently quoted, that Clupea sapidissima was "catalogued, not described," by Wilson:

*' Clupea sapidiiisima (AMERICAN SHAD). No spots on the sides; snout entire (not bifid as
in the European); from eighteen inches to two and a half feet in length; weighs from six to
ten and twelve pounds. Scales large, deciduous, and of a silver color, most delicious. They are
for six months about the capes or mouths of large rivers, then run into the sea. During March,
April, and May, they ascend these rivers to the freshes, and thence toward their sources, in
order to deposit their eggs in shallow water, where, hatching, the young fry descends in the
latter part of the summer and autumn to the tide waters, and thence down to the salts; and
the adults retarn likewise to the sea, thin, emaciated, and weak."

GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION. The Shad is found along the whole Atlantic coast of the
United States, and its capture constitutes one of the most important fisheries in all the streams
draining into the Atlantic between the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the Saint John's Eiver, Florida.
Its northern limit is thus denned by Charles Lanman in the "Eeport of the United States Fish
Commission," part ii: 2

"The Shad is but rarely seen on the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia. It is found in the Gulf of
Saint Lawrence, the various rivers of which it ascends as far north as the Miramichi, which seems
to be its limit in that direction, none having been seen in the Bay of Chaleur."

Throughout this entire range the Shad is found in sufficient quantities to give rise to fisheries
of great commercial value. There is no run of Shad into any of the rivers draining into the Gulf
of Mexico, although the capture of isolated individuals of this species has been reported from the

'Tbe Cyclopedia or Universal Dictionary of Arts, Science and Literature. By Abraham Rees . . . First
American edition in forty-one volumes. Philadelphia. [The American edition is said by Allibone to have been in
course of publication from 1809 to 1820. Dr. Gill tells me that he has evidence to show that vol. ix was pub-
lished prior to 1814. J

'Page 461.

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 100 of 146)