G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

The fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) online

. (page 38 of 146)
Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 38 of 146)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


boats find good fishing, while others, but a few rods away, catch almost nothing; and in trawling,
some parts of the line have a fish on nearly every hook, while other parts take only a scattering
one.

"In schooling, both sexes are always found together, whether it be on the spawning or feeding
ground or on the journey ; but the relative numbers of each seem to vary greatly, and we have been
able to discover no invariable rule whereby one can predict with certainty the sex that will first
appear, or that which will be most abundant at any given time during the season. The fishermen
have a commonly accepted tradition that in the spawning schools the females always come first and
the males later, but this theory is not supported by facts. Observations were frequently made on
the relative numbers of the two sexes landed by the shore-fishermen between September, 1878, and
July, 1879. The results showed that during the early fall, or before the school fish had made their
appearance, the fish were nearly equally divided between males and females first the one and then
the other being more abundant. When the school fish first reached the shore early in November
the males were a trifle more plenty than the females for about a week, but from that date until they
left the grounds the females were taken in greater numbers, sometimes in the proportion of two to
one, and at others in nearly equal quantities. In the Ipswich Bay school during the first two or
three days in February there were ten males to one female; by the middle of the month the females
composed about forty per cent, of the catch, and from this date until the 1st of June the males
numbered two to one. From reliable fishermen we learned that the same was true of the fish on
the off-shore banks, and that, though varying greatly iu their relative numbers, both males and
females were always present.

"There is usually a great difference in the size of the individuals taken by the fishermen on
the shore feeding grounds in a single day, for the young and 'ground-tenders' remain on these
rocky ledges during the entire year, and late in the season the school fish come in upon the same
grounds and are naturally taken with them.

"But when the school fish visit a locality not frequented by the young, as they do in Ipswich
Bay, there is a noticeable absence of immature fish, and the catch is composed almost wholly of
individuals of large size. Thus, in the winter of 1878-'7'J many trips of from twenty-five to forty
thousand pounds were landed with scarcely a small fish among them, while vessels fishing only a
few miles distant found young fish plenty, and there were occasional instances where such vessels
caught only small ones. Again, though the school fish may differ considerably in size, we have
not found one, thought to belong to their number, that had not reached maturity. Indications
strongly favor the idea that the young remain separate from the school fish during the first few
years of their lives, and we are led to believe that, though they are often taken together, the



TIIK SCHOOLING or TIH; CODFISH. 207

occurrence is accidental and the young will not follow the old in their migrations until they reach
maim-in . though alter this point is reached they seem to mingle freely without regard to age.

"Codfish are probably governed in their movements by the abundance and migrations of
loot I, i h<- spawning instinct, and the temperature of the water, though the last named seems to
r\ert but little intiueiice. It is generally acknowledged by the fishermen that during the feeding
season lish are plenty only where food exists in considerable quantity, and that aft-r 'cleaning up"
one part of the bank they go to another. They also follow schools of bait for long distances, living
upon them until they are broken up or entirely destroyed. Thus they often follow the capelin
( MtiUntnx rilloxu*) into the shoal water, and even drive immense numbers of them upon the shore.

"The spawning instinct seems to exert a decided influence upon the movements of the fish,
for we find them visiting the same locality year after year during the spawning season, often
remaining for several months at a time. The fish that visit the waters of Cape Ann during the
winter, doubtless come in for the purpose of spawning rather than for food. This seems clear from
the fact that they do not arrive when bait is most plenty, nor do they follow any species to the
shore. On the contrary, the pasture-school usually arrives about three weeks after the large
herring have left the coast, and remains on the south side of Cape Ann, while sperling are abundant
in Ipswich Bay. The Ipswich school is also the largest after the sperliug have been driven away
by the cold weather, and remains on the sand flats, which supply almost no food. From these
facts we are led to believe that food has little influence upon the movements of the fish during the
spawning season.

The instinct that leads the spawning fish to seek the shoal water in such great numbers is
certainly a wise one, for they generally select spawuiiig-grounds where the tide runs strong and
the water is rough, and the large number of individuals is absolutely necessary, that the water
may be tilled with germs for their successful impregnation. If, instead of schooling in such
numbers during this period, they remained scattered over a large area, almost no eggs would be
fertilized.

"Again, while food is not essential to the spawning fish, it is of vital importance to the young,
and it seems a wise provision that these should be brought into being where food is abundant,
rather than that they should be hatched in mid-ocean, where almost no suitable fowl exists."

MIGRATIONS AND MOVEMENTS OF THE SCHOOLS. The causes which influence Codfish to
assemble together in schools also influence their movements from place to place. It seems most
probable that while great numbers of these fish may remain together in the same locality, feeding
upon the same kind of food without it being said that they are schooling, a movement from place
to place is, however, usual, in obedience to some tangible law, and is made simultaneously by
numerous individuals.

The migrations of the Codfish are usually of the class which I have described under the name
"bathic." 1

The Cod, like most of the other species which migrate to and from the shore instead of
northward and southward, is, doubtless, more or less dependent upon temperature conditions than
fishes like the menhaden and the blue-fish, and, as Mr. Earll has suggested,' the abundance of food
doubtless has much more influence upon its movement*. We cannot doubt, however, that the Cod
moves periodically to and from the shore as a direct result of the seasonal changes of temperature.
The Cod prefers a temperature of from 35 to 42 F., approximately, and this it secures in a
temperate climate, such as that of Southern New England, by remaining on the off-shore banks in

1 Report of United States Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries, pt. v, 187'.'. ].. .M.
Op, ait., p. 707.



208



NATURAL HISTOKY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.



fifteen to thirty fathoms of water, coming into the shallows in winter. On the coasts of Labrador,
Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Eastern Maine, moving to and from the shore from deeper to
shallower water and vice versa to secure at different seasons of the year a temperature environment
best suited to their needs, they are near the shore in summer and in deep water in winter.

In Norway they are caught, to some extent, in the fiords in the summer season, though more
are caught in winter, while in summer great numbers of them still remain on the off-shore banks.
Professor Hind gives this exposition of the movements of the Cod on the Labrador coast. 1
"The following tables show the periods of the first arrival and last catch of Cod on the
Newfoundland and Labrador coasts. In framing these tables I have been careful to eliminate
extreme seasons, for the Cod have been known to approach the shore during an exceptionally
early season, a fortnight or three weeks sooner than during the average of years. Early and late
springs occur in the movements offish just as irregularly as in the movements of migratory birds
or in the leafing and flowering of plants. The salmon and the Cod generally come within a week
of one another, and the Eskimo of Ukkasiksalik have a tradition that the salmon may always be
looked for on the day of the first spring tide after the 16th July. In 1875, a very late season,
Codfish were not taken before the 7th August; this year they came in on the 20th July, and this
accords with the experience on other parts of the coast.

" Table showing the approximate mean date of arrival of Cod, mean date of departure, and mean length
of the fishing season for Cod, in Northeastern Newfoundland, Southern and Northern Labrador.



Lat.


Locality.


Mean
date of
arrival.


Mean
date of
oloso of
fisheries.


Mean
length of
flahing
season.


o //
47 30


NEWFOUNDLAND.




Nov. 20




48 20






Nov 10




48 30






Nov. 10




60 00


Cape Saint John to Par. Point


June 20


NOT. 1


143 days.


49 30






Nov. 1




51 00




June 10


Nov. 1




61 30






Oet 20




62 00


(Over four degrees of latitude.)

SOUTHERN I.AIIKAPOK.

Chateau Bay


June 20


Oct. 1




53 24


Batteaux


July 12


Oet. 10








July 15


Oct 1


87 days.


54 56




July 18


Oct. 1




55 14


(Over three degrees of latitude.)

NORTHERN LABRADOR.

Aillik


July 20


Oct. 1




54 67




July 20


Oct. 1




55 27


Hopedale


July 20


Oct.




53 3Q




July 22


Oct.




55 62


Ukkagiksalik


July 28


Oct.


61 days.


56 33


Nain ..


July 28


Oct.




57 30


Okak


July 28


Oct.




58 30




Aug. 15


Sept. 25




58 46




Aug. 15


Sept. 15






(Over three and a half degrees of latitude.)









"From this table, imperfect as it is, we may deduce the following law: 'Over an area
extending northerly from Conception Bay for seven hundred miles, the Cod approach the shore
about one week later for every degree of latitude we advance to the north.'

'HIND, H. Y. : The Effect of the Fishery Clauses of the Treaty of Washington upon the Fishermen of British
North America. Halifax, 1877.



HIND ON MIGUATIONS OF TUE (JOD. 209

"The table shows also that for a period of about forty days the cod fishery goes on
.simultaneously during August and September, throughout the length of a coast line extending
from latitude 47 to latitude 50 SO 7 , or more than seven hundred statute miles in 0110 continuous
line. Hence it appears that the migrations of the schools of this fish are merely from deep-water
winter feeding grounds to the nearest coast spawning grounds, and from the coast to the nearest
deep-water feeding grounds again. The coast migrations during the summer mouths appear to
be of equally limited extent, and schools of Cod frequenting any particular coast may be said to
be indigenous to it.

"On the Labrador, especially in well-known deep bays, such as Hamilton Inlet, the coast
movements of the fish appear to be very regular, and determined to a large degree by the tidal
can-cuts. The caplin generally precede the Cod by a few days, and these fish are known to
approach the coast and enter sandy coves for the purpose of spawning. The same meteorological
influence which guides the movements of the Cod affects also the periods of spawning of the
capliu. I saw numerous schools of this fish spawning in Trinity Bay on the 27th June; a month
later they spawn in Kypokok Bay, and still later further to the north." 1

I have before me the statements of nearly a hundred observers which I hope to discuss more
fully at some future time. These opinions confirm, in a very striking manner, the generalization
just stated. They show that while on the coast of Maine the Cod leave the immediate shores in
the autumn, not reappearing in any considerable numbers until late in the following spring, south of
Cape Cod they approach the shore only in the winter season, while during the summer they
keep out in the cold Labrador current, which extends south to the inside of the current of the
Gulf Stream. In Vineyard Sound, Buzzard's Bay, and off the shores of Connecticut, New York,
Delaware, New Jersey, and even in Eastern Virginia, there is excellent cod fishing during the
winter season. "A wise provision of nature," remarks Professor Baird, "in the absence of so
many species that supply food during the summer."

It will probably be found that fishing in deeper water in these same regions in summer will
bring to light an abundance of Cod.

"In European seas," writes Professor Hind, "the depth at which the fishermen look for Cod
varies with the season of the year, and is a point toward which much attention is paid in Norway
and England. On the Dogger Bank, the smacks fish at the following depths during the mouths
named:

Fathom*.

December 12 to 15

January . 14 to 18

February 18 to 22

March 10 to 12"

From Professor Hind's pen the following paragraphs are also taken :

" When the coasts of Finmark are thronged with fishermen catching their fares of the 'Lodde,' or
Summer Cod, the shores of Northeast Newfoundland and the shore of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence
are alive with fishermen successfully capturing the same variety of fish in British American waters ;
and when the liussian on the Murmanian coast is laying in his winter stock of Cod, and accumu-
lating a large overplus for a foreign market, the Newfoundlander and the Labradorian are securing
their fares as far as the Moravian Missionary Stations, Okak and N a in. So, also, in the North Sea
and on the coast of the British Isles, around the Faroe Islands, all along the Icelandic shores, on the
south coast of Greenland, off Arksut Fiord, away up north to Torske Banks, and down the Atlant i-

'HiND: op. cit., pt. ii, p. 70.
14 V



210 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

coast of America to over the Grand Banks, and as far as, and even beyond, Saint George's Shoal,
the Cod is taken simultaneously and in great abundance.

" Local variations of days, and even weeks, occur in a coast line or stretch of shallow sea of
uot more than one hundred miles in length ; but these arise from the one great leading cause which
guides the Cod in its approach to known feeding grounds on the coast or known banks at sea.
This leading cause is temperature, which determines the movement toward the coast of the various
forms of marine life on which the Cod, inhabiting different waters, is accustomed to feed. . ... .

The Cod, caught on each stretch of coast line within variable but tolerably well-defined limits, are
indigenous to the sea area adjacent to the sea-coast which they frequent.

"Thus the winter haunts of the Codfish on the Northern Labrador coast are the slopes of the
great range of outside banks on that coast. The summer haunts of the 'Winter Cod' caught on
the coast of Norway during the winter season, are on the slope of the 'Storegg' and its continua-
tions which lie seawards from the Norwegian coast, following the edge of the barrier separating
the ' polar deeps' from the shallower coastal seas. The seasonal movements of the Cod are reversed
iu this case, purposely introduced, but have afforded a beautiful illustration of the principles
adopted and confirmed by Professor Baird and of the influence of marine climate on fish-life." 1

The depth at which Codfish are found varies greatly with the season and locality. It is stated
by Mr. Earll that they seem to prefer water less than seventy fathoms deep, and that by far the
greater numbers are caught in from eighteen to forty fathoms. This generalization will doubtless
hold true for the whole coast of North America. Many of our correspondents state that they are
occasionally seen in water two or three feet in depth. In the course of the recent explorations by
Professor Agassiz, Cod were found three hundred fathoms below the surface.

" In February, 1879, there was good fishing in three fathoms of water, within a few rods of
shore in Ipswich Bay, while in May of the same year large numbers were taken in one hundred
and ten fathoms from the channel near Clarke's Bank."

It would be extremely interesting to know the extent of the migrations of Codfish, from deep
to shallow water and back again, on different parts of the coast. This, however, varies with local
conditions. There have already been many observations made, the study of which will doubtless
aid in the solution of this problem, but it is exceedingly important that there should be systematic
exploration at a distance from the shore both in winter and summer. This is one of the tasks
proposed by the Commissioner of Fisheries for the new sea-going steamer now being constructed.
Mr. Marcus A. Hanna, of Bowery Beach, Maine, states that he knows certain places on the coast
of Maine where Cod are found in mid-winter not more than two miles from land, iu water from
forty to fifty fathoms deep, and upon soft bottom. A portion of the Gloucester George's Bank
fleet continues fishing through the winter mouths, though at this season the vessels do not, as in
spring and summer, fish upon the shallow parts of the bank, but rather seek the deep waters
around its edge. The fish make their appearance, however, on the bank early in February.

An experimental cruise made in winter by Captain Mar throws some light on the movements
of the Cod iu this region : " One winter I started on a cruise before the time for the Cod to come,
which was usually from February 7th to the 10th. I sounded all over the usual ground. None there.
Cruised seventy-five miles to the south'ard, sounding iu thirty to one hundred fathoms of water.
Found none only one Codfish. Got back to the banks and found the Codfish there." At another
time he was going over the shoal ground of the banks iu February, with a load of fish ; in sounding,
passing over the shoals in sixteen fathoms of water, he caught six pairs of large fish. He thinks
that they were "solid," passing over the shoal. It should be bome in mind that these fish were

'Hind, op. cit., pt. i, pp. 15, 16.



CAPTAIN MAII'S i:\rKKIMKNTAI, CIMISL. 211

caught on books fastened to the sounding-lead, which was thrown over while the vessel was in
motion.

The remarks made in the previous section regarding the times at which Cod were present and
rt l>seiit on different parts of the coast should Iw understood as expressing the facts only in n general
way. It is undoubtedly true that Cod may be found in greater or less numbers within reach of
the land from Block Island to Newfoundland, and perhaps to Labrador, at all seasons of the year.
South of Block Island, Codfish are very rarely noticed in summer, even in the deepest water
frequented by the fishermen, though a few remain on the grounds in the vicinity of the islands
during the whole summer.

In the waters from Cape Cod to Cape Ann, and perhaps a little farther to the north, we find
the district in which thebathic migrations of the Codfish are least apparent, the periodical changes
in depth being but slight from winter to summer the fish being within easy reach of the fishermen
at all seasons of the year. Even here, however, there is a great increment in their numbers in
winter.

The statements which have been made regarding the periodical movements of the Cod I do
not by any means consider satisfactory or final. These movements are the results of many
influences, and no one yet understands how much weight to attach to the relative importance
of these three influences, . e., (1) the direct effect of temperature upon the fish themselves ; (2)
the abundance of food, as affected by temperature and other causes ; and (3) the direct relations
In -i \\ een temperature and the reproductive habits of the fish. There is no more difficult problem
in ichthyological science.

"The Codfish sometimes make long journeys from one bank to another, and, indeed, from one
region to a very distant one. It is, of course, nearly impossible to trace their movements at such
times, and one can usually only guess at the place from whence they come or the distance traveled.

" During the winter of 1877-'78 an unusually large school visited the coast of the United
States. At this time Cod were more plenty along the shores of New England than for many years.
Among the fish captured at Cape Ann and other points were quite a number with peculiar hooks
in their mouths. These hooks gave a clew to the movements of the fish, for they differed from any
in use by the American fishermen, and proved identical with those used by French trawl-fishermen
on the Grand Banks, and indicated that the fish must at some time have been in that locality, as
the hooks probably came from no other place. If the above be granted as proven, the fish must
have traveled a distance of five to eight hundred miles at least, and, as a portion of the school
continued well to the southward, some individuals must have journeyed much farther. . . '

"In moving from one bank to another, where the intervening depth is much greater, it seems
probable that, instead of following the bottom, they swim in a horizontal plane, following a stratum
of nearly uniform density and temperature. The fishermen of Cape Ann have often caught them
with seventy to eighty fathoms of line, between Brown's and George's Banks, where the sounding-
line indicated a much greater depth. The finding of pebbles and small stones in their stomachs is
not an uncommon occurrence. The fishermen regard these as an unfailing sign that the fish have
either just arrived or are about to leave the bank. These stones may play no small part in adjust-
ing the specific gravity of the fish to that of the stratum of water in which they are to move.

" There seems to be a tendency for the large fish to remain in deeper water or nearer the
bottom than the small ; and usually, beyond a certain depth, the deeper one fishes the larger the fish.
Formerly, in hand-lining from deck on the banks, the vessels often anchored in eightyor even
ninety fathoms, and the catch fiveraged over two-thirds large; but in hand lining from dories
they seldom fish in over fifty and usually less than thirty-five fathoms, as they find it difficult to



212 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS

handle so much line, and the catch runs about two-thirds small. The same is true in fishing at
different depths at the same time and in the same place. Thus, of two men fishing side by side
from the deck of a vessel, the one with his hook on the bottom will catch much larger fish than
the other who lets his line but part way down. Larger fish are also taken on the trawl than on the
hand-line, for the former lies constantly on the bottom, while the latter may be raised to any
distance above it." '

FOOD. Codfish feed upon all marine animals smaller than themselves which are found in the
same waters with them and are digestible. It would seem useless to give a catalogue of the species
which have been discovered in their stomachs. For a long period of years, before our naturalists
learned to use the hand-dredge, a favorite place in which to search for the rare invertebrates of the
deep water was the fish-dealer's store, and from the stomachs of Codfish scores of shells new to
science have been taken. Since the introduction of improved methods of deep-sea research this
mode of collecting has been somewhat less prosperous, but even at the present time many impor-
tant additions to zoology are yearly made by the aid of this omnivorous animal. In the Keport of
the United States Commission, Part I, pp. 516, 517, may be found a list of the species of mollusks
obtained by Mr. J. Hammond Trumbull from Cod caught near Stonington, Connecticut, and this
includes but a very small percentage of the number that has thus been observed.

Codfish swallow bivalve shells of the largest size, like the great sea clams, which are a favorite
article of food on certain portions of the coast ; for instance, in Ipswich Bay great beds of empty
shells of the sea-clam, Maetra ovalis, may be found upon the bottom. These shells are " nested,"
the smaller inside of the larger, sometimes six or seven in a set, having been packed together in
this compact manner in the stomachs of the Codfish after the soft parts have been digested out. Some
of them had shreds of the mussels remaining in them and were quite fresh, having evidently been
but recently ejected by the fish. In Dana's "Geology" are mentioned great banks of dead shells
off the island of Grand Mauan, which doubtless originated in the same manner. Mr. W. H. Ball



Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 38 of 146)