G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

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

. (page 54 of 146)
Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 54 of 146)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


CAM-STUINI : Fauna d' Italia. Pesci, 1872, p. 101. *



304 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

were so abundant from 1814 to 1820 that with three men and a boy and a small vessel he could
catch ten barrels of them, or about three thousand fish, in a day.

The " Fishermen's Memorial and Eecord Book," published in Gloucester, contains the follow-
ing note:

"In 1812 a large school of Spanish Mackerel visited this bay, and so plenty and numerous
were they that they would bite readily at the bare hook aud seize upon small bits of line hanging
from the vessel. Standing-room boats were then mostly in use, of from fifteen to twenty tons.
These rooms held from fifteen to twenty barrels, and the crews would catch them full in a few
hours. Mr. Timothy Rogers, at Eowe's Bank, bought most of these Mackerel, fresh, after being
dressed, at two cents per pound, salting them in his buildings, and the business, which lasted two
months, was a lively one. These Mackerel did not continue on this coast but a few years, and have
now almost entirely disappeared. There were a few caught, with the other Mackerel, as late as
1825, since which time it is very rare to see one during the entire season."

Captain Oakes states that the "Thimble-eye Mackerel," or "Mixed Mackerel," were very
plentiful from 1826 to 1830. In 1826 he went fishing in the schooner "Delegate." The season's
catch amounted to fifteen hundred barrels. Perhaps twenty-five barrels of these were "Thimble-



Capt. N. E. Atwood, of Provincetown, wrote, in 1878, that sixty years ago, when he was a
boy, and many years afterwards, they were very abundant in Massachusetts Bay, but that he has
not seen them for nearly thirty years. They went away before the bluefish returned, and before
any weir, trap, pound, or any other engine of wholesale destruction was set in the New England
waters.

Storer, writing in 1846, remarked: "This fish is of late years found more rarely along our
coast than formerly. Captain Blanchard informs me that during some seasons but two or three
individuals are taken by the fishermen. Captain Atwood has seen but a single specimen during
the last four or five years. Many years ago it was abundant at Provincetown, and would run up
the small creeks and be left by the tide."

J. V. C. Smith, in his "Natural History of the Fishes of Massachusetts," published in 1843,
remarked that " they abound at New York, but for some reason make their appearance north of
Cape Cod."

From these testimonies it would appear that between 1840 and 1850 the species, formerly so
abundant, had disappeared along the whole coast line. In an essay by the writer, written in the
spring of 1879, this sentence occurs: "For ten years past the Smithsonian Institution, with its
collectors stationed at various points from Halifax to Galveston, has tried in vain to secure one of
them, aud it is probable that no museum in the world possesses a species of this fish, once so
common."

In the summer of 1879, however, during the stay of the Fish Commission at Provincetown, a
considerable school of these fish came into the harbor and were taken in company with the Tinker
Mackerel. None were observed there in 1880, however, and it remains to be' seen whether they
have returned to be again counted among the permanent members of the fauna. This fish, during
the period of its abundance on our coast, was considered an excellent article of food, and was by
many preferred to the common Mackerel. On account of its small size, however, it was not so
much sought after by the fishermen.

Concerning the Mackerel of the Pacific coast, which Professor Jordan considers to be iden-
tical with the Scomber pneumatophorus of the Eastern Atlantic, this authority writes:

"The Tinker Mackerel, 8. pneumatophorus, is known as 'Mackerel,' 'Easter Mackerel,'



THE TINKER MACKEREL OF CALIFORNIA. 305

'Tinker Mackerel,' and 'Little Mackerel.' It reaches a length of about fourteen inches. It
ranges northward to Monterey Bay, appearing in the fall in irregular and often large schools,
usually disappearing in November. Some years few or none are seen. It is a good food-fish, but
little Munition is paid to it, on account of its small size and irregular occurrence."

The following account of the early discovery of Mackerel on the California coast appeared in
the (llmu-ester "Telegraph" of July 20, 1870:

"Mackerel are rejwrted quite abundant along the coast of California, but the people of that
State have not learned to catch them, and continue to import their Mackerel from the Eastern
States. Only one or two attempts have been made to avail themselves of a supply nearer home.
In IS')") a few San Francisco fishermen made a trip to Santa Barbara Channel, in a small schooner,
and soon filled her with Mackerel, but instead of cleaning them and soaking them out they threw
tin-in into salt without dressing, and when they arrived home their fish were, of course, in bad
order. A more experienced captain in 1858 put up properly a hundred barrels of No 2 Mackerel
at Santa Barbara, which he disposed of at $16 per barrel. The San Francisco 'Bulletin' claims that
enough can be caught there to supply the want of their market, while salt of the best quality for
mi in<: them can be got free from the neighboring salt-water lagoons. It says that the Mackerel
abound there all the year round which is probably incorrect but that the months for taking them
in the largest quantities are June, July, and August. 'If Mackerel are caught before June and
alter August,' says the 'Bulletin,' 'they are too poor to cure to advantage, and deserve the name of
leather-bellies." And if they are not cleaned and washed in salt water immediately after being
( anirlit. and before salting, they will spoil and become at least inferior food. But with necessary
exj>erience, skill, and judgment on the part of the fishermen, and the encouragement, enterprise,
and outlay on the part of all interested in trade and the development of our home industries,
there are Mackerel enough on our coast of the best quality to supply all the wants of our city and
State.'"

97. THE FRIGATE MACKEREL AUXIS THAZARD.

This species has also lately made its appearance in our waters, none having been observed
before 1880, when they came in almost countless numbers. It is yet to be determined whether this
species is to be a permanent accession to our fauna. It is the "Timberello" of the Adriatic fisher
folk.

The United States Fish Commission obtained numerous specimens, twenty-eight barrels
having been taken in a mackerel seine ten miles east of Block Island on August 3, 1880, by the
schooner "American Eagle," Capt. Joshua Chase, of Provincetown, Massachusetts.

The Frigate Mackerel resembles, in some particulars, the common Mackerel ; in others, the
bouito, the genus Auxin being intermediate in its character between the Scomber and the related
genera T'ellumjH and Orcynua. It has the two dorsal fins remote from each other as in Scomber,
and the general form of the body is slender, like that of the Mackerel. The body is, however,
somewhat stouter, and, instead of being covered with small scales of uniform size, has a corselet
of larger scales under and behind the pectoral fins. Instead of the two small keels upon each
side of the tail, which are so noticeable in the Mackerel, it has the single, more prominent keel of
the bonito and the tunny. Its color is grayish-blue, something like that of the pollock, the belly
being lighter than the back. Under the posterior part of the body, above the lateral line, are a
few cloudings or maculatious resembling those of the Mackerel. The occurrence of a large school
of this beautiful species in our waters is very noteworthy, for the fish now for the first time
observed are very possibly the precursors of numerous schools yet to follow. It is not many years



306 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

since the bonito became an inhabitant of our waters, and the distribution and habits of the Frigate
Mackerel are supposed to be very similar to those of the bonito, Sarda pelamys, and the little tunny,
Orcymis thynnus, which also first came on the coast in 1871, and have since been found in
considerable numbers.

The Frigate Mackerel has been observed in the West Indies, and other parts of the tropical
Atlantic, as well as on the coast of Europe. In Great Britain it is called the " Plain Bouito."
It is not unusual in the Bermudas, where it is called the " Frigate Mackerel," a name not inap-
propriate for adoption in this country, since its general appearance is more like that of the
Mackerel than the bonito, while in swiftness and strength it is more like the larger members of
this family.

Since the first appearance of this fish many new observations of its abundance have been
received. These fish appeared to come in immense schools into the waters between Montauk Point
and George's Bank; and from Mr. Clark's statements it appears that they have been observed
in small numbers by fishermen in previous years. Several vessels have come into Newport recently
reporting their presence in immense numbers in the vicinity of Block Island. It will interest
the " ichthyophagists " to know that several persons in Newport have tested the fish, and pro-
nounce it inferior to the bonito. Part of the flesh, that on the posterior part of the body, is
white, but behind the gills it is black and rank, while the meat near the backbone is said to be of
disagreeable, sour flavor.

It is hard to predict what its influence will be upon other fishes already occupying our waters.
Its mouth is small and its teeth feeble, so that it is hardly likely to become a ravager, like the
bonito and the bluefish. There is little probability, on the other hand, that its advent will be of
any special importance from an economical point of view, for its oil does not seem to be very abun-
dant, and it will hardly pay at present to capture it solely for the purpose of using its flesh in the
manufacture of fertilizers.

Mr. A. Howard Clark, at that time in charge of the Fish Commission station at Gloucester,
communicated to Professor Baird interesting statements regarding its abundance. From these
it would also appear that the species has been observed occasionally in past years. He wrote
under date of August 10: "I have received this morning from the schooner 'Fitz J. Babson,' just
arrived from Block Island, a fish answering to your description of the Auxis, having a corselet of
scales around the pectoral fin, as in the tunny. The captain of the vessel, Joshua Riggs, reports
that about a week ago we had a hundred barrels in the seine at one time, and saw over twenty
schools of them. He saw them as far east as Sow-and-Pig light-ship. They are very easy to
catch, flip like menhaden, do not rush, and are not frightened at the seine. They go in immense
numbers he thinks as many as one thousand barrels to a school. The day after the appearance
of these fish the Mackerel disappeared, but he does not know whether the Mackerel were driven
away by them or not. They feed on Mackerel food. Mr. Daniel Ililtz, of the same vessel, says
that he caught one of just the same kind, in February, 1879, on a haddock trawl on the eastern
part of the Middle Bank, in forty fathoms of water. He took it to Boston, where it was called a
young bonito.

"Mr. John Henderson, of the schooner 'Sarah C. Wharf,' says that two vessels caught such
fish recently eastward of here. The schooner 'American Eagle,' of Provincetown, took a number
of barrels of them into Newport, and sold them for a dollar a barrel. Another Cape Cod vessel
[he does not know her name] took about fifty barrels of them and threw them away. All the
mackerel seiners from Block Island report seeing quantities of this new fish within the past fort-
night. The captain of the schooner ' Sarah C. Wharf says he first saw them a fortnight ago, some



MOVEMENTS OF THE FRIGATE MACKEREL. 307

fifteen miles off Block Island. The captain and several of the crew of the 'Ella M. Johuson,' of
Newburyport, just arrived from Block Island, state they saw abundance of the Auxis, but did not
know what it was until the reports came from you at Newport. They opened one and found in its
stomach the ordinary red mackerel food. This crew differ with the crew of the schooner 'Fitz J.
Babson' with regard to the ease of capturing them; think them rather difficult to take; say they
flip like pogies, and do not rush like Mackerel. They saw ten large schools of them on Saturday
last, when some fifteen miles south of Block Island."

It is very important that any observations made upon this species in years to come should be
reported to the United States Fish Commission. The length of those I have seen ranges from
twelve to sixteen inches, and their weight from three-quarters of a pound to a pound and a half or
more. Those sent to New York market were part of the lot taken by the schooner " American
Eagle " and brought into Newport, whence they were shipped by Mr. Thompson, a fish-dealer of
that place. It would require from eighty to one hundred of them to fill a barrel; so the estimate
of Captain Riggs, that there are a thousand barrels in one of the schools, shows how exceedingly
abundant they must be. The name "Frigate Mackerel," used in Bermuda, would seem to be the
best name for use in this country, since the fish resemble the Mackerel more than they do the
bonito or tunny.

Capt. N. E. Atwood, of Provincetown, Massachusetts, the veteran fisherman-ichthyologist, has
examined the specimens, and is satisfied that they belong to the same species with a fish which he
found abundant in the Azores in 1840, when, led by the reports of Cape Cod whalers, he went to
these islands in search of the Mackerel, the mackerel fishing being poor at home. No Mackerel
were found except the Frigate Mackerel.

98. THE SPANISH MACKEREL AND ITS ALLIES.

The genus Scomberomorus, until recently known to naturalists under the name Cybium, is repre-
sented upon our Atlantic coast by three species, and on the coast of California by one. Of the
three eastern species the Spanish Mackerel, 8. maculatus, is the most important, although the
others grow to a larger size. The three species may be distinguished by the following characters:

The Spanish Mackerel, Scomberomorus maculatus, has the teeth somewhat conical and very
pointed. It has seventeen dorsal spines and a black spot upon the first dorsal.

The Cero, Scomberomorus caballa, has fourteen dorsal spines and the first dorsal fin immaculate.
The young fish have the sides of the body marked with roundish yellow spots, which disappear
with age, and the lateral line is very sinuous upon the posterior portion of the body.

The Spotted Cero, or King Cero, Scomberomorus regalis, has seventeen dorsal spines, and upon
the front of the first dorsal, which is white, is a spot of deep blue, which is prolonged far back upon
the upper edge of the fin. The sides are marked with broken longitudinal bands with brown spots.

THE SPANISH MACKEREL SCOMBEROMORUS MACULATUS.

The Spanish Mackerel is found along our coast from Cape Cod to the eastern part of the Gulf
of Mexico, and has also been observed about Cuba and on the coast of Brazil. A few individuals
have been seen north of Cape Cod. Storer records the capture of one at Lynn, July 24, 1841, and
states that specimens were obtained at Provincetown in August, 1847, and by Captain Atwood, at
Monhegan Island, off the coast of Maine. Although abundant in the Gulf of Mexico, the species
is rarely seen on the coast of Eastern Florida.

The history of this species, like that of several others of the Mackerel tribe, is very interest-
ing, since it shows that its abundance upon the coast has varied much during the past two cen-



308 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQATIC ANIMALS.

tnries. The early chronicles of the colonies do not refer to it under its present name, but it is
possible that this was the "Speckled Hound-fish" mentioned by Josselyn in his "New England's
Rarities Discovered," published in 1673. Josselyn wrote: "Of Blew-fish, or Hound-fish, two kinds,
Speckled Honnd-fish and Blew Hound-fish, called Horse-fish."

The "Blew Hound-fish" can have been nothing other than the common bluefish of our coast,
and it is hard to imagine what fish, except the Spanish Mackerel, can have been described under
the other name. No other allusion to the fish is found in literature before 1815, when the fish was
described by Mitchill in his work on the fishes of New York, under the name Scomber macnlahm.
The biographical portion of his notice consisted of two sentences: "A fine and beautiful fish.
Comes in July."

Even the publication of this description does not seem to have satisfied contemporary ichthy-
ologists of the existence of such a fish, for some of them did not hesitate to express the opinion
that Dr. Mitchill had been deceived by accidental differences of color at different seasons of the
year, and that there were not so many varieties of Mackerel as he imagined. 1

1 i an essay on the fishes of New York mark< t, published in 1854, Prcfi-ssor Gill referred to
Jhe Spanish Mackerel as a species of slight importance.

In 1878 the quantity sold in the New York market cannot have fallen much below 300,000
pounds, with a retail value of $225,000, while large numi ers were sent away to Baltimoie and
other cities. There is, however, need of caution in drawing inferences fiom marke reports with-
out at the same time keeping in mind the true history < f the fisheries. It is possible that Spanish
Mackerel abounded in our waters long before they began to appear in the markets. Even now the
number taken by the use of hook and line is very small. They are caught chiefly in traps and
weirs, which have come into use since 1845, and many fishermen have expressed their belief that
of late they have been rapidly increasing.

Genio C. Scott wrote, in 1875: "My experience in trolling for Spanish Mackerel off the inlets
of Fire Island has convinced me that the fish is as numerous as the bluefish, and more so than
the striped bass, at certain seasons, and is found a little farther seaward than either of those
flshes. Every year the shoals of Spanish Mackerel become more and more numerous, and more
flre taken, but never in sufficient numbers to reduce the average price below sixty cents per pound.
The shoals which I saw when last trolling for them woukl have formed an area nearly five miles
square, and still the most successful boat did not take more than a dozen in three days. They
will not bite freely at any artificial lure, and though numbers came near leaping on the deck of
our yacht, they treated our lures with an indifference which savored of perverseness."

Mr. J. M. K. Southwick states that the first Spanish Mackerel taken in the vicinity of New-
port were found in the summer of 1857. No one knew what they were.

The Gloucester "Telegraph" of August 17, 1870, contains the following item: "At Newport
the epicures are in ecstasies over the fact that Spanish Mackerel, the most delicious fish caught in
the sea, are taken there now in seines. It is only by southerly winds that they are tempted so
far north."'



1 SMITH, J. V. C. : Natural History of the Fishes of Massachusetts, 1843, p. 295.

'The Newport "Daily News," August 19, 1872, has this item:

" LARGE HAUL OF SPANISH MACKEREL. Saturday, Arnold James & Co., of this city, caught 208 Spanish Mack-
-erel, weighing 495 pounds. This is the largest haul of this kind of fish that has ever been taken at any one time by
any of our Newport fishermen. They were caught in the West Bay, and subsequently cold to Messrs. Carry Brothers,
of this city."

And two days later, August 21, the Providence " Press" chronicled a still more remarkable catch:

" Another haul of Spanish Mackerel was made yesterday. This time it was over four hundred fish, averaging
about two and a half pounds each. They were sold to a dealer at twenty-five cents a pound."



MOVEMENTS or THE SPANISH MACKEREL. 309

Mr. R. E. Earll, who lias studied the history of the species on the coast of New Jersey and the
Southern States, writes as follows:

" Prior to 1850 almost nothing was known of the fish about Sandy Hook. This is shown by
t lie fact that about this time Mr. Robert Lloyd, a fisherman of Seabright, was engaged in trolling
for bhiefish, having a contract with one of the hotels to take his entire catch. He secured quite
:i number of Spanish Mackerel (these being the first he had ever seen), which were carried with
the hluelisli to the hotel; but the proprietor knew nothing of their value, and even objected to
taking them at the nominal price of twenty-five cents each.

"From this date they were taken more frequently, and soon came to be highly prized as an
article of food. They were caught wholly by trolling, the average daily catch being from ten to
twenty fish to a boat; the fishing being best when the water was a little rough. They continued
to increase in number, or at least came to be more generally noticed by the fishermen, until 1806,
when they were quite plentiful, becoming most abuiulajit between 1870 and 1875. During that
period it is said that they were often nearly as plenty as the bluefish, though comparatively few
were taken, owing to the lack of suitable apparatus, and it was not until the introduction of
properly arranged gill-nets and pound-nets that the fishermen were successful in securing any
considerable quantities.

"Since 1875 it is claimed that their numbers have gradually decreased on the inshore grounds,
though they are said to be as numerous as formerly eight to ten miles from land, where they
i emain beyond the reach of gill-nets and pound-nets.

" Many of the fishermen of Chesapeake Bay never saw the species prior to 1875, though there
are authentic records showing that individuals were occasionally taken in the haul-seines along
the Eastern Shore as early as 18(50, and hauls of between one and two hundred are reported by
Dr. J. T. Wilkins in 1866. It is, however, very easy to explain the ignorance of the fishermen as
to the abundance of the species in that region, for, until recently, the fisheries of the Chesapeake
appear to have been of small commercial importance, having been prosecuted only during the
spring and fall by means of gill-nets and haul-seines. During the summer mouths, when the
Mackerel are most plenty, no fishing of importance was done. Pound-nets were introduced into
the Chesapeake region in 1875, and it was through their use that the fishermen came to know of
the abundance of the species in these waters.

"On the North Carolina coast most of the fishermen, and, indeed, a majority of the dealers,
are still unacquainted with either the name or the value of the Mackerel, and when, in 1879, several
thousand pounds of them were brought to Wilmington the dealers refused to buy them, supposing
them to be a species of horse-mackerel (Orcynus), which they understood had no value as a food-
nsh. As no purchasers could be found for them, they were finally thrown away. Farther south
few have been taken, owi.ig to the lack of suitable apparatus, as well as to the fact that the fisher-
men seldom fish beyond the inlets. The smack fishermen of Charleston catch a few on troll-lines
during the pleasant weather of the spring and early summer, but they fish only occasionally in
this way.

"Though the fishing is at present limited to certain localities, there is no reason to believe that
the fish are absent from other places; on the contrary, it seems probable that, should proper appa-
ratus be employed, the species could be taken at almost any jwint along the outer shore where the
menhaden are abundant.

"In the Chesapeake region there seems to be no diminution in the catch; on the contrary, it
has increased rapidly from year to year, until in 1879 it amounted to fully 1,000,000 pounds, and
in 1880 the quantity was increased to 1,GO'J,G63 pounds. The average daily catch for the pound-



310 NATURAL HISTOEY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

nets about Cherrystone, Virginia, is fully 500 fish; while as many as 4,000 have been taken at a
single 'lift,' and hauls of 2,500 are not uncommon during the height of the season. At Sandy
Hook the catch is quite large; iu 1879, 3,500 pounds were taken at one haul in a pound-net at
Seabright, and the average stock for the pound-nets in that locality often exceeds $1,000 for
Mackerel alone, while the catch of other species is proportionately large.

"We see no reason for believing that (he present enormous catch will have any serious effect
upon the future abundance of the species; for, assuming that the fish are plenty all along the



Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 54 of 146)