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The Pompanoes may, however, be truly migratory, seeking the waters near the equator in winter
and following along a coastwise migration, north and south, in summer. They are rapid, power-
ful swimmers; their food consists of mollusks, the softer kinds of crustaceans, and probably the
young of other fishes. S. C. Clarke remarks that they have been known to bite at a clam bait.
Genio Scott remarks: "It is mullet-mouthed; never takes a bait except by mistake." Their teeth
are very small and disappear with age. As seen in the New York market they rarely exceed five
or six pounds in weight. I quote in full the observations of Mr. Stearns :

"The common Pompano is abundant on the Gulf coast from the Mississippi River to Key
West, and, as far as I can learn, is rare beyond this western limit until the Yucatan coast is reached,
where it is common. It is considered the choicest fish of the Gulf of Mexico, and has great com-
mercial demand, which is fully supplied but a few weeks in the year, namely, when it arrives in
spring. The Pompauo is a migratory fish in the Pensacola region, but I think its habits on the
South Florida coast are such that it cannot properly be so classed.

"At Peusacola it comes in to the coast in spring and goes away from it in fall, while in South
Florida it is found throughout the year. In the former section it appears on the coast in March in
schools varying in numbers of individuals from fifty to three or four thousand, which continue to
'run' until the latter part of May, when it is supposed that they are all inside. Their movement
is from the eastward, and they swim as near to the shore as the state of the water will permit, very
seldom at the surface so as to ripple or break the water, although sometimes while playing in shoal
water they will jump into the air.

"Before any schools enter the bays certain ones will remain for days, or even weeks, in a
neighborhood, coming to the beach during the flood-tide to feed on the shell-fish that abound there
and returning again to deeper water on the ebb-tide. The holes or gullies in the sand along the
beach are their favorite feeding-grounds on these occasions. Sharks and porpoises pursue the
Pompano incessantly, doubtless destroying many. The largest numbers come in April, and some-
times during that month the first schools are seen entering the inlets, others following almost
every day, until about June 1, when the spring run is said to be over. Every year they appear in
this way at Pensacola and adjoining bays, although there are many more some years than others.
As the abundance is judged by the quantity caught I think that the difference may lie more in
the number of fishing days (pleasant ones) than in the real numbers of fish present. The sizes of
Pompano that make up these schools are large or adult fish averaging twelve or fourteen inches
in length, and small fish (probably one year old) averaging eight inches in length. The largest
Pompano that I have seen measured nineteen and a half inches in length, and weighed six and a
quarter pounds, the extremely large fish called Pompano of two or three times that size probably
being another species. After entering the bays the schools of Pompano break up and the fish
scatter to all parts where the water is salt and there are good feeding grounds. Except single
individuals that are taken now and then, nothing is seen of Pompano until late in the fall, when
they are bound seaward. In regard to its spawning habits nothing very definite has been learned.
It has spawn half developed when it arrives and has none when it leaves the bays. Large quan-
tities of the fry are seen in the bays all summer, which is some proof of its spawning inside. In
June, 1878, I caught specimens of the fry varying in size from three-quarters of an inch to three
inches in length. Very many schools of these sizes were also observed in July and August of the
same and following years of 1879-'80.


Schools of fry go to sea in August anil September. The older or adult lisli leave the
coast in September and October in small schools, that are only seen and caught at the inlets where
they happen to cross shoals or follow the beach. These Pompauo of the fall are very fat and in
every way superior to those caught in the spring. As before mentioned, the Pompano is found on
the South Florida coast all the year. The sea-beach from Tauipa Bay to Charlotte's Harbor seems
tu lie its favorite feeding-ground owing to the quantity of shell-fish that occur there. It does not
form in large schools as in the Pensacola region, and therefore is not taken in such large quantities
by seine fishermen.

"Smacks from Mobile and Peusacola sometimes go to Tampa Bay for them. I have been told
that Poinpano are caught at Key West in considerable quantities by hook and line, and I have
known of a few being taken in that manner at Pensacola. It feeds entirely upon small shell-fish,
which are crushed between the bones of its pharyngeal arch."


The Round Pompano, in the South sometimes called the "Shore Pompano," is known in the
Bermudas by the name "Alewite." This fish is very often confused by market-men with the Caro-
lina Pompano, and I have seen them sold together in the Charleston market under the same name,
just as I have seen the young of four species of the herring family sold indiscriminately in New

The Bound Pompano is cosmopolitan in its distribution, occurring in the North and South
Atlantic, and in various parts of the Indian Ocean. The young have been obtained in the harbor
of Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, and at Beaufort, South Carolina. It is probable that the
species is far more abundant in our waters than we now suppose it to be. About the Bermudas
they are sometimes very abundant, and in 1875 a school of them, numbering six or seven hundred,
was seined on the south shore of the islands. They are there highly esteemed for table use.


This species, originally described Irom the Island of Goiea, on the west coast of Africa,
was observed by the writer at the Bermudas in 187G, and in 1877 was discovered in Florida. It
is the largest of the Pompanos. Two or three specimens, weighing from fifteen to twenty pounds
each, have been sent from Florida to the New York market. One of these, taken at Jupiter Inlet,
was sent by Mr. Blackford to the National Museum. In the Gulf of Mexico it is not unusual,
being known at Key West as the " Permit."

Stearns remarks: "This fish is rather common along the lower end of the Florida Peninsula,
specimens being caught quite often in seines at Cedar Keys, and at the mullet fisheries of Sarasota
and Charlotte's Harbor, and also Key West. It is said to attain a considerable size fifteen or
twenty pound specimens being common. It is not a choice food-fish when so large, and even
smaller ones are comparatively dry and tasteless. I have not found it north or west of Cedar Keys."


This species is a member of the West Indian fauna, and occasionally occurs at the Bermuda*.
Stearns remarks that it is obtained frequently at Pensacola with the other .species, but is never
very common, is seen only in the spring, and is not valued as a food-fish. Professor Jordan
writes: "Along the Carolina and Gulf coasts it is not rare. At Pensacola it is known as the
'Gall-topsail Pompauo,' and is held in low esteem." An allied species, Trachynotus faxciatitx, has
lately been noticed by Jordan and Gilbert on the Pacific side of the Isthmus of Panama.



The Pilot-fish, though of little or no economic importance, deserves passing mention, since it is
so frequently referred to in literature. It is occasionally taken on our coast. Captain Atwood
mentions a specimen which was taken in a mackerel net in Proviucetown Harbor, in October,
1858. A whale-ship had come in a few days before, and he supposes that the Pilot-fish had fol-
lowed it into the harbor.

"The Pilot-fish (N. ductor) is a truly pelagic fish, known in all tropical and temperate seas.
Its name is derived from its habit of keeping company with ships and large fish, especially sharks.
It is the Poinpilus of the ancients, who describe it as pointing out the way to dubious or embar-
rassed sailors, and as announcing the vicinity of land by its sudden disappearance. It was there-
fore regarded as a sacred fish. The connection between the shark and the Pilot-fish has received
various interpretations, some observers having, perhaps, added more sentiment than is warranted
by the actual facts. It was stated that the shark never seized the Pilot-fish; that the latter was
of great use to its big companion in conducting it and showing it the way to its food. Dr. Meyer,
in his 'Reise um die Erde,' states: 'The Pilot swims constantly in front of the shark; we ourselves
have seen three instances in which the shark was led by the Pilot. When the shark neared the
ship the Pilot swam close to the snout, or near one of the pectoral fins of the animal. Sometimes
he darted rapidly forwards or sidewards, as if looking for something, and constantly went back
again to the shark. When we threw overboard a piece of bacon fastened on a great hook, the
shark was about twenty paces from the ship. With the quickness of lightning the Pilot came up,
smelt at the dainty, and instantly swam back again to the shark, swimming many times round his
snout and spl.ishing as if to give him exact information as to the bacon. The shark now began to
put himself in motion, the Pilot showing him the way, and in a moment he was fast upon the
hook. 1 Upon a later occasion we observed two Pilots in sedulous attendance on a blue shark
which we caught in the Chinese Sea. It seems probable that the Pilot feeds on the shark's excre-
ments, keeps his company for that purpose, and directs his operations solely from this selfish
view.' We believe that Dr. Meyer's opinion, as expressed in his last words, is perfectly correct.
The Pilot obtains a great part of his food directly from the shark, in feeding on the parasitic crus-
taceans with which sharks and other large fish are infested, and on the smaller pieces of flesh
which are left unnoticed by the shark when it tears its prey. The Pilot, also, being a small fish,
obtains greater security when in company of a shark, which would keep at a distance all other
fishes of prey that would be likely to prove dangerous to the Pilot. Therefore, in accompanying
the shark, the Pilot is led by the same instinct which makes it follow a ship.

" With regard to the statement that the Pilot itself is never attacked by the shark, all observ-
ers agree as to its truth ; but this may be accounted for in the same way as the impunity of the
swallow from the hawk, the Pilot-fish being too nimble for the unwieldy shark.

"The Pilot-fish does not always leave the vessels on their approach to land. In summer,
when the temperature of the sea-water is several degrees above the average, Pilots will follow
ships to the south coast of England into the harbor, where they are generally speedily caught.
Pilot-fish attain a length of twelve inches only. When very young their appearance differs so
nmch from the mature fish that they have been described as a distinct genus, Naitclerus. This fry
is exceedingly common in the open ocean, and constantly obtained in the tow-net; therefore the
Pilot-fish retains its pelagic habits also during the spawning season, and some of the spawn found
by voyagers floating on the surface is, without doubt, derived from this species." 2

'In this instance one may entertain reasonable doubts as to the usefulness of the Pilot to the shark.
'GOUTHER: Study of Fishes, p. 414.


Tlu> Pilot-fish lias been observed in one or two instances about New York, end Las also been
recorded from South Carolina, It is, however, rare in the Western Atlantic, and our museums have
vi-ry l'c\v specimens.


Mr. Silas Steams writes concerning the habits of this fish in the Gulf of Mexico:
"The Ainber-flsh is quite common off the West Florida coast, occurring in from ton to thirty
tai horns of water on or near the 'snapper banks' throughout the year. It is a very active fish,
s\\ imining just below the water's surface, preying upon schools of small fish. It is rather shy of
ii baited hook, and but few are caught It is a good food fish. It attains a size of forty inches
length and fifteen pounds weight. Its average size but little more than half that." It is also,
according to Jordan, rather common on the Carolina coast, where it is known as the "Jack-fish."


The "Rock Salmon" of Pensacola, Seriola, falcata, is recorded by Stearns as occasionally
occurring near Pensacola in company with the preceding species, which it resembles in habits. It
is caught with hook and line and is eaten; in his opinion, it attains a larger size than the Amber-
fish. There is a third species of Amber-fish of which the National Museum has received a single
specimen from South Florida. It is closely related to the fish described by Cuvier under the name
> finla Lalandii. The same species is sometimes sent to the New Orleans market, where an
example was seen by Professor Jordan.



Another closely allied species, Seriola dormlis, occurs on the coast of California, where, accord-
ing to Jordan, it is known under the names "Yellow-tail," "White Salmon," and "Cavasiua."

Of the " Yellow-tail," Professor Jordan says : " It reaches n length of four to five feet, and a
weight of thirty to forty pounds, and individuals of less than fifteen pounds weight are rarely seen.
It ranges from Cape San Lucas northward to the Santa Barbara and Coronados Islands, where
it is found in great abundance in the spawning season, arriving in July, and departing in early
fall. It spawns about August 18. It is caught chiefly by trolling. It feeds on squid and such
fish as the anchovy and sardine. As a fresh fish it ranks high, although large individuals are
sometimes coarse and tough. When salted and dried it is inferior to none on the coast, ranking
with the white-fish and barracuda."


This species has been observed as far north as Salein and Beverly, Massachusetts. Several
specimens have been taken north of Cape Cod during the past forty years. It is a small fish,
rarely exceeding six or eight inches in length, conspicuous by reason of its brilliant and beautiful
colors, and good to eat, though rarely saved by the fishermen who accidentally capture it. It is
culled in Southern New England the "Rudder-fish" on account of its resemblance to the Rudder-
fish of the ocean, Naucrates ductor.


This fish, called in Cuba the " Medregal" and in Bermuda the " Bonito", has been observed in
South Florida and along the coasts of the Carolines. It is apparently exceedingly rare in the


waters of the United States. In Bermuda it attains a length of two feet or more, and is highly
esteemed as a food-fish.


This fish, which is found throughout the West Indies and south as far as Bahia, and on the
Pacific coast of Mexico and Central America, has since 1875 been several times observed between
Florida and Newport, Rhode Island. It is known to fishermen as the "Skipjack," sharing: this
name with a number of other scombroid fishes which leap from the water as they pursue their
prey. It is one of the most beautiful and graceful fishes in our waters, but at present is of no
economic importance, its flesh being hard and dry.


This West Indian fish, known at Key West as " Skipjack" or "Runner," and at Peusacolii as
"Yellow-tail" or "Shoemaker," is, according to Stearns, "abundant on the western and southern
coasts of Florida. At Pensacola it spawns in spring; the young fish are seen in July and August.
It is found in the bays and along the sea-beaches, seeming to prefer clear, salt water, swift currents.
and sandy bottoms. It usually moves in small schools of a dozen or two individuals. It feeds
upon small fishes and crustaceans. When pursued by larger fish it jumps repeatedly from the
water, very much in the same manner as the flying fish, only its flights are much shorter and
oftener repeated. This habit has given it the names of 'Skipjack' and 'Runner' at Key West,
where it may be seen at almost any time. It is sometimes eaten at Key West, and at Havana is
quite an important fish in the markets, being also exposed for sale at stands on the streets, cooked
and ready for use."


The Dolphins are found usually in mid-ocean, where they feed upon other pelagic fishes, such
as the flying-fish. They are strong, rapid swimmers, and are widely distributed throughout all
temperate and tropical waters. The name Dolphin is wrongly applied to them, being the peculiar
property of a group of small cetaceans. They are often caught by sailors at sea, and are considered
most excellent food. It is an almost universal custom before eating them to test the flesh by
putting a piece of silver into the vessel in which they have been cooked, it being a common belief
that if the flesh is poisonous the silver will turn dark. Narratives of ocean voyages abound in
descriptions of the beautiful colors of the Dolphin and the brilliant changes of hue exhibited by
the dying fish. There are in the Atlantic two species of Dolphins, though the number was,
until lately, supposed to be very much greater. But one of these, Coryphcena Mppurus, is definitely
known from our shores.

The young, less than two feet in length, are beautifully marked with numerous small circular
spots, and have, until lately, been considered by many writers to belong to a distinct genus and
species. Dolphins are abundant also, it is said, in the Gulf of Mexico.


The family StromateuUs is represented on the east coast by three species, two of which are
important food-fishes, and in our Pacific waters by one species, the so-called 'California Pom-
pano." The family is a small one, and is widely distributed throughout the warm seas.

mi r.rm:i; risn OR DOLLAI: FISH.


.*<( V,

The Mutter -fish" of .Ma>vielmsetts and New York, sometimes known in New Jersey as the
Harvest tisli,'' in .Maine as the "Dollar-fish," about Cape Cod as the "Sheepshead" and "Skip-
jaek." in Connecticut as the "Pumpkin-seed," and at Norfolk as the "Star-fish," is common
between Cape <'"d and Cape Henry. It lias been observed south to South Carolina and north to
Maine. It has been found in sonic aluuidanee along the north side of Cape Cod in nets with
bass and mackerel. It is a summer visitor, appearing; in our waters in company with the mackerel
and disappearing about the same time. It appears to breed in the sounds and in the open ocean
in .June and July, and the young are found in great abundance in July, August, and September,
s\vi mining about in company with certain species of jelly-fish. During these months several large
speeies of jelly-fish, or sun-squalls, are found abundantly floating about in waters near the shore,
and each one of these is almost invariably accompanied by ten or twelve, or more, young Butter-
fishes, which seem to seek shelter under their disks, and which, perhaps, may obtaiu a supply of
food from among the numerous soft bodied invertebrates which are constantly becoming attached
to the floating streamers of their protectors. The young fish, thus protected, range from two to
two and a half inches in length. I have seen fifteen, and more, sheltered under an individual of
( 'i/nnea arcticn not more than three inches in diameter. This refuge is not always safe for the
little fishes, for they sometimes are destroyed by the tentacles of their protector, which are provided,
as every one knows, with powerful lasso cells. "The little fish seem to rise at the approach of
danger and seek refuge among the lobes of the actinostome. They are, of course, thus safe from
i he attacks of many kinds of larger fishes which prey upon them, but they themselves often fall
victims to the stinging power of the jelly-fish and are devoured. The habit of thus seeking shelter
is very much like that of the rudder-fish. The Butter-fish attains an average size of seven or eight
inches in length, and is very often taken in the pounds. The fishermen of Noauk, Connecticut, tell
me that often a barrelful of them is taken in one haul of a pound-net. They are much valued for
food at New Bedford. When sent to New York they command a good price, and the pouudmeu
at Lobsterville sometimes eat them and consider them better than scup. Their flavor is excellent,
resembling that of the mackerel, though less oily ; it is very palatable when nicely broiled. At
many places, for instance, Noank and Wood's Holl, they are thrown away. Storer stated that they
were extensively used as manure in certain parts of Massachusetts. No observations have been
made upon their food, though, since their mouths are nearly toothless, it seems probable that they
subsist, for the most part, upon minute vertebrates. These fishes are remarkable on account of
their brilliant, iridescent colors, which, in freshly caught individuals, are as beautiful as those of
a dolphin.


This species has not been observed north of New York. M it eh ill referred to it in his work on
the fishes of New York, published in 1815, saying that it derived its common name, " Harvest-fish,"
from the fact that it usually appeared during harvest time. DeKay, too, mentions having had
several specimens in his possession. It is somewhat abundant at the mouth of the Chesapeake
and along the Southern coast. In the Gulf of Mexico it is rather rare; occasionally it is taken
in seines at Pensacola. Dr. Giinther, in his "Catalogue of the Fishes of the British Museum," makes
the astounding statement that he has seen specimens from Lake Champlain. The species ranges
south to Bahia, Brazil. It is not commercially valuable except at Norfolk, Virginia, where it is
consumed for food in large quantities, its market name being " Whiting."



The California Pompano, Stromateus simillimus, is thus described by Professor Jordan :
" This species, known here as the Pompano, reaches a length of eight inches and a weight of
rather less than half a pound. It occurs along the entire coast of California and Oregon, being
most abundant about Santa Barbara and Soquel, and is not known from farther south than San
Diego. It appears in schools chiefly in the summer and faJJ; occasionally, also, during the winter,
its times of arrival and departure being quite variable. It is said that it was an extremely rare
visitant till about 1870, and that its abundance since then has steadily increased, it being now
often found in greater quantities than can be readily sold. It feeds on worms, small Crustacea, &c.
Nothing special is known of its breeding habits. As a food-fish it is held in the highest repute,
the price of individual fish ranging from two to four fora 'quarter.' Its flesh is fat, rich, and


This fish is also called by the fishermen "Log-fish" and "Barrel-fish." It has been observed
at various points along our coast from New Jersey to Nova Scotia, where schools of them were
several times observed off Halifax in 1877. It has hitherto been considered very rare north of
Cape Cod. I cannot doubt that it will be hereafter found at least as far south as Cape Hatteras
and probably along the whole length of our Atlantic coast. The habits of this fish are peculiar in
the extreme. They are almost always found in the vicinity of floating barrels and spars, some-
times inside of the barrels; hence the fishermen often call them "Barrel-fish," though the most
usual name is "Rudder-fish." They are occasionally taken in lobster-pots. When cruising in the
Fish Commission yacht "Mollie,*' off Noman's Land, July 13, 1875, we observed numerous specimens
swimming under floating spars and planks. Sometimes as many as from fifty to seventy-five were

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 58 of 146)