G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

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

. (page 63 of 146)
Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 63 of 146)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


port of Hamilton, which waa pierced by one of these formidable fish off the coast of British
Guiana.

In the museum of Charleston College, Charleston, South Carolina, is preserved a fragment of
the snout of a Spear-fish, apparently Tetrapturus albidus. By the kindness of the curator, Dr.
G. E. Manigault, I was allowed to examine it and copy the label, which reads as follows: "The
brig 'Amsterdam,' bound to Charleston, owned by F. C. Bray, was struck iu the Gulf Stream by
a monster or Sword-fish, which caused the vessel to leak considerably. By great exertion she was
kept free, and gained the port in safety."

Messrs. Foster, Waterman & Co., of Boston, presented to the Boston Society of Natural
History, in 1869, a plank of Southern pine, from the side of the ship "Pocahontas," owned by
them, perforated by and containing a portion of the sword of a "Sword-fish," probably a species of
Histiophorus.*

'A bold under the cabin.
Proo. Boat. Soc. Nat. Hut, xiii, 1869,p. 64.



360 NATURAL HISTOEY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.



M. THE TILE-FISH FAMILY, AND OTHERS.

112. THE TILE-FISH FAMHY-LATILIDJE.

This family, which has some relations both with the perch-like fishes and with those of the
mackerel tribe, although until within a few years not known to occur within the territory of the
United States, is now coming into considerable prominence, and there is every reason to believe
that some of its members will yet grow into such favor and be found so abundant as to rank
among the important food-fishes of the United States. The most important is the Tile-fish,
Loplwlatilw chamceleonticeps, a form discovered on a hitherto unexplored ground, eighty miles
southeast of Neman's Land, Massachusetts, in 1879, and in 1880 demonstrated by the explorations
of the Fish Commission to be exceedingly abundant everywhere on the coast of Southern New
England, at a depth of eighty to two hundred and fifty fathoms. This fish, which is one of the most
brilliantly colored species known outside the tropics, is very remarkable by reasen of the presence
of a soft dorsal fin, resembling that of the salmon, which is placed upon the neck in advance of
the regular dorsal fin, instead of behind it, as in the salmon family. Numerous specimens have
been obtained, varying from ten to fifty pounds, and, although there has been no opportunity to
study the breeding habits, there is every reason to believe that it is resident in our waters in
precisely the same manner as the codfish. Its abundance is very great. Captain Kirby, of
Gloucester, who was the first to obtain specimens of this fish, caught in a few hours several hundred,
which he salted down like codfish. In September, 1880, a small boat, sent out from the Fish Com-
mission steamer while it was dredging upon the " Tile-fish Ground," caught twelve large individuals
on one short line, the aggregate weight of which cannot have been less than two hundred and fifty
pounds. They were tasted at the ward-room table and the flesh was found to be fine-grained and
delicate in flavor, resembling in some respects that of the cod, in others, that of the striped bass.

The habits and food of this fish are probably very similar to those of the codfish, and the
ground upon which they are taken has been ascertained to be very richly supplied with all the
forms of small marine life which occur on the best cod banks. In time these fish cannot fail to be
the object of a popular demand, and the proximity of the grounds they inhabit to several large
cities will greatly enhance the importance of the Tile-fish.

In the Gulf of Mexico there is a related species which has as yet no popular name, but which
has been described under the binomial Caulolatilus microps, and which is occasionally taken on
the snapper banks. This was first observed by Mr. Silas Stearns, who sent specimens to the
National Museum. As yet only five specimens have been brought into Pensacola, all in March
and April, 1879, these having been taken with hook and line in thirty-five fathoms of water off
Pensacola. These fish range in weight from six to ten pounds. It is not yet known whether they
are sufficiently abundant to be of commercial importance, though there can be no question
regarding their edibility.

Another species, Caulolatilits chrysops (C. & V.) Gill, occurs in the Caribbean Sea and on the
coast of Brazil, while other related forms are known in China and Japan and on the west coast of
South America.



mi; TILE-FISHES. 361

"lu California," writes Pr fessor Jordan, " there is a species, CauMatihtu anomalus (Cooper),
Gill, very similar to that of the Gulf of Mexico, ami of some prominence as a food-fish, and known
as the 'White tisli' or Illaiiquillo.' It reaches a length of about thirty inches and a weight of
ten or titteen ]ioiinds, though its average weight is four or five pounds. It ranges from Monterey
southward to Mexico, being very abundant about the Santa Barbara Islands. It lives about rocks
in water of considerable depth and takes the hook freely. Its food consists of crustaceans and
lishcs; it is considered to be a fish of fair but not excellent quality when fresh. When salted and
dried it is graded as tirst quality with tlio barracuda aiid the yellow-tail. South of Point
< 'oncepcion it is one of the most important food-tisb.es, but is rarely sent to the market of San
Francisco."

An allied iorm is Bathymastcr nlgnatus Cope, the "Honchil," found in deep water from Puget
Sound northward.

113. THE RED MULLET FAMILY MULLID-iE.

'1 his family is represented in our waters by a single species, Upeneiw flavovittatus, which
has been observed in two or three instances on the coast of Southern New England, and is doubt-
less an estruy from the West Indies. It has not yet been brought to light on the Gulf coast of
the United States. A closely related species is the Mullet or Surmullet of Europe, the Mullus of
the ancieut Itomans, highly prized by them. This fish was brought living into the banquet-hall
that the guests might admire the brilliant changes of color exhibited iu its expiring struggles.

Another species of this family is occasionally taken at Peusacola, but is not sufficiently abun-
dant to possess any considerable economic importance.

114. THE ICOSTEUS FAMILY.

This family consists of two small fishes, peculiar to our California coast, which live iu
considerable depths of water: Icichthys Lockingtoni J. & G., only one specimen of which is known;
and Icosteus ccnigmaticus Lockington, likewise rarely taken, and only iu deep water.

In the last two species the skeleton is scarcely ossified, and the body is as limp as a rag.

115. THE BERYX FAMILY BERYCID.E.

Of this family, which is widely distributed throughout the temperate and tropical seas, and
which has many representatives in the deeper parts of the ocean, only one species here appropriate
to be mentioned occurs upon our coast, viz, the Bermuda " Squirrel-fish," Holocentrum pentacan-
tltimt. This fish ranges south to Brazil, east to the Bermudas, and is very abundant in the West
Indies. Professor Gill has recorded the capture of a specimen at Newport, Rhode Island, in 1873.
It is abundant on the Florida coast south of Cedar Keys, a few being found, as stragglers, north
and west of that liuiir. It is caught with hook and line in all the channels and on the reefs.
Stearns obtained several specimens at Pensacola Bay in 187G and iu 1882. He testifies that he has
eaten them frequently and that they are as good a pan-fish as any on the coast. They attain a
length of twelve to fifteen inches. About the Bermudas they are very abundant, and are conspicuous
on account of their brilliant red hue and their habit of skulking in holes about the reefs. They
feed upon small fishes and breed abundantly, apparently spawning in the summer season. At
Cuba this fish is called the " Matajuelo."



362 NATURAL HISTORY OP AQUATIC ANIMALS.



N. THE DRUM FAMILY.

The family Scicenidm is distributed along the coasts of temperate and tropical countries the
world over, though most abundant in the Western Atlantic, the Eastern Pacific, and Indian
Oceans, and in the Mediterranean Sea. Many of the species are most abundant about the mouths
of rivers, and there are several species, such as the fresh- water Drum, Haploidonotus grunniens,
of the Mississippi Valley, which are found only in fresh water. In general form many of the
members of this family are not unlike the salmon, and are sometimes mistaken for this fish.
They are, however, true spiny-rayed fishes. The Drum and its congeners may be distinguished
from all others by the presence of the comparatively short, spiny dorsal fin, and a very long,
soft-rayed fin upon the posterior portion of the back.

Many of them are ground-loving species, and are provided with barbels by which they feel
their way over the bottom, and with strong, pavement-like teeth for crushing shell-fish and strong
shelled crustaceans. To this group belong the fresh-water Drum, the King-fish, and others.

Another group, typified by the Squeteagues, are without the barbels and possess long, sharp
teeth, being surface feeders, rapid swimmers, and voracious.

The Red Drum of our coast, Scicena ocellata, resembles in some respects both of these groups.
Nearly all the members of this family have the power of uttering loud sounds. This, as has been
demonstrated by M. Dufoss6, is accomplished through a peculiar structure of the air-bladder.

116. THE SQUETEAGUE CYNOSCION EEGALE.

NAMES. This well-known fish is one of those which bear a great variety of names. About Uape
Cod they are called "Drummers"; about Buzzard's Bay and in the vicinity the largest are known
as "Yellow- fins"; in New York and in New Jersey, "Weak-fish"; from Southern New Jersey to
Virginia, "Blnefish." The name "Squeteague" is of Indian origin, and "Squit," " Succoteague,"
"Squitee," and "Chick wit" are doubtless variations of this name in different ancient and modern
dialects. In the Southern Atlantic States it is called "Grey Trout," "Sun Trout," and "Shad
Trout," and with the other members of the genus is spoken of under the name "Sea Trout" and
" Salt-water Trout," though, of course, distinct from the "trout" of the fresh waters of the South,
the large-mouth Black Bass. The name "Squeteague," since it is the aboriginal Indian name,
seems most characteristic, and is well worthy of being permanently retained.

ABUNDANCE. The Squeteague is found on the Atlantic coast from Cape Cod to Eastern
Florida, where I observed it sparingly in 1878. Its extreme southern distribution has not yet been
indicated. Some writers have claimed that it occurs at New Orleans, but Mr. Stearns did not
succeed in finding it in the Gulf, and Professor Jordan writes that it is certainly not found in the
Gulf of Mexico, unless as a stray.

The Squeteague is abundant throughout the above range, except in the regions where its
productiveness is interfered with by the bluefish. In Massachusetts Bay, according to Dr. Storer,
it is very rare, but scattering individuals have been found as far north as the Bay of Fundy. The
early annals of New England make frequent mention of this fish and of its variations in number
with that of the bluetish. Thus, according to Dr. Storer, it was very abundant in the Vineyard
Sound in the early part of the present century, but gradually became more scarce, until about



ABUNDANCE OF THE SQUETEAGUE. 363

1870, when it was no longer to bo met with, and for several years it was entirely unknown in these
waters; so much so, indeed, that fishermen of many years' experience were totally unacquainted
with its ehanicteristies. In 1807 or 18G8, however, scattering individuals were taken on the south
coast of Massachusetts, and in 1870 they were quite a I mm lam and have since held their own.'

This variation in their numbers is ascribed by writers generally to the action of the bluetish,
wliieli, by its constant attacks, is supposed to influence their abundance. Some cause or other
produced a similar influence upon the bluefish, which became scarce in turn; thus the Squeteague
was rnabled to recover its ground, and to resume its place in the food economy of the coast. To
what extent this disappearance or reappearance of the Squeteaj;ue is actually connected with that
of the bluetish, it is impossible at present to state. It is quite likely ihat other causes, at least,
are concerned, with which we are now unacquainted.

\\ e have intimations, in the writings of the early historians of New England, of the disap-
pearances and returns of the Weak-fish, like those referred to in the present century.

The Squeteague, as well as the bluetish, varies in size with the locality. While on the coast of
New Jersey they do not average much over one pound, they are stated to occasionally attain the
weight of from six to ten pounds, and have even been known to weigh thirty.

Although essentially a coast and still-water lish. they occasionally run up tidal waters, and
are thought on the coast of New Jersey to prefer the vicinity of the mouths of fresh-water streams,
where they can find a mixture of fresh water. In the vicinity of Beasley's Point, where at times,
in consequence of drought, there is more fresh water brought down into Egg Harbor than usual,
they are known to move to a considerable distance up towards the headwaters, and to leave, to a
great measure, their ordinary grounds more seaward.

The Squeteague in the South is a resident fish, although said by Holbrook to be most abun-

'A GREAT CATCH OF FISH -WHAT THREE STEAM SMACKS CAUGHT OFF KOCKAWAY. A groat Catch of Weak-fish

was made yesterday about two miles off Rockaway Beach, by the s earn smacks " E. T. De Blois," Capt. J. A. Krone;
' Leonard Brightman," Capr. Elijah Powers, and " J. W. Hawkins," Capt. J. W. Hawkins. These smacks are engaged
iu the menlmdeu or "moss-bunker" fishery for the oil-renilerimj and fish-scrap works on Barren Island, and were
cruising off Rockaway yesterday in search of schools. About noon a vas school of what the fishermen supposed at
first to be menhaden was discovered stretching along the coast for miles. To borrow their language, "The water was
red with tin- fish, but they didu'i break the surface as menhaden always do." The boats weru lowend, the seines
spread, anil then it was discovered that the school was of Weak-fish and not n:euhadi n. " I have been in the business
for twenty years," said the n ate of the Brightman, "and I never saw anything like it before." Tin- fish varied in
length from one and a half to three feet, and in weight from three to seven pounds. The "De Blois" took over 200
barrels, th - "Hawkins" 150 barrels, and the " Brightman" SCO barrels. The rut ire catch was estimated at somcthiug
over 200,000 pounds, which, at the ordinary market price for Weak-fish a vcn cents a pound would amount to
$14,000. lint, of coarse, the market price could not be maintained in the presence of such a catch as this, and it was
said ye.turday afternoon that a strong effort was being made by the wholesale fish-dealers of Fulton Market to prevent
the greater part of tho fish from being put on sale. The captaiu of the "Hawkins," which landed nt Pier No. 22
East River, foot of Fulton street, obtained a promise from a Fulton Market dealer to take part of his catch, and then
made ..venures to Mr. Eugene G. Blackford, of E. G. Blackford & Co.. Beekman street, to sell the remainder. At
soon, however, as the Fulton Market dealer learned of the offer to Mr. Blackford, he refused to take any of the fish.
The captain of the "Brightman," however, had better luck. H. -M. Rogers &. Co., of No. 11 Fulton Market, engaged
to take his entire catch of 350 barrels, aul immediately put two men in charge of tbe boat. The "De Blois" meanwhile
had made fast against the bulkhead at the foot of Beckmau street, and i aptain Keeno failing to come to terms with
the Fulton Market dealers, engaged P. Owens, of No. 104 South street, who manages the peddling trade for the Fulton
Market dealers, to dispose of his fish. A crowd speedily gathered about the boat, and the fish sold almost as fast as
they could be handled at twenty-five cents a pair. The pressure of the crowd became so great at one time that polite
assistance was invoked, and Officer William Brown, of the steamboat squad, was detailed to stay on the boat. While
Owen was selling the fish at twenty-five cents a pair, an attempt to break the price was made by two well-known
"longshore "characters, Jack Sullivan, the shark-catcher, aud T. Long, alitu "Blindy," who bought one thousand
pounds of the fish at one cent per pound, and stood on the street retailing them at twenty cents per pair.

Fish-dealers say that there will be no difficulty in selling all the fish this morning at from one to three cents per
pound. Friday morning, they say, is tke best iu tho week for the sale of fish. Tons of ice were cracked last evening
and pnt on the fish to keep them fresh until to-day. .Vew York Time*, 1881.






364 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

daut and largest in the autumnal months, when, in his opinion, they come from the north. It is
not satisfactorily ascertained, however, whether these fishes, leaving the northern coast during
winter time, migrate southward or move towards the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. They
return to the coast of the Middle and Northern States early in the spring, the first being taken
in May, and are most abundant from June to September.

They are common in summer in Eastern markets, but do not bring high prices, the flesh bein^f
soft and flabby, and of little value except when fresh from the water.

According to the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Fishes of Narragausett Bay,
the Squeteague was ten times as abundant in 1870 as in 1809, and was first noticed there, alter a
long absence, about 1866. It is said that when they appear off the coast of New Jersey, about the
middle of June, they are found to be filled with spawn, but this statement requires confirmation.
Thousands of individuals have been examined by the Fish Commission naturalists at different
times in the summer, and it is but rare that traces of spawn have been found. The precise period
of spawning along the coast and the localities where the eggs are laid, as well as the habits of the
fish during that period, are but little known, and are well worthy of careful investigation.

At Beasley's Point, the young fish of the year have in August attained a length of about
four inches, and differ from the adults in lacking entirely the characteristic spots, these being
replaced by broad, vertical bauds, which, together with their more compressed form, render their
appearance very unlike that of the adult.

The sport of catching the Squeteague is very great, and is highly enjoyed by our coast fisher-
men on account of the great number that can be taken in a very short time. They usually move
about in schools of greater or less size, swimming near to the surface, and requiring a line but
little leaded. They take almost any kind of bait, especially clams, soft crabs, or pieces of fish.
They bite with a snap, rarely condescending to nibble, and in consequence of the extreme tender-
ness of the mouth it requires constant vigilance to fasten them, and great care to haul them
successfully out of the water.

During the flood tide they occupy the channel-ways of the bays, and during the ebb they
generally settle down in some deep hole, where they remain until the next flood brings them out
again.

In the night the Squeteague run up the creeks in the salt meadows, where they are sometimes
taken in great numbers by interposing between them and the sea, just before the period of high
water. This experiment is not a very satisfactory one, however, on the New Jersey coast, in
consequence of the great abundance of crabs that accompany the fish : the smalli r fish become
entangled in the meshes of the nets, thus inviting the attack of the crabs, which cut the nets to
pieces, sometimes ruining them altogether in the course of a single night. When taken, the
Squeteague makes a peculiar croaking, audible at a considerable distance; and it is said that this
is not uufrequeutly heard from a boat when passing over a school of them in the water beneath.

In the North, as has been .already stated, this species is but little esteemed, but in the South
it ranks very high. In the Chesapeake they usually average from one to one and a half pounds
in weight, though they sometimes attain the weight of twelve pounds. They make their appear-
ance about the 1st of May and remain until cold weather. They are very abundant, and immense
quantities of them are salted for winter use.

The Sea Trout, or Deep water Trout, of Charleston, described by Holbrook under the name
Otolitlius thalasainug, is without much question identical with the Northern Squeteague, although
that author states that it differs from this fish entirely in its habits, since it is only found in the



THE CHAKLKSTON SQUETEAGUE. 365

ocean and deep water, and never approach."* the bays and inlets along the coast, while it is a
larger animal.

The lew specimens which he had seen were taken off Charleston Bar, at about twenty miles
from land and in about fifteen or twenty fathoms of water. The very peculiarities which he men-
tioned are characteristic of the adult Squeteague.

117. THE SPOTTED SQUETEAGUE CYNOSCION MACULATUM.

Associated with the Squeteague in the waters off the coast of New Jersey and on the eastern
shore of Virginia is a species belonging to the same genus, but somewhat different, being char-
acterized by the presence of well-defined dark sj>ot. It becomes more abundant as we proceed
southward, until off the coast of North Carolina and Georgia, where it is one of the most abundant
food-fishes. Owing to its shape and the presence of well-marked spots on the sides it is usually
known on the Southern coast as the "Salmon" or "Spotted Trout," and there are not wanting
sportsmen in the Southern States who maintain with dogmatic earnestness the existence of the
true Salmon Trout in the waters of their coast. This fish is of course in every respect very unlike
a trout, and the name "Spotted Squeteague" has been proposed for it. It is difficult, however,
to bring about a change in a name which has been in use for several generations, and it is
probable that the name "Sea Trout" will always be used. Genio Scott proposed the name
" Spotted Silver-sides," which is not particularly appropriate, and which no one but himself has
ever used.

The history of American fishes contains very little respecting the habits of this species,
although it is so important an element of food to the. inhabitants of the Southern coast. We have,
however, been favored by Dr. H. C. Yarrow with notes made at Fort Macon, North Carolina, in
which many of the deficiencies in our information are supplied. According to his account, the
Spotted Trout is not found in that locality during the winter, or only in small numbers, making
its first appearance in February on its way from the south, and attaining its greatest abundance
about the middle of April.

Little is known of its rate of growth, although, according to some observers, this increase
amounts to about six inches per annum ; so that a fish of average size, or eighteen inches, may be
considered as three years old. There is no perceptible difference in the sexes as to rate of growth
or general appearance, excepting in the fuller belly of the female.

Dr. Yarrow states that they come from the south in the spring and pass through the inlets
on the flood tide, the date of their first appearance varying with that of the opening of spring.
They remain in the vicinity of the inlets and sounds on the coast of North Carolina nntil about
May, when they gradually proceed northward, extending their jpnrney as far as the shores of Long
Island, where a few only are taken, although, perhaps, their number may be considerable. They
reappear on the coast of North Carolina in September, and thence proceed south, following the
same course as that by which they came, but leaving on the ebb instead of the flood tide. They
are found in the winter as far south as Saint Augustine, and possibly below this point, although
we have no positive assurance of this fact.

At present they are thought to be more abundant than any other fish on the Carolina coast,
with the exception of the mullet, having increased in numbers very largely (at least twofold)
within the last ten years, possibly in consequence of the intermission of capture during the war.
The average length is about eighteen inches, with a weight of two pounds, although they are not



Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 63 of 146)