G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

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West of the month of the Eio Grande the species has not been recorded, chiefly, no doubt, for
the reason that no explorations have been made along the shores of Mexico. The fish fauna
of the Caribbean coast of Panama has, however, been carefully studied, and this fish has not been
found. It is, therefore, probable that its range is as abruptly limited at the south, perhaps by the
peninsula of Yucatan, as it is in its northward extension. It is a noteworthy fact that Scicena,
does not wander more; for every other species, I think without exception, which is abundant north
of Cape Hatteras, is occasionally met with in Buzzard's and Narragansett Bays, these two great
pockets in the coast-line of Southern New England in which are lodged so many of the straying
Southern marine animals.

"This fish is very much in need of a characteristic name of its own. Its local names are all
preoccupied by other more widely distributed or better-known forms which seem to have substan-
tial claims of priority. In the Chesapeake, and south to below Cape Hatteras, it is called the
'Drum'; but its kinsman, Pogonias chromis, is known by the same name throughout its whole
range from Provincetown to Texas, and is the possessor of a much larger and more resonant
musical organ. Some of the old writers coined names for it like ' Branded Drum,' referring to the
brand-like spots upon the tail, and 'Beardless Drum'; but these are valueless for common use,
like most other 'book-names.' In the Carolinas, Florida, and the Gulf, we meet with the names
'Bass,' and its variations, 'Spotted Bass,' 'Red Bass,' 'Sea Bass,' 'Reef Bass,' and 'Channel Bass.'
Many persons suppose 'Channel Bass' to be a characteristic name, but this is a mistake, for the
term is applied properly only to large individuals which are taken in the channels of streams and
sounds; wherever this name is used, the smaller fish of the species are called simply 'Bass,' or
'School Bass'; even if the word 'Bass' could be so .qualified as to be applicable to the species,
there is an insuperable objection to its use for any fish of this family. It is a modification of an
old Saxon word, Bears, or Boers; also found in German under the forms Bars and Barsch, from
which 'Perch' and 'Bass' are both evident developments. This name should evidently be retained
for the spiny-formed fishes of the perch tribe. I find in my note-book references to thirty-eight
distinct kinds of fish called by the name 'Bass,' with various prefixes, all of which are justly
entitled to bear this name.

"'Spot' is another name erroneously applied to this fish, and which is the property of a much
.smaller species of the same family, otherwise known as 'Lafayette,' or 'Cape May Goody.'

" Finally, we have the ' Red Fish' and ' Bed Horse' of Florida and the Gulf States, the ' Poisson
Ttouge' of the Louisiana Creoles, and 'Pez Colorado' of the Mexicans. Although this name is
occasionally applied to a much redder fish, the Norway haddock, or red perch of the north, and
to the big labroid Trochocopus in California, it is perhaps the most characteristic one and
that most suitable for general use, especially if modified into 'Southern Red Fish.' The chief
objection is that the fish is not always red ; in the young there is not a suggestion of this color,
while in the adult it is more a tint, an evanescent, metallic reflection of claret from the scales,
which is often absent, and at all events soon disappears after life is gone. The number of spots on
the tail is variable; sometimes there is one, sometimes eight or ten, and their arrangement is a
matter of chance; occasionally they are absent.

"The Red Fish grows to a length of four or five feet and a weight of forty pounds or more. In
April, 1877, those to be seen in the markets of Jacksonville, Florida, ranged from one to four feet.
In the markets of Washington and New York strings of small ones are often seen. The average
size is perhaps ten pounds.



FOOD OF THK RED FISH. 373

The food is .similar to that of the striped bass, which it seems to resemble in habits. It preys
upon small lish and the crustaceans with which Southern waters are filled. They swim in scattered
schools at times, probably in the spawning season, and may be heard spring above the surface
while feeding. At this time the fish are taken in large gill-nets, which are set around them by the
tishermen. This species undoubtedly gathers much food from the bottom, although it cannot be
so much of a grubber as many other members of the same family, better provided for this kind of
foraging by the tactile organs under the chin, and a set of grinding teeth with which to liberate
the shells of muscles and barnacles. An accurate observer describes them as swimming along
close to the bottom, with head down and body obliquely upward, wriggling through the water,
rooting up the weeds and grass, among which it finds quantities of shrimps and crabs. Their
enemies are sharks, porpoises, and saw-fish. The power of uttering sounds is also shared by this
fish, but probably not to any very great degree. No one has reported observations upon this
point

The movements and breeding habits of this fish have not been sufficiently studied to warrant
the framing of a generalized statement of their character. There is need of a careful investigation
of this question at different stations along the coast. 1 cannot here do better than to quote the
observations, as yet unpublished, of two excellent observers, one upon the east, the other upon the
west coast of the Florida Peninsula: "In the spring," writes Mr. Stearns, "they are seen in large
numbers in the Gulf, swimming in shoal water near the coast. This is usually in March and
April, though the weather and the temperature of the water seem to influence the time of their
arrival. Arriving at the entrance of a bay, their migratory movement ceases, and for days and
weeks they may be seen in shoal water near the inlet swimming lazily about in search of food, or
lying quite still in deep holes between shoals, where there is comparatively little current and few
enemies can reach them. Some seasons immense numbers of Bed Fish gather about the inlets before
any are noticed inside or coming in, while- in other seasons there is but slight accumulation, the
schools working in as fast as they arrive. By the 1st of June the 'run' is over, and the fish are
believed to have all come in. When once inside the schools break up into small squads, which
proceed to the weedy bottoms of the bayous and to the heads of the bays. About the river months,
where the water is brackish, and even in fresh water, they are found through the summer. While
at sea their color is light, and they are so thin in flesh that they are far from desirable as food. In
the bays they become very fat and their colors are much darker. In September spawn is found in
them in a half-developed state. In October and November they again form in schools and are
observed moving out of the inlets to the sea. They do not leave the coast immediately, but follow
the beach for some days. At this time they contain spawn which I should think to be three-
fourths developed. Many reliable fishermen here have observed that the Bed Fish go to sea with
spawn in them."

I have never found the young in the north less than ten inches long, but in Peusacola Bay
Jordan and Stearns secured numerous young in the seine in April, the smallest measuring two and
a half inches. Jordan supposes that they spawn in water of no great depth.

Mr. S. C. Clarke, however, tells the following story about Bass in the Indian Biver region :
'They enter the rivers and creeks from the sea. The young fish are here all the time. The
adults leave the shore in a body when done spawning. They are first seen off the coast in
January and February, and remain in the rivers until late in the spring. The males and females
swim together, frequenting localities on shoals and sand-banks, where the water is from one to four
feet deep and warm. After spawning they scatter. They begin to breed in August and Sep-
tember in the shallow bays and inlets, at which time both sexes are poor and unfit for food. The



374 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

spawn is small, brown, about as large as number five shot, and floats. The young are found
abundantly in the creeks and bays.'

The fishermen of the Saint John's River told me that in November, when schooling begins,
the fish are full-roed, but that in December the eggs have all been spent.

Little need be said here about their commercial value except that they are taken with gill-
nets and spears and by the use of bottom-lines, baited with pieces of fish or shrimps. They are
much esteemed for food all through the South, resembling the striped bass or rock-fish in flavor
and flesh-texture, though possibly somewhat inferior. They enter largely into local consumption,
though a few thousand pounds are sent every year to New York and other cities of the North.

In discussing the rank of this species as a game-fish, I cannot do better than quote the
words of Mr. H. 8. Williams, regarding his experiences in the Indian River region: "I have seen
them swimming in shallow water by the hundreds, sometimes ten and twenty, almost, moving
with all the regularity of solid columns of infantry; all apparently of the same size. The Red Fish
are in season at all times, but best from the 1st of April until January 1. In size they run up to
forty, and even fifty, pounds. They readily take mullet bait, and when securely hooked furnish
fine sport, for the Red Fish is emphatically a game-fish. I shall never forget my first experience in
this line, a day or two before the full of the moon in November. I concluded to try a new hook
just sent me by a distant friend. Just at dusk I went down to the river, and baiting my hook with
a half mullet, I walked out on a shelving coquina rock, and swinging the hook around my head a
few times sent it out into the river to the full length of the line; then filling and lighting my pipe I
took a seat and quietly awaited results. The moon, nearly full, was half an hour or more high,
not a cloud obscuring its brightness, and it made a highway of silver across the broad river, now
calm and smooth as glass. Scarcely a breath of air stirred the leaves of the huge live-oaks above
my head, and everything was so still that I could distinctly hear the fish in shallow water a mile
away as the small-fry dashed and jumped in their frantic endeavors to escape from the ravenous
jaws of their pursuers; in fact, everything was so still that I remember to have heard the sound
of a cow-bell, two miles away, as its low, mellow notes were borne over the broad expanse of
water. I had occasionally taken a whiff or two at my pipe and watched the fleecy clouds of smoke
float slowly upward and dissolve into space, before something sent an electric message to my finger
from the other end of the line. It was a faint message, scarcely felt, but distinct enough to tell
me what was there. A moment's pause and then it was repeated ; this time it was emphatic, for
the fish picked up the bait in its mouth as daintily as a neatly-gloved lady would pick up an
orange, and then let it fall again. Aha! my boy. You are an old hand at the business, and know
by past experience that sometimes even the most tempting morsels are dangerous. A moment
more it is picked up again, and yet again, and then it is carried a couple of yards or so before it is
dropped; and then back again; then further off. Our fish is playing with the bait as a coquette
with hearts. The very moment a novice would think that he was going to take it, 'tis dropped
and he is gone again. No, not gone, only swimming around in circles, keeping one eye on the
prize and keeping away all such intruders as sharks and cat-fish.

"Now for it. The bait is picked up, seized with a vim, as though he meant business, and
away he starts with it. Here the inexperienced would jerk the line and perhaps lose the fish, or
at least have the whole formula to go over again. But wait; the successful sportsman must
practice patience. Again the bait is dropped, but not for long. In a moment it is seized, and this
time there is no feint about it. He darts off, the lino Is drawn tight, then u sudden jerk and a
wild plunge tell that the game is safely hooked. And now commences the struggle for life.
Away he goes up the stream for fifty yards or more, straining every nerve to get free; then down,



CAi'TI i:i; OF TI1K KK1) FISH. 375

tin n l>aek a-ain. \\ In!.' the line is pulled just hard enough to <lra\v him in a little nearer tbe shore;
then up and down, each time a still shorter distance. At each effort I feel his i>owers give way,
and then as he makes a turn we pull his head toward the shore and keep it there. Now is the
eriiieal period; now, it' ar all, the line will part or the hook break. 1 haul the line in rapidly,
hand over hand, keeping it taut, for the least slack or a failure to grasp the line firmly would
perhaps lose the game. Swerving to and fro, I draw him rapidly in, and with such iorce does he
come that far up tbe shelving rocks we land our prize, a thirty-pound Bass, a magnificent fellow,
his scales glistening like burnished silver in tbe moonlight.'"

123. THE YELLOW TAIL BAIRDIELLA CHRYSURA.

The Yellow-tail, known as "Silver Perch" on the coast of New Jersey, is quite an important
food-fish in the Southern States. But little has been written regarding it, and its excellent
qualities are not yet thoroughly appreciated. In fact, it has been confused with other species by
both Uolbrook and Giinther. This fish has not been observed north of New York, where it was
recorded by Mitchill and DeKay, the latter of whom stated that it was not uncommon in the
siiminer season.

Professor Baird found the yonng very abundant about Beasley's Point in 1&14, though the
adults were unknown to the fishermen Uhler and Lugger, who, following the mistaken nomen-
clature of Holbrook, confusing this with a species of Liostomus, state that it is common in the
Chesapeake and Lower Potomac. It is also abundant about Beaufort, North Carolina, and in the
vicinity of Charleston.

According to many observers, Yellow-tails are highly esteemed for food at Saint Simon's
Island, New Brunswick, Georgia, and in the Lower Saint John's Biver. They probably never
ascend the river much above Jacksonville, though in 1877 great quantities were taken in the
month of April at the mouth of the Arlington Biver. In 1878 the water was so fresh at this point
that none could be taken there, though I saw them at Yellow Bluffs in water not perceptibly
brackish to the taste. A large majority of those observed at Mayport on April 7, 1875, were full
grown and taken at the point of spawning. Others taken by fishermen at Mayport, April 15, 1878,
hud the spawn running freely from them. The largest adult did not exceed eight inches in length.

On the Florida coast of the Gulf of Mexico, according to Mr. Stearns, they are very common.
They were found by Jordan to be very abundant along the shores of Louisiana and Texas. At
Pensacola they are known by the name " Mademoiselle." They are present throughout the year,
but most plenty from May until November, and are found in company with the Trout and the
Spot on the grassy shoals of the bays where they feed and spawn. The time for spawning is in
June and July. They feed chiefly upon small fishes and shrimps. They do not school, but swim
singly or in pairs. Their extreme length does not exceed ten or eleven inches, the average being
about eight. They are regarded as excellent pan-fish.

124. THE KINO-FISH MEFHCIRRUS HEBULOSTJS.

The King-fish, also known as the " Hake" on the coast of New Jersey and Delaware, and as
the "Tom-cod" on the coast of Connecticut, the "Black Mullet" in the Chesapeake, the "Sea
Mink " in North Carolina, and sometimes also in the South as the " Whiting," ranges from Cape
Ann south at least as far as the mouth of the Saint John's Biver, Florida, although in the southern
part of its range it is frequently confused with the Whiting. It has been obtained by Jordan
and Stearns at Pensacola ; it is, however, rare in the Gulf. It is discussed as follows by Pro-
fessor Baird in an unpublished nianuseript :

'The Semi-Tropical, iii, 1877, p. 663.



376 NATURAL HISTORY OP AQUATIC ANIMALS.

" This species, well worthy of the name which has been given it, and the estimation in which
it is held by New York epicures, as it is certainly savory when taken iresh from the water, leaves
nothing to be desired in the way of a fish diet. It is quite abundant off the Middle States, but
is rare much to the eastward. A few specimens are occasionally taken in Buzzard's Bay and
Vineyard Sound, and L)r. Storer mentions four as having been captured in Massachusetts Bay.
It is almost as capricious in its occurrence in the more northern waters as the Lafayette, Sometimes
being scarcely met with for several successive summers, and then suddenly reappearing, as if
migrating from more southern waters. At Beasley's Point, New Jersey, where I have had most
opportunity of studying its habits, it appears quite early in the spring with the Squeteague, and
is found a good deal in company with it, like that fish seeming to prefer a slight mixture of fresh
water, as shown by its keeping in the mouths of rivers and running farther up during the dry
season. It takes bait readily and affords excellent sport to the fishermen, although not caught in
anything like the same number in a given time as the Squeteague, thirty or forty at a single tide
being considered an excellent catch for one boat.

" Nothing has been recorded in regard to the precise time of their spawning or the places
where they lay their eggs. The young were met with at Beasley's Point in immense numbers on
the sandy bottom as well as in the surf. The smallest were about an inch long. I have taken
the young also in considerable number in Vineyard Sound at a time when the old fish were
scarcely known. They occasionally run to a considerable distance up the rivers, as I have caught
young fish of this species at Sing Sing, on the Hudson, where the water is scarcely brackish.
The King-fish run much in schools, and keep on or near a hard, sandy bottom, preferring the edge
of channels and the vicinity of sand bars ; and they congregate about oyster-beds, especially when
the oysters are being taken up, and may be seen under the boats, fighting for the worms and
crustaceans dislodged in the operation. They bite readily at hard or soft clams, or even pieces of
fish, and are taken most successfully on the young flood. Like the Squeteague, they will occasion-
ally run up the salt creeks at night, and may be captured in gill-nets as the water recedes. This,
however, is not so common a habit with them as it is with its associate.

" The price of this fish varies at different seasons of the year, but it is always well maintained,
and it is generally valued at nearly as high a figure as the Spanish mackerel. The European
analogue of this species ( Umbrina drrhosa) is somewhat similar in general appearance, and its
flesh is highly esteemed. This feeds on small fishes, mollusks, and, according to Yarrow, on sea-
weed, sometimes obtaining a weight of forty pounds. This magnitude I have not seen approxi-
mated by our species, although it is possible that it may occasionally reach a large size. Of its
distribution southward I can find no satisfactory account."

In 1879 numerous small individuals of this species appeared in the harbor of Provincetown,
Massachusetts; they seemed, however, to be out of their proper habitat, and many were chilled by
the coldness of the water and cast up on the beach. In 1880 and 1881, the species is said to have
been particularly abundant on the coast of New Jersey, and to have afforded much sport to anglers
of that vicinity, many of whom had not been familiar with it in previous years.

125. THE WHITINGS MENTICIRRUS ALBURNUS AND M. LITTORALIS.

The Whiting, one of the favorite food-fishes of the Southern coast, is a species very closely
allied in its general character to the King-fish of more northern waters. It is said to occur abun-
dantly from Cape Fear Kiver, North Carolina, to the Rio Grande, in Texas. Uhler and Lugger claim
that it inhabits the salt water of the Chesapeake Bay and its estuaries, but it is not probable that
it is at all abundant. On the coast of South Carolina, according to Dr. Holbrook, " the Whiting



DISTRIBUTION OF TIIK WHITINGS. 377

remains all the year round, and although few are taken in December and January, yet they
are sufficient to prove themselves constant residents. Near Charleston in the spring and summer
mouths they are very abundant; they cuter the mouths of bays and rivers, and are captured in
great numbers. They lake the hook readily ; their favorite bait is the Drum, and being a strong,
lively, and active animal, they a (lord great sport to the fishermen. They prefer deep and running
waters, and seldom approach so near the shore as to betaken in seines. Their ordinary food seems
to be various species of a small shell-fish," etc.

Speaking of the "Surf Whiting" of Charleston, Holbrook remarks: "This species makes its
appearance on the coast of Carolina in the mouth of April, and continues with ns during the
entire summer, though very few are taken in July or August. It is ouly found in shallow water
where the bottom is hard and sandy, often forming, when the tide is out, an extensive beach. Its
favorite resort is in the neighborhood of the shore where the surf can roll over it from the ocean
and bring with it doubtless the animals on which it feeds. In such localities many are captured
with the seine and are sold in the market under the name 'Surf Whiting,' in contradistinction to
the other species which is called the 'Deep- water Whiting.' Its food seems to be similar to that
of the Deep-water Whiting, judging from the contents of its stomach, and yet it is seldom taken
with the hook. Hitherto I have only seen this fish in the immediate neighborhood of Charleston.
This fish is very commonly supposed to be the adult male of the common Whiting, approaching the
shoal water to deposit its spawn. I believed it, from common report, to be such, until frequent
dissections proved to me that there are both males and females among them. The flesh of this
species is good, but by no means so finely flavored as that of the Deep-water Whiting."

At Mayport, Florida, the Whiting is abundant, and also at the mouth of the Saint John's. The
largest observed by me measured ten inches, and in the first week of April was within two or
three weeks of spawning. A few are taken in the Saint John's as high up as Arlington. They
are abundant in the Indian River. About New Smyrna, Florida, according to Mr. S. C. Clarke,
it is called "Whiting," "King-fish," "Barb," and "Bull-head Whiting." They occur in the
winter and spring, though seldom in summer. The largest reached the weight of one and a half
pounds. They average three-quarters of a pound, the female being usually the larger. They
appear about the last of November, and spend the winter in bays and still rivers. They bite in
strong currents, not in slackwater. They prefer deep channels and sandy bottoms. They are
found in the deepest water and prefer cold water. Their food consists of crabs, shrimps, and small
crustaceans, and they feed at the bottom. Half-grown to full-grown fish contain spawn. They
spawn in the sea in May. They are taken with a hook by the use of mullet or clam bait at half-
tide. They bite best in a strong current in winter and spring. In the Gulf of Mexico, according
to Stearns, they are abundant from Key West to the Rio Grande, and are known as the
" Whiting," though at Pensacola the name " Ground Mullet" is in use. He writes:

"There are two varieties, which, if they have no specific differences, have at least diffeient
habits. One variety lives exclusively in very shoal water along the sandy beaches, appearing to
take pleasure from the action of the surf, and swimming in small schools. The other inhabits
deeper waters; is found singly, and is of much darker coloring. The former seldom leaves the
sea-water, while the latter are often found in brackish and fresh water. I have found ripe spawn
in the surf variety in April, and believe they deposit it on the sea-beach. Large specimens of the
dark variety were taken in September, 1879, in the Apalachicola River, where the water is fresh.
The Whiting is an excellent food-fish."

The two varieties thus referred to by Stearns have been identified by Jordou as the two species



Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 65 of 146)