G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

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

. (page 67 of 146)
Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 67 of 146)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


seen of large size; individuals of eight inches and less were taken around the piles and river at
Arlington and Mayport. "In the Indian River region," says Mr. Williams, "the season for
Hueepshead begins the 1st of May. They range in weight from three to seven pounds. Half-
grown specimens, which can be taken along the rocks with cast-net or spear, are good pan-fish.
Thej' do not take mullet bait readily, hence are seldom taken with the hook. Hundreds of a
larger size may be seen in shallow water on the east side of the river, or in calm water, on
barnacles attached to sunken logs, or rocks under water."

Mr. 8. 0. Clarke, writing from New Smyrna, Florida, states that they occur throughout the
year and are most abundant from December to March, having decreased in numbers perhaps
one-fourth during the past ten years. They winter in the deep water of the inlets and rivers, are
regular in their appearance, take the hook at most times, come and go with the tide, swim low,
except in the spawning season, when they come inshore and prefer warm and muddy water with
shelly bottom. They feed about rocks and logs on clams, shrimps, barnacles, crabs, and oysters,
and are best taken in the latter part of the ebb and young flood, and during the season of plenty,
from November to March, twenty-five fish may be considered the average result of a day's fishing
with hook and line. They are taken with cast-nets and with hooks, using crabs, clams, mussels,
and shrimps for bait. They are highly prized, fresh and salt, though they are mostly consumed
in the fresh state.

Mr. Clarke also gives some important information regarding the spawning of this fish. He
says: "Before spawning they go in schools, but afterwards they scatter. They spawn at the
mouths of rivers and inlets in March and April, the sexes mixing together in schools. The eggs
are deposited in shallow water near the shore, and are about the size of mustard seed, and dark.
At the spawning season the fish play near the surface and become thin and until for food. The
young fish are abundant in shallow water among the rocks."

Finally, I append in full the statement of Mr. Stearns, which is especially important since it
contains an account of their spawning. He writes:

"The habits of the Sheepshead depend somewhat on the nature of the feeding-gronnds in
those localities where the fish occurs. At such places as Saint Mark's River, Cedar Keys,
Homassassa River, and the Mangrove Islands, farther south, it is present throughout the year,
in about the same abundance, whether it will take the hook or not; while at Apalachicola, Saint
Andrew's, Pensacola and Mobile Bays, and the Louisiana marshes, its habits are those of a
migratory fish, which, in a body, at a certain season, approaches, and, later on, leaves the coast
At the latter-mentioned places it is found to a limited extent during the spring and summer.
At these same places large schools of Sheepshead appear on the coast during the months of
September, October, and November, finally entering the harbors. This is as important and
noticeable a movement as the 'runs' of pompano, Spanish mackerel, or hard-tails in the spring,
and it is the only time when large quantities are caught. The fish composing the 'run' are very
25 F



386 NATURAL HISTOEY OF EQUAT1C ANIMALS.

thin in form and hardly marketable, but after a few days' rest and refreshment in the bays they
become fat and desirable for food. The schools having entered the harbors, become somewhat
scattered and go to the feeding-grounds, where they are largely taken with hook and line and
seine. Any movement seaward to balance this must be gradual, and takes place, I think, in
summer, for it is not noticeable.

"The Sheepshead spawns in April and May, in the bays. On June 18, 1878, and in June,
1879, 1 caught young Sheepsheaa, measuring a quarter of an inch, in Pensacola Bay. It lives
about wharves, rock-piles, old wrecks, oyster-reefs, and, in South Florida, about the roots of the
mangrove tree, feeding upon the barnacles that grow in such places. It is caught with hook and
line, in fall and winter, at which seasons it is in its best condition. Its average weight is three or
four pounds, and its maximum twenty pounds."

When the Sheepshead first appear on our northern coast it is stated by several writers that
they are always thin and unfit for food ; it would seem from this as if their spawning season was
just ended. No one, however, has made any careful observations upon this point north of Florida.

In the South, Sheepshead are usually small, rarely exceeding two pounds in weight. This is
also the case in Florida, although large individuals are occasionally seen. About New York Harbor
they sometimes weigh from twelve to fifteen pounds, though the average size is not more than half
this weight. All authorities agree that the Sheepshead is one of the very finest food-fishes in our
waters, many persons preferring it to the salmon, while others compare it to the English turbot, to
which, however, it is doubtless much inferior.

In the North the Sheepshead is almost always boiled, but the smaller fish, more commonly
taken in the South, are well suited for frying or broiling.

THE PIN-FISH DIPLODUS HOLBEOOKII.

This fish, which is abundant at Charleston and about Beaufort, North Carolina, was first
scientifically described by Dr. Bean from specimens obtained in Charleston market, in March,
1878. Jordan found it abundant everywhere near the shores of Beaufort, North Carolina, in
which regiou it reaches but a small size, and is not used as food. It is confounded by the fisher-
men with the Sailor's Choice.

129. THE SCUP OR SCUPPAUG STENOTOMUS VERSICOLOB AND S. GASDENI.

Until very recently only one species of the genus Stenotonws was known to occur in our waters.
Dr. Bean has recently shown that there are two on the Atlantic coast of the United States, in
addition to the unimportant species, 8. caprinua, recently described from the Gulf of Mexico.

The "Scup" of the Norih, Stenotomus veraicolor, is by far the most important, though the
Southern species, 8. Oardeni, has considerable commercial value. The former, which is distin-
guished by its larger teeth and more abrupt profile, is abundant between Cape Cod and Cape Hat-
teras, the latter has its metropolis on the Carolina coast, but has been found sparingly as far north
as Wood's Holl, Massachusetts.

The Scup, which in many respects resembles the Sheepshead, is often known in New England
as the " Scuppaug," this word being an abbreviation of Mishcuppauog, the name applied to it by
the Narragansett Indians. It is to be regretted that it has been corrupted to form two others,
neither of which is euphonious or significant. In New England it is generally called " Scup,"
while about New York the second syllable of the abbreviated Indian name has been lengthened
into "Pangy " or "Porgy." The latter name is particularly objectionable because it belongs to the



NAMES OF THE 8CDP. 387

English fish, and its proper etymology as a fish name is very different. Another Indian word,
" poghadou," a corrupted form of the Abnaki name for the menhaden, or moss-bunker, has been
changed to "pogy" and " porgy," thus leading to much confusion. "Scnppaug" is an excellent
name for the fish, and its claims for general adoption will be recognized by all who wish to see
preserved the name of the aboriginal languages of America.

On the Virginia coast the Southern Scup is known as the "Fair Maid." The name " Porgy "
is in nse about Charleston, South Carolina, but is usually applied to other members of the same
family. Their range is much more limited to the south and extends farther to the north than that
of the Sheepshead. Holbrook wrote in 1860: " The Porgy is found along our coasts at all seasons
of the year, though most abundant in June and July." He further states that its southern limit
on the Atlantic border is Cape Florida, a statement probably not susceptible of proof.

The Northern Scup rarely passes the boundary of Cape Cod; in 1878, however, thirty-seven
were taken at the Milk Island weir off Thatcher's Island, Cape Ann, Massachusetts, and they
appear to be increasing in abundance.

This species does not appear to be indigenous north of Cape Cod. Storer gives the following
account of its introduction : " Mr. James Newcomb, fishmonger in the Boston market, informs me
that in the year 1831 or 1832 a smack-load of Scapaugs arrived in Boston Harbor. A portion of
them were purchased by subscription among the fishermen in the market and thrown into the
harbor. The next season two specimens were caught from our wharves; in the summer of 1835,
one individual was taken at Nahant, and was considered a very strange fish, no specimen having
been known to have been seen there before ; in 1836, still another was captured at Nahant. As no
specimen had ever been taken so far north before, and as the few taken would lead to the inference
that those which had been transplanted from Buzzard's Bay had not bred in the cold waters of
this portion of Massachusetts Bay, we are led to believe that the individuals taken immediately
around Boston were of the number originally brought from the South. In the year 1834 or 183 >,
Capt. William Downes, of Holmes' Hole, carried a smack-load of this species from Vineyard Sound
and threw them overboard in Plymouth Harbor." Storer, writing in 1867, says that "within a few
years small numbers have appeared north of Cape Cod and are yearly captured at Wellfleet and
Sandwich."

Judging from the rare occurrence of the species thus introduced, it can hardly be considered
to have become naturalized ; the few which have been taken were doubtless summer stragglers.
In the Boston Society's museum is a specimen taken at Swampscott, June 29, 1860, by J. Phillips.
In the Salem Museum is another taken in Salem Harbor, July 23, 1860, by C. A. Putnam. Scup
become abundant on the south side of Cape Cod from the 5th to the 12th of May, which would
allow ample time for the appearance of a part of the school off the eastern coast of Massachusetts
as early as the dates recorded.

Mr. Hinckley, president of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad, informs us
that in the winter of 1833 he found a dead Scnppang on the Cohasset shore; this was its first
occurrence in that locality, and none of the fishermen knew it.

In 1856, Captain Atwood recorded the Scup as very rare at Provincetown.

" Sometimes," says Captain Atwood, " I have seen a dozen of these fish. The Scnp were never
here at all abundantly ; only scattering individuals have been taken from year to year. Since
1842, when the mackerel nets were first set in the outside of the harbor, Scup were first seen, and
a few have been seen since."

The history of this species, like that of the blnefish, has been very carefully worked out by



388 NATURAL HISTOEY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

Professor Baird ; * and from this article and an unpublished essay written in 1877 the remainder
of this section is made up. Professor Baird writes :

" It makes its appearance, at least in considerable quantity, on the coast of New England
about the middle of May, although the advance-guard of very large fish arrive sometimes as early
as the middle of April ; and it is most abundant toward the 1st of June, and arrives in successive
detachments or ' runs ' differing in size, the smallest fish coming last. The first run on the south-
ern coast of New England, as stated, takes place about the beginning of May and consists of
large breeding fish, weighing from two to four pounds, and measuring up to eighteen inches or
more in length. The spawn is quite well developed at that time, and is said to be at first red, but
gradually to become light yellow as it matures. The particular time and place, however, of laying
the eggs is not yet known, although it is probable that this occurs early in June, since the schools
are said to break up about the middle of that month, and the fish to scatter. It is thought prob-
able that the spawning takes place in the eel-grass which covers the shoal waters of Narragansett
Bay and Vineyard Sound.

"According to the fishermen generally, the Scup on first coming into the shores do not take
the hook readily, being apparently too much occupied in the business of reproduction, and two
weeks usually elapse before they can be caught in this way. They present themselves in large
schools of immense extent, and moving very slowly, at about the rate of thres miles an hour.
From the testimony presented before the committee of investigation of the Rhode Island legisla-
ture, they appear to come from the south and west, as when they- enter Narragausett Bay they
strike the western shore and move up along its edge. They are said, however, to drift slowly
backward and forward with the tide, especially at the entrance of this bay. At (his time they are
very sluggish, and are said sometimes to appear as if blind, and can frequently be taken with the
hand, or a very short scoop-net.

"According to Captain Edwards, of Wood's Holl, in proceeding to their breeding-grounds, on
the coast of New England, they are taken at Montauk Point three weeks earlier than at Wood's
Holl, and a week earlier at Wood's Holl than at Hyannis, still farther east.

" The Scup feed upon a great variety of marine animals, such as worms, small crustaceans,
mollusks, etc., and take the hook very freely during the greater part of their rrtay ; in fact, the
smaller ones become veritable nuisances to the fishermen, from the readineso with which they
pounce upon the baited hook whenever thrown overboard.

"The flesh of the Scup is very much prized by most persons, as it is firm and flaky, and usually
sweet, although occasionally a bitter flavor detracts from its palatability. Since the settlement of
the coast by the whites, it has been by far the most important food-fish of Fisher's Island and
Vineyard Sounds, Narragansett Bay, and of Buzzard's Bay; and the rapid diminution in number
has caused the greatest solicitude.

" Of their abundance on the south coast of New England in former times, almost incredible
accounts are given. They swarmed to such a degree that their capture ceased to be a matter of
sport. The line when thrown overboard could be immediately withdrawn with the assurance of
having a fish on each one of two hooks. Any number of fishermen from boats could take five
hundred to one thousand pounds a day without the slightest difficulty, the limits of the catch
being simply the ability to find a sale.

"In flavor the flesh of this fish is surpassed by very few others on the coast, although its
superabundance caused it to be undervalued. The period of greatest development in number of

1 Report U. 8. Commission Fish and Fisheries, part i, pp. 228-235>



USES OF TDK SOUP. 389

this fish coincided with that of tho absence of the blueflsh, and since the return of the latter to
the coast of New England tho Scup lias become scarce, although still a very important object of
pursuit.

" Immense numbers are caught in the pounds and traps in Rhode Island and Massachusetts,
and for several weeks the market is usually glutted, a barrelful being frequently sold for twenty-
live to fifty cents, or a small fraction of a cent a pound. It is extremely doubtful whether any
part of the more northern coast of North America can furnish, within three miles of the shore, as
largo a weight of fish in mackerel, herring, and cod as has been furnished by the Scup, sea-bass,
and tan tog alone in the waters of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Mr. William Davol, of Rhode
Island, with his 'gang,' caught 2,400 barrels of Scup, valued at $1,200, at Seconnet, in May, 1860.
Fish were purchased by Messrs. Reynolds, Young & Co., of Fall River, and shipped to Philadelphia. 1

"The Scup is a fish that grows with rapidity, and at two years is almost of sufficient size to bo
marketable. Throughout the summer young fish of the spring spawning are to be seen floating
around in the eel-grass and over the sandy bottoms, having attained a length of from two and a
half to three and a quarter inches by the 1st of October. When these fish reappear the next
season, thus completing one year of existence, they measure about six inches, six to eight or nine
weighing a pound; and by the 1st of September attain an average length of eight inches, includ-
ing the tail, and a breadth of three inches. (Twelve individuals, measured on tho 31st of August,
measured from 7.75 to 9 inches in length, and from 2.75 to 3.25 inches in breadth, not including
the dorsal and anal fins.) On the 8th of September twenty five of this age weighed four and three-
quarter pounds, or an average of little over three ounces each. In the third year of existence, or
at the age of two years, they have increased considerably, though not so rapidly as was once
supposed, measuring, on their reappearance, about ten inches, with an average weight of one-half
pound. Six weighed in New Bedford, October 9, averaged but little over five ounces each, while
the average of those on the stalls in New York, October 17, was a little over eight ounces. After
this they grow more quickly. One hundred and ninety-nine, presumed to be three years' fish,
weighed on the Cth of September, averaged one and a half pounds each, and measured about
twelve inches in length by four and a half inches in width, some individuals being larger and some
smaller. The female fish of the second year not unfrequently contains mature eggs. It is in the
fifth year, or after the lapse of four years from birth, that the Scup presents its finest development;
specimens believed to be of this age measured fourteen or fifteen inches by five to six inches or
more, with a weight of two and a half to three pounds. They, however, still continue to grow,
specimens being not unfrequently met with eighteen inches long, and weighing four pounds and
even more. The dimension s may belong to fish of six or more years of age ; more probably, however,
of five years. It is, of course, impossible to do more than give average estimates of the weight and
size of fish of the same age, the differences probably depending on the fact whether they were
spawned by old or young fish, and the period when the eggs were laid, this extending over a con-
siderable length of time in each locality, although the great majority of fish undoubtedly spawn
at nearly the same season.

"Abundant as the Scup has been during the greater part of the present century, there
appears to be good evidence to show that prior to the year 1800 there was at least one period, if



not more, when it was extremely rare. According to Mr. Southwick (page 11), there is a tradition
that they first occurred at Newport about 1793, the sheepshead disappearing about the same time.
Mr. Lymau, in an article on the possible exhaustion of the sea fisheries, written in 1871, also



> Fall Biver News, I860.



390 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

quotes some negative evidence of the absence of this fish at Compton, Rhode Island, from 1794 to
1803, the 'sheepshead' (more probably the tautog is meant) being spoken of as common, and the
Scnp not mentioned.

"Mr. John C. Parker, an octogenarian of Falmouth, Massachusetts, states that the Scup were
observed there, according to his father's statement, some time after 1790, and had become quite
abundant by 1814. On the other hand, however, in 1621, again quoting from Mr. Lyman, Massa
soit entertained his half-famished Puritan visitors with 'fishes like bream, but three times so big,
and better meat'; this fact, with the description, being applicable to no other fish than the Scup.
The European sea-bream is very similar to the Scup, and would readily be referred to the same
species by the unobservant traveler.

"Again, Roger Williams, in his ' Key to the Language of the Indians,' speaking of the Scup,
says ' mushcup, the bream.' ' Of this fish there is abundance, which the natives dry in the sun
and smoke, and some English begin to salt. Both ways they keep all the year, and it is hoped
they may be as well accepted as cod at market, and better if once known.' We find no reference
to the occurrence of the fish from this date, 1642, up to 1794.

"The time of the arrival of the Scup on the coast varies with the locality. The young proba-
bly spend the winter in our southern waters or out in the Gulf Stream, but in the spring commence
their migration either along the coast or from the deep seas toward the waters on the south coast
of New England. The latter supposition is the more probable, as no Scup are taken on the
southern coast of anything like the size of the breeders that visit New England, making their
appearance at once in a huge body, extending, apparently, from Block Island to Martha's Vineyard.

"The western division of this army appears to strike first at Watch Hill, to the west of Point
Judith, and to make its way slowly along eastward, the smaller or eastern division moving through
Vineyard Sound. According to Captain Luce, the Menemsha pounds take the Scup three days or
a week earlier than the pounds at Lombard's Cove, and nearly two weeks earlier than at the
guano-works at Wood's Holl. The progress of this fish is at first very slow, scarcely exceeding a
few miles a day, and its movements appear to be largely regulated by the flow of the tide, going
forward with the flood, and partly retrograding with the ebb. According to Mr. Whalley (page
24), of Narragansett Pier, it occupies about four tides, or two days, in moving from Point Judith
to Seconnet Point.

"The precise period of their reaching the coast varies with the season, although their abun-
dance generally occurs from the 5th to the 12th of May. In 1871 the fish appeared much earlier
than usual, and were on the shore before traps were down in readiness for their capture. Their
occurrence was about the 15th to the 25th of April. Breeding Scup were taken at Hyannis the
same year on the 27th of April, at least two weeks earlier than usual. They were taken in the
fish-pound at Wood's Holl on the 27th of April, but were most abundant on the 8th of May. In
1872 the season was late, and a few scattering Scup were taken at Wood's Holl from the 10th to
the 13th of May, but were most abundant at a later date. On the 17th of May ten barrels were
taken, and one hundred and fifty barrels on the 9th of June. Some of those captured in the
middle of May were of unusual size, weighing four pounds and over. At Newport they were most
abundant on the 15th of May, or two days earlier than at Wood's Holl. Here, too, the number of
mature fish was less than usual, but the' average size greater. Over one thousand barrels were
taken in Luce's pound, at Menemsha Bight. It is mentioned as an unusual occurrence that in
the spring of 1872 large fish were caught in purse-nets five or ten miles off the shore of Newport,
mostly with spawn, although very poor and thin.

"According to Capt. Thomas Hinckley, after passing Seaconuet Point and entering Buzzard's



MIGRATIONS OF THE SCUP. 391

Bay, the Scup keep along the northern shore am I make almost the entire circuit of the bay before
appearing at Quissett Harbor and Wood's Holl, their appearance being always later there than at
the head of the bay or about New Bedford. Whether it is the flsh alone that belong to Buzzard's
Bay that enter it, or whether others pass directly between the Elizabeth Islands and Martha's
Vineyard, is not yet satisfactorily ascertained. We know, however, that they reached Waquoit,
tli<' first pound on the north side of Vineyard Sound, in 1871, as early as April 25, bat that the
largest numbers were taken from the 10th to the 13th of May. This gives about a week's differ-
ence between this point and Newport.

"On the south of Vineyard Sound the fish are netted at Meuemsha Bight, where them are
several large and effective pounds, three days or a week earlier than at Lombard's Cove, and
nearly two weeks earlier than at the Wood's Holl pound.

"According to Mr. Luce, breeding fish enter the tidal pouds on the north side of Martha's
Vineyard (formerly in large numbers), where they spawn, accomplishing this operation by the end
of June, the ponds being filled with young in August. As soon as frost comes these fish leave for
their winter abode.

"A new point was made in the capture of Scnp by the fishermen of Block Island during the
spring of 1877. Heretofore Scnp have been taken in quantities only in the vicinity of the shores,
being captured in immense numbers in traps at Seconnet River and by pounds elsewhere, and
sometimes by seines. The capture by hand-lines is the more common, and may be carried on at



Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 67 of 146)