G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

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sonic distance from the shore; but it has never been taken very far from the land. On the occasion
referred to, some fishermen, while engaged in capturing mackerel off Block Island, saw what they
supposed to be a school and put their purse-seine around it. To their surprise they found their
net to contain Scup exclusively. Of these they took at one haul six hundred barrels of one
hundred and eighty pounds each, all of marketable size and bringing a good price in the New
York market.

"As a general rule, in their movement along the coast the Scnp are not found in water shal-
lower than a few fathoms; and it sometimes happens, in the course of heavy storms, that in con-
sequence of the discoloration of the water near the shore the fish move farther out to sea, and on
such occasions measurably escape falling into the traps.

"The Scup is very largely a bottom feeder, and depends very much upon mollusks or shell-
fish for subsistence. I have been informed by the fishermen that they may frequently be seen a
feeding upon small bivalves of different species, rooting them out of the sand or mud. The
stomachs of about two hundred one and one-half pound Scnp were examined at one time in the
beginning of September. These almost exclusively contained shells of various genera, with some
worms and a few amphipods. Its especial food appears to be small shells, crabs, shrimp, and
possibly small fish. The abundance of such food on the south coast of New England must be
prodigious to support the swarms that even now are found there. It is in regard to this species
that a close time is desirable, so that access to the spawning-grounds and freedom from disturb-
ance may be enjoyed by a sufficient number to maintain the species.

" Like all other small fish, they are devoured by their more rapacious fellows, and very largely
by bluefish, notwithstanding a general impression to the contrary. The extent to which this
takes place will be considered under the head of the blnefish. Halibut, cod, sharks, and other
ground-feeders likewise use them up in great numbers.

"As already remarked, the breeding fish do not appear to feed on their first arrival, being
then too much occupied in carrying out the reproductive function. As, however, they can be taken
with the hook about the 1st of June, we muy infer that this is about the time they begin to feed



392 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

for themselves. The younger fish probably feed as soon as they reach the shores. No remains of
fish have hitherto been found in the stomachs of Scup, and we may conclude that they are not
piscivorous.

"Although the period and the general region where the eggs are deposited has been pretty
Well ascertained, I regret that nothing is known of the peculiar method by which this is accom-
plished. I have been informed (page 47) that, on hauling up of anchors of boats that have been
lying overnight in two fathoms of water, the rope is frequently found coated with spawn sticking
upon it. The eggs are doubtless fertilized as discharged, and probably adhere to the gravel, grass,
and other objects at the bottom; but as to the precise period of development, nothing is known.

"INCREASING ABUNDANCE OF SOUP. According to Captain Ashby, of Noank, the young
Scup have been extremely abundant in Buzzard's Bay during the summer of 1877, he himself
having turned out 2,500 barrels from a small pound worked by him at the Wepeckets, opposite
Naushon. He estimates that at least 25,000 barrels have been thus liberated from the various
pounds in Buzzard's Bay. In 1880 immense numbers of young Scuppaug were noticed in Narra-
gansett Bay.

"The Scup, like other shore fish, not unfrequently suffer from changes of weather. Mr. South-
wick informed me that he has evidence to show that in the early part of May in 1809, 1818, and
1838, after a cold spell in each of those years, large numbers were thrown on the shore. On the
29th of November, 1871, there was a fall of snow at Wood's Holl, and the next day Scup and sea-
bass came ashore in considerable numbers, generally, according to Mr. Edwards, about ten Scup
to every yard along the shore for a considerable distance. They were, however, all small fish.
While Scup were in greatest abundance, the other fish observed were sea-bass, butter-fish, mullet,
etc. Similar facts have been observed in regard to tautog, which indeed seemed to suffer very
much more than Scup from this agency.

" As may be inferred from what has already been said, the market at the present time is sup-
plied with Scnp from the spring traps and pounds, the capture by these means having become
almost entirely exclusive. Formerly, however, they could be taken with the hook from the latter
end of May until the end of October, and in any desired abundance. There is no fish on the
American coast that bites so freely when abundant, and which can be captured with so much ease.

"I am informed by Mr. Dunham that in the deep holes of the pond at Nantucket, where he
has been with his boat, he has sometimes thrown a stone overboard so as to give the Scup a start
toward the shore, and then following and throwing his dog overboard, ho has driven the fish clear
out of the water upon the beach, and has taken as many as five hundred in this way at one time.
A similar mode of capture was reported to me as having taken place in the pond at Menernsha
Bight.

"The value of the Scup as a marketable fish varies, of course, with the supply; and while
they have been sold in early times as low as from ten to twenty-five cents a barrel, and were used
as a manure, they are now too scarce for any such purpose. They were worth in 1871 from six to
eight cents a pound at Newport, and about two cents at Hyannis. At New Bedford they generally
brought ten cents as a maximum price.

"On the coast of Carolina they are said to prefer deep, clear water, with rocky bottom,
although they may be taken in almost any locality in the region of their occurrence.

"The Scup remain along the northern coast until about the middle of October, when the
larger ones, at least, begin to leave the shores and move out into deeper water. Mr. Vinal
Edwards has, however, taken young fish at Wood's Holl as late as the 10th of December, and
Capt. John Rogers, of Noank, states that, in fishing for cod on Nautucket Shoals late in Novem-




WINTER ABODE OF THE SOUP.

W ^ I r^K 1 ^"

ber, their stomachs are occasionally tilled with small Scup, which drop out of their mouths when
hauled on deck, found to be to the extent of five or six at a time. It is quite possible that they,
as well as other fish, seek in winter that portion of the Gulf Stream that corresponds in temper-
ature to that of their summer abode; and as the mean summer temperature of the waters of
Southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island amounts to about 63 Fahrenheit, they must go nearly
to the latitude of Norfolk, Virginia, before they can find that same temperature in the winter
season.

The European analogue of our American Scup or Porgy is the Sparus auratut, the braize or
becker, sometimes bream, of the fishermen. These come on to the European coast in the summer
time, and are said to have much the same habits as the American species."

A species closely related to the Scup is the " Goafs-head Porgy " of the Gulf of Mexico, 8te-
notomus caprinus.

Sparus pagrus is rather common at Charleston and Pensacola, and is found also in the south
of Europe. There are also in our southern waters various species of the genus Pagellus, which
resemble in a general way the " Scup."

130. THE SAILOR'S CHOICE LAGODON RHOMBOIDES.

This species, which bears considerable resemblance in its form to the scnppaug, is found in
great abundance from Cape Hatteras south, and around the Gulf coast; also occasionally north of
Cape Hatteras ; it is known in the lower parts of the Chesapeake Bay, and two or three stragglers
have recently been taken at Wood's Holl, Massachusetts. It is not uncommon in the Bermudas.
It may readily be recognized by the longitudinal stripes of iridescent color upon the sides, and by
the peculiar character of the teeth, each having a prominent notch on either edge.

The Sailor's Choice," as it is called in the Saint John's River, at Brunswick, Georgia, and
about Key West, bears several other names, being known about Cape Hatteras as the "Robin"
and "Pin-fish," at Charleston as the "Salt- water Bream," at Brunswick, Georgia, as the "Squirrel-
fish " and " Sailor's Choice," in the Saint John's River as the " Sailor's Choice " and " Porgy," in
the Indian River region as the "Sailor's Choice," "Scup," and "Yellow-tail," at Cedar Keys as
the "Porgy" and "Shiner," and at Pensacola as the "Chopa Spina."

South of Cape Hatteras this fish is exceedingly abundant, and is usually found in company
with the sheepshead, which it much resembles in habits. Its jaws, however, are not so strong as
those of the sheepshead, by reason of which it is debarred from feeding upon the stronger shelled
mollusks and crustaceans, which constitute the principal diet of the latter.

On the Atlantic coast the largest individuals rarely exceed ten inches in length, the ordinary
size in Eastern Florida being six or eight inches, with the weight of five or six ounces.

The Sailor's Choice is one of the most deliciously-flavored fishes of our coast, being preferred
to the young sheepshead by many of those who are familiar with its good qualities. Lugger
states that it enters the drains of the ocean coast of Maryland, and is occasionally caught in the
lower part of the Chesapeake Bay. According to Jordan they are excessively abundant every-
where in the harbor of Beaufort, North Carolina, where they are taken by the thousand by boys
with hook and line from the wharves, but are seldom used for food, and are found equally numer-
ous through the Gulf States coast

At Charleston, according to Holbrook, this fish is taken at all seasons of the year, though
most plentiful in May and June. No reference is made by this author to its value as an article
of food. At Brunswick, Georgia, the Sailor's Choice is highly esteemed; in the Saint John's
it is very abundant, and is taken in company with the sheepshead far up the river. It is easily



394 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

captured with hooks baited with shrimp, and is considered to be a very superior pan-fish, its flesh
resembling that of the scuppaug, though much sweeter and harder.

In the Indian River region, according to Mr. S. C. Clarke, this fish is resident all the year, and
is very abundant. The weight of the largest observed by him was one pound. The average
weight is about five ounces. They are found in the deep water, or salt water, feeding upon
minnows, small crabs, and shrimps. The spawn is pale blue, and of the size of mustard-seed.
Young fish are seen in great abundance. They are taken by hook with mullet or clam bait, and
also in cast-nets and seines. One hundred are often taken by a fisherman in a day. They are
highly prized for food, and are occasionally salted. They are sometimes sent in ice to Savannah
and Charleston. "On the Gulf coast," writes Mr. Stearns, "they are very abundant, living and
breeding in the bays and bayous. They spawn in winter or early spring, and the young of dif-
ferent sizes may be seen in May and June. The adult fish live in deep water, while the young
remain near the shore. Many are caught by hook and line, and with the seine."

131. CERTAIN MINOR SPABOIDS.

THE MARGATE-FISH.

This species is known only in the Gulf of Mexico. Stearns writes that it is abundant off the
Florida coast, and is found throughout the year in all the gulches, and commonly on the snapper
banks in water from ten to thirty fathoms deep. About Pensacola, where it is called the " Porgy,"
it is seldom eaten, being regarded by the fishermen as a nuisance, for it steals their baits and
interferes generally with their fishing. It is, however, used to some extent as bait for red snap-
pers. At Key West it is brought to market in well-boats, and sells readily. The small ones are
there called "Porgies" and the large ones "Margate-fish" and "Market-fish."

In West Florida Stearns states that he has often found spawn in them in April. At Cedar
Keys, October 28, 1879, he obtained a specimen, seven inches in length, with a gill-net. The largest
one he has seen measured fifteen or sixteen inches in length.

THE PORGEES OP THE GULP.

A fish known as the "Sheepshead Porgy" is said by Stearns to be common about the Florida
Reefs. It is caught with hook and line, and is sold in the markets of Key West. There are other
species, known by the name "Porgy," which are found in this region, such as Calamus bajonado,
common also at Charleston, where it is called the " White-boned Porgy," 0. megaeephalus, C. arc-
tifrons, and V. maorops.

THE BERMUDA CHUB CYPHOSUS Boson.

This fish, which is one of the most important of the food species of Bermuda, occurring also
in the West Indies and east to Madeira, has but recently been found on our coast. Stearns has
observed it in the Gulf of Mexico, where the fishermen call it the " Bream," and individuals have
also been taken at Wood's Holl, Massachusetts. It is a most delicious food-fish, and it is hoped
that the few which have been seen on our coasts are the precursors of large schools to follow.

CALIPOBNIAN SPAROIDS.

California has two important species belonging to this family, concerning which Professor
Jordan has communicated the following information:

"The 'Blueflsh,'GtreJJa nigricans, inappropriately so called, reaches a length of about fourteen
inches, and a weight of three or four pounds. It ranges from Monterey southward, and is very
abundant about the Sauta Barbara Islands. The young of this species are common inhabitants



THE CALIFORNIAN BLUEFI8H. 395

of the rock-pools. The ' Blueflsh ' is entirely herbivorous. It is a food-fish of good quality, but the
flesh softens sooner after death than is usually the case with related fishes. It is very tenacious
of life.

"The 'Half-moon,' more commonly known by its Spanish name, ' Medialuna,' Scorpit califor-
nierutix, reaches a length of more than a foot, and a weight of three or four pounds. It ranges
from Point Concepcion southward, chiefly about the Santa Barbara Islands, where it is exceed-
ingly abundant, and, in the winter, forms the greater part of the catch at San Pedro. It feeds
chiefly upon crustaceans, but is, to some extent, herbivorous. It takes the hook readily, is an
excellent food-fish, and, in the Los Angeles market, is second only to the barracuda in impor-
tance."

THE SNAPPER FAMILY PRISTIPOMATID2B.

132. THE RED AND GRAY SNAPPERS.
THE RED SNAPPER LUTJANUS BLACKFOBDII.

The Red Snapper, although it has been for many years a favorite food-fish of the Gulf of
Mexico and Eastern Florida, has but recently become known in Northern markets. About 1874
individuals of this species were occasionally seen in New York and Washington, and shortly after
they began to come into notice in the cities of the Mississippi Valley. It was not even described
and named until 1877, when Messrs. Goode and Bean, having determined that it was distinct from
the West Indian form, which it resembles, described it under the name Lutjanug Blaclifordii, in
honor of Mr. Eugene G. Blackford, of New York City, who has for many years been prominent in
all matters relating to fish culture and the fish trade. By reason of its bright crimson color it is
the most conspicuous fish ever seen in our markets.

Three years ago the geographical range of this species was supposed to be limited at the north
by Savannah Bank, but during the summer of 1880 several specimens were taken along the coast of
the Middle States ; one, nine and a half pounds in weight, off Port Monmouth, New Jersey, October
5; another, about August 10, near Block Island. This northern extension of its range is quite
unexpected, and the fact that even stragglers find their way into our northern waters suggests
great possibilities for the future in the way of their artificial propagation and introduction along
the coast of the Middle States. In the South it is found associated on the same grounds with the
sea-bass, Serranus atrarius, which it resembles in habits and manner of feeding. The sea-bass
is abundant as far north as Cape Cod, and it is hard to understand why the banks, which are
favorite haunts of this fish, should not also be shared by the Red Snapper. In the Gulf of Mexico
the Red Snapper is exceedingly abnudant in suitable localities from Key West to the Rio Grande.

"About the Florida reefs and as far north as Temple Bay, where there are reefs and rocks,
they live in holes and gullies where all kinds of marine animals and fish are most abundant, and
sometimes, as I have noticed, off" Charlotte Harbor numbers of them will congregate about a soli-
tary ledge protruding over a level bottom of white sand. Throughout this southern district the
fishing spots are small, but very numerous ; and away from the reefs, where the bottom is chiefly
sand, it is only necessary to find rocks or a rocky bottom to find Red Snappers. Since it is
impracticable to make use of bearings by which to find the fishing grounds, the fishermen sail
about, throwing the lead continually until it indicates the proper bottom. Along the coast from
Temple Bay to Texas the bottom declines very gradually to the hundred-fathom curve, forming
vast, almost level, plains of sand. In these barren wastes there are gullies of variable size, having
rocky bottoms and teeming with animal and vegetable life. These gullies occur at a depth of
from twelve to forty-five fathoms, the water in them being several fathoms deeper than the snr-



396 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

rounding bottom, and more rocky, and in the deepest parts richer in animal life. Red Snappers
are exceedingly abundant in these places, which arc the so-called 'snapper banks.' From Temple
Bay to Cedar Keys the gullies are numerous in sixteen, eighteen, and twenty fathoms; from
Cedar Keys to Saint Mark's, in fifteen and sixteen fathoms. Off Saint Mark's and Dog Island
there are a few in five and ten fathoms. From Cape San Bias to the mouths of the Mississippi
River occur the best fishing grounds in the Gulf, so far as is now known ; gullies in ten and
fifteen fathoms of water especially abundant from the cape, fifty miles to the west. West of the
Mississippi, on the Texas coast, there are a few which are in twelve and fifteen fathoms. These
grounds are found by the use of the sounding-lead, which shows every position by the sudden
increase in the depth of the water. Red Snappers live in such places all the year, except, perhaps,
in some of the five and ten fathom ones, which are nearly deserted in winter. Off Pensacola there
seems to be quite a movement inshore in spring and offshore in fall. In South Florida they are
usually associated with the groupers, which occur in the proportion of about three to one, while
in West Florida the case is reversed ; not more than one fish in ten of those caught is a grouper." '

Red Snappers are also known to be abundant on the Savannah Bank and on the Saint John's
Bank, off Eastern Georgia and Florida.

The Red Snappers are strictly carnivorous, feeding upon small fish, crabs, and prawns. The
temperature of the water in which they live probably rarely falls below 50. They have no enemies
except sharks and two or three enormous spiny-rayed fishes, such as the jew-fish or warsaw (Ouasa).
The only reliable observations upon their breeding habits have been made by Mr. Stearns, who states
that they spawn in May and June in the bays and at sea. In June, July, and August they arc
found in some of the bays of the Northern Gulf, about wrecks and rock-piles, in considerable
numbers, and none are taken but the larger adults and the young from one to eight inches long.
The spawning season probably extends over a period of several months, Mr. Stearns having found
well- developed ovaries in them from April to July. Nothing is known of their rate of growth.
They attain the size of forty pounds. In East Florida, however, the average is much less. Mr.
Stearns remarks that in the Gulf of Mexico they very seldom exceed thirty pounds' weight,
though he has seen several of that size, while the average is eight or nine pounds, and in a large
lot may usually be found individuals weighing from two and a half to twenty pounds.

Red Snappers from Florida are frequently quoted in the New York market returns. In 1879
about 12,000 pounds were there sold. They are also shipped to New York, Washington, and
Baltimore in winter, the supply in these cities being derived chiefly from Pensacola. Mobile and
New Orleans consume considerable quantities, and from these ports they are shipped up the
Mississippi River to the principal cities along its line, where the fish is growing to be a staple of
much importance. In Saint Louis it is already one of the most highly esteemed food-fishes. The
price in New York in 1879 ranged from twenty to twenty-four cents per pound, but they are now
less expensive.

THE PENSAOOLA SNAPPER.

The Red Snapper belongs to a genus which is found everywhere in tropical waters; fish
resembling it occur everywhere throughout the West Indies. There is a kind of Red Snapper
wHioh is abundant on the Bahama Banks and in South Florida. This is L. campechianus Poey,
perhaps also acccompanied by L. torridus Cope. Two other brilliant red species occur with L.
Blackfordii in the Gulf of Mexico the Pensacola Snapper, L. Stearrutii, and the Mangrove Snapper,
Rltomboplites aurorubens, the former of which might easily be mistaken for the L. Blackfordii,

'Silas Steams, MS.



HABITS OF THE PENSACOLA SNAPPER. 397

although its color is somewhat less vivid. Concerniiig this species, Mr. Stearns, whose name it
bears, writes: "It is abundant on the Gulf coast, and lives in the bays all the year. In summer
it is to be found about stone-heaps, wharves, and old wrecks, where it obtains crustaceous food in
abundance. In winter it returns to the deeper places in search of food, and to escape from the
cold surface water. During a cold snap in 1876 a groat many of these fish were benumbed aud
tlo.it r<l at the surface, until the sun appeared and warmed them, when they revived and sought
the bottom. They spawn in May aud June. They are very cunning, and will not readily take the
hook. Those commonly seen in the bays are quite small, averaging ten inches in length, while
those taken with the Red Snappers at sea are from twenty to twenty-four inches long. It is an
excellent food- fish, generally thought to be superior in flavor to the Red Snapper." This fish has as
yet been found only on the Gulf coasts of the United States, where it is kuowu as the "Mangrove
Snapper." Since this name is used on the Atlantic coast for another species, aud has been so used
since the time of Catesby, it seems desirable to designate Lutjanua Stearnsii by another name, and
"Peusacola Snapper" has been suggested.

THE MANGROVE SNAPPER RHOMBOPUTES AURORUBENS.

The " Mangrove Snapper" of Charleston, called at Peusacola the " Bastard Snapper," is a much
more slender aud elegantly formed fish than either of the Snappers already described. Its color
is less vivid, being somewhat more russet, and is enlivened by the presence of narrow, oblique
lines, with gold and yellow upon the sides. It is a swift-swimming fish, probably less given to
feeding on the bottom, and more partial to a diet of living fish. It has been found at Jamaica, and
as far north as Charleston, South Carolina.

"In the Pensacola region," writes Stearns, "it is a well-known, but not common, species."
Single individuals are occasionally brought in from the sea with the Red Snappers and groupers.
It is caught at all depths, from ten to thirty -five fathoms, and seldom exceeds eighteen inches in
length. As a food-fish it is equal to the Red Snapper. The Bermuda Red Snapper, abundant and
much esteemed in those islands, is a small but very brilliantly colored species, not yet described,
which is to be called Lutjanua autolycun.

THE GBAT SNAPPER LUTJANUS OAXIS.

Another snapper, similar in form to these others, but not red in color, which is called the ' Gray
Snapper' at South Florida, and the ' Black Snapper' at Pensacola, L. caxis, is abundant about
the Bermudas, and has been found on the east coast of Florida, in tropical South America, in
Western Africa, and about the Bermudas, where it attains the enormous size of sixty to eighty
pounds, and is known as the 'Gray Snapper,' and also, on account of its sly, cunning habits,
the 'Sea Lawyer.' Mr. Stearns writes: "It is most abundant in South Florida, living in deep



Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 68 of 146)