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channels, on rocky bottoms, about old wrecks, stone-heaps and wharves; it is considered the most
cunuing fish on the coast, and is extremely difficult to catch. The young may be seen about the
wharves, and the breeding- ground is probably near by. Those usually observed are from ten to
twelve inches in length, but I think I have seen specimens which would measure two feet"

133. THE GRUNTS OR FIG-FISHES.

In the inshore waters of the Southern Atlantic and Gulf States occur several species of small
fish belonging to the genus Diabasix. They are closely related to the snappers, which they
resemble in form, and have remote affinities with the perch, the bass, and the porgy and sheeps-
head. Their colors are usually striking, and they, without exception, are distinguished by the
brilliant red color of the inside of the mouth and throat, from which they have sometimes been



398 NATURAL HISTOEY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

called Eed Mouths, or Flannel Mouths. From their habit of uttering a loud, rather melodious sound
when taken from the water they have acquired the name of "Grunt" and "Pig-fish." In some
localities they are also called " Squirrel -fish," in allusion to the same habit. They are, for the
most part, bottom feeders, preying chiefly upon crustaceans and small fish. In fact, they are, in
most respects, miniature counterparts of the red snapper. In many localities they are in high
favor as a food-fish. They have not yet been very carefully studied, but so far as they are now
understood the following species are known to occur in sufficient numbers to prove of commercial
importance :

THE BLACK GRUNT DIABASIS PLTTMIERI.

This species has a brownish body, lighter upon the sides, and has the sides of the head
ornamented with numerous horizontal stripes of bright blue, while the posterior half of the lower
lip is red. It occurs as far north as Charleston, and Dr. Yarrow claims to have seen it at Beaufort,
North Carolina, though there is some question whether this species was not mistaken for another.
Holbrook records that it has been observed on the Atlantic borders of South Carolina, Georgia,
and Florida. I noticed several small individuals in the markets of Saint Augustine in March, 1877.
Stearns mentions the Black Grunt as abundant at Key West among the reefs, and as frequently
seen in the markets.

THE EED-MOITTH GRUNT DIABASIS AUROLINEATUS.

The Red-mouth Grunt, Diabasis aurolineatiis, is probably the Flannel-mouthed Porgy,
familiar to Florida fishermen, and often taken on the Saint John's Bar. It has also been
recently found to be common in Charleston in summer. This species was mentioned in
Catesby's great work, published in 1743, under the name of "Margate-fish." When alive its
color is bright silvery, but it soon becomes, when taken from the water, of a dull amber-
brown, with a slight brazen tint along the back and sides, though the belly remains white. The
upper jaw within is white; the palate is salmon-colored; the lower jaw and month below are also
white in their interior third; the posterior two-thirds, both within and without, are red, and the
mouth below; the tongue and fauces are of a similar color. 1 This fish occurs in Northern Brazil
and throughout the West Indies, and specimens are recorded from Jamaica, Trinidad, and the
Bahamas; it is found in the Bermudas and on our coast at least as far north as Charleston. Stearns
writes: "It is quite common on the Gulf coast of Florida from Pensacola to Key West. It is
caught with hook and line, and is eaten as a pan-fish. I took an extremely large specimen from
the snapper ground between Cedar Keys and Saint Mark's in fifteen fathoms of water. It is not
found in the vicinity of Pensacola." Holbrook writes: "The Red-mouthed Grunt is occasionally
taken in our waters at all seasons of the year, but is never abundant, as seldom more than a dozen
or two are met with in the market at one time. It is not highly esteemed for food, since its flesh
lacks both firmness and flavor."

Uhler and Lugger say that it occurs occasionally in the lower part of the Chesapeake Bay,
where it is not considered to possess great economical value. The occurrence of this species BO
far north needs confirmation.

THE PIG-FISH POMODASYS FULVOMACULATUS.

A species belonging to a closely related genus is the Hog-fish, or Grunt, of the Chesapeake,
called also "Pig-fish" or "Grunt" in the Gulf of Mexico, Pomodasy* fulvomaculatus, and known
in South Carolina as well as in Bermuda under the name of "Sailor's Choice." Its color is thus

'Description by Holbrook.



THE PIG-FISH OB GRUNT. 399

described by Dolbrook: "Body above, pale browii; belly, silvery; sides marked with uumeroua
orange-colored or yellow spots ; those above the lateral line disposed in irregular oblique Hues,
those below it in horizontal rows. Dorsal, anal, and caudal fins with similar spots; sides of the
head pale bluish with a silvery tint and marked with yellow spots ; lower jaw, orange at the
angle of the mouth ; internal surface of the gill membrane, bright orange." '

Mr. S. C. Clarke has communicated a full account of a species which is either identical or closely
related to this. " The common Pig-flsh or Grunt of the Indian River region : This fish, answer-
ing the same description, occurs at the mouth of Saint Johns River, and is probably the same."
Mr. Clarke states that in the Indian River region they spawn in April in deep salt-water rivers,
the spawn being very small and of a brown color. The young flsh are not abundant, nor are the
iidults very numerous, though the number has increased of late years. In 1872 and 1873, three or
four might be taken in a day, while in 1874 twenty or thirty were taken by one line on a tide. The
largest weight is one and a half pounds; the average flsh weighs three-quarters of a pound. The
1'if; nsh come from the sea into the salt-water rivers in December. Their appearance is regular,
though they vary in abundance from year to year. They swim low, and prefer to live in deep
water with shell bottom. They go out to sea soon after spawning in April ; they feed upon small
fish, crab, and shrimp. They are captured by hook, with mullet, clam, and shrimp bait; never
with nets. They are much prized for food ; the best of table fish, rich and delicate.

This species was first described by Mitchill from a specimen taken in the bay of New York.
The National Museum has many specimens from various parts of the Southern coast and the Gulf
of Mexico. " In New York," wrote DeKay in 1842, " this is a rare fish, but occasionally appearing,
as I am informed, in our harbor in considerable numbers. It is a very savory food." Professor
Baird did not find it on the coast of New Jersey in 1854. Uhler and Lugger state that it occurs
in the salt water of the lower part of the Chesapeake Bay, and is much esteemed for food.

A correspondent, at Hunger's Wharf, Virginia, writes: "In my estimation it is the finest flsh
that swims. It grows to the size of about one pound, and is now rather scarce. When 1 was a boy,
about forty years ago, they were very plentiful, and I have known three hundred pounds caught
at one haul of the seine. They have since gradually become scarcer, and a few years ago we rarely
caught one during the season. In 1879 and 1880 they are coming in plenty, especially in 1880, and
I believe that in a few years we will have them in plenty again. They come about the 1st of July
and remain until November."

At Beaufort, North Carolina, where it is also called " Hog-fish," according to Jordan, it is
extremely common everywhere in the harbor. Holbrook wrote about 1860 : " The ' Sailor's Choice '
makes its appearance in our waters about the month of April and continues with us until Novem-
ber, when the largest are taken. I have found in the stomach of this animal only the remains of
smaller fish, and yet it takes the hook readily when baited with shrimps and clams. It is found
along the coast from Georgia to Virginia, where it is called " Hog-fish," and is held in great
estimation by epicures."

"In the Gulf coast," writes Stearns, " it is common everywhere and throughout the year. It
lives in shallow water among the grass, feeding upon small and crustaceons animals. It spawns
in April and May and is a choice food-fish. The average length is about ten inches." Stearns
also refers to three species known respectively as the " White," "Yellow," and "Black" Grunt,
which are found at Key West and upon the neighboring reefs in great abundance. He states that



'The colors of the tishes of this group are thus minutely described in order to aid observers in discriminating
between the different kinds of these fish which so closely resetnble each other. In moat cases this has been thought
unnecessary, since the plates and the reference to Jordan's " Synopsis" are thought to be sufficient.



400 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

" they are taken with hook and line and are brought daily into the market. Before the poisoned
water visited that neighborhood the Grunt was the most important as well as the favorite food-
fish in the market, but since then they have been scarce, and other fish, to a great extent, have
taken their place."

CALIFORNIAN GRUNTS.

On the California coast occur two species of this family; one, known to tjhe fishermen by the
name " Sargo," Pristipoma Davidsoni, is found from San Pedro southward to Cerros Island, chiefly
about the islands, and is nowhere common. It feeds on crustaceans and is a good pan-fish, but is
too scarce to have much economic value. It reaches a length of about fifteen inches. Still another,
Xenistius californiensis Steindachner, occurs from San Diego to Cape San Lucas. It is too scarce
to be of any importance for food.



THE BLACK BASS FAMILY. 401



THE BLACK BASS FAMILY OENTRARCHID.E.

134. THE BIG-MOUTH BLACK BASS MICROPTERUS SALMOIDES, AND THE SMALL MOUTH

BLACK BASS M. DOLOMIEI.

Professor Gill's paper, in which he defines the differences between the two species of Black
Bass, was published in 1873 in the " Proceedings of the American Association for the Advance-
ment of Science"; but since this volume is not easily accessible, the most important differences are
mentioned here. In the Large-mouth the upper jaw extends far behind the eyes, iu the other to a
point below it. The Large-mouth has from sixty-five to seventy rows between the gill-opening and
the base of the tail, instead of seventy-two or more, while on the cheek there are about ten oblique
rows instead of seventeen. There are other distinctions, such as the absence in the Large-mouth
of scales on the bases of the dorsal and anal fins, the smaller number of rays in the pectoral fins
(there being thirteen or fourteen instead of sixteen or seventeen), and the lesser height of the
spinous dorsal. 1

Numerous as have been the zoological names, they are outnumbered by the popular names
still in use in different localities. Charlevoix, a Jesuit missionary who explored Canada in 1721,
mentions a fish called "Achigan," which is thought to have been the Large-mouth. An earlier
allusion to this species, which in the Southern States is still called "Trout," occurs in the
writings of Rene 1 de Laudonniere, who describes the incidents of the first Huguenot expedition to
Florida iu 1652, under the command of Jean Rlbault. The Large-mouth is known in the Great Lake
region, especially in Northern New York, as the "Oswego Bass." This name should not be con-
founded with "Otsego Bass," a local name for the common whitefish. In Kentucky it is called
"Jumper"; in Indiana, "Moss Bass"; in the Southern States, generally, "Trout," though on the
Tar River of North Carolina it is called "Chub," and on the Neuse "Welshman."

The Small-mouth shares with the Large mouth in the Southern States the names "Jumper,"
"Perch," and "Trout," and in Alabama, according to Professor Jordan, it is called the "Mountain
Trout"

Both species are very widely distributed over the Atlantic slope of the continent east of the
Rocky Mountains, and their range is probably much wider than is now supposed, for many of our
northern and western waters are unexplored. The Large-mouth and the Small-mouth dwell
together iu the Great Lakes, and in the upper parts of the Saint Lawrence and Mississippi basins.
The Small-mouth is found north to latitude 47 and west to Wisconsin, while southward it ranges
to latitude 33, where Professor Jordan found it in the headwaters of the Chattahoochee and
Ocmulgee Rivers, the latter being the only instance of its presence in a stream emptying east of
the Alleghanies into which it is not known to have been introduced by man. The Large-mouth
ranges farther to the west and north, occurring in the Red River of the North, perhaps as far as
Manitoba, in latitude 50. It abounds in all the rivers of the Southern States, from the James
to the Saint John, and in the lower reaches of the streams and bayous connected with the Gulf of
Mexico, around to Texas, in latitude 27.

1 For fuller information upon this and every other point connected with the species now under discussion the
reader is referred to Dr. J. A. Heushall's elaborate and exhaustive illustrated treatise, entitled "Book of the Black
Bass," published in 1881 by Bobert Clarke &. Co., of Cincinnati.
26 F



402 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

To the waters of New Englaud and the eastern part of the Middle States they are not native.
The Small-mouths found their way into the Hudson in 1825 or soon after, through the newly -opened
Erie Canal, and they have since been introduced by man into hundreds of eastern lakes and rivers.
Many circumstances suggest the idea that in early days, before the various drainage systems were
connected by canals, the distribution limits of the two species were much more sharply defined,
the Large-mouth inhabiting, perhaps, the upper part of the basin of the Great Lakes and Saint
Lawrence and the rivers of the southern seaboard, while the Small-mouth was found chiefly in the
northern part of the Mississippi basin. This theory can never be demonstrated, however, for the
early ichthyologists had not adopted the accurate methods of study now in use, and their descrip-
tions of the fish they saw are scarcely good enough to guess by. The mingling of the two forms
might have been accomplished in an incredibly short lime. A few young Bass will multiply so
rapidly as to stock a large lake in five years. The Potomac and its tributaries swarmed with them
ten years after their first introduction.

Gill states that the two forms of Micropterus were represented in waters of the cismontaue
slope of the United States, except those of the New England States and the Atlantic seaboard
of the Middle States. But one, the Small-mouth, appears to have been an original inhabitant
of the hydrographic basin of the Ohio River.

The Bass do not seem to depend closely on temperature. Having no opportunity of avoiding
the cold, they sink to the deepest part of their watery domain at the approach of winter, and if
the chill penetrates to their retreats their vitality is diminished, their blood flows more slowly,
they feel no need of food, and forthwith enter into a state of hybernation. Mr. Fred. Mather kept
one in his aquarium nearly all of one winter. It ate nothing, and seldom moved any member except
its eyes. In deep lakes, however, they can sink below the reach of surface chills, and here they
are sometimes caught with a hook through the ice. In the South their activity never ceases. Any
one who has seen Black Bass feeding must have been impressed with their immense power of
movement. They soon become -masters of the waters in which they are placed. Sunfish, perch,
trout, young salmon, and even the ravenous pickerel, are devoured. They feed at the surface on
moths, flies, and frogs; they turn over stones in search of crawfish and insect larvae. Rats and
snakes have been seen in their stomachs. A correspondent of "Forest and Stream" relates that
once, while fishing in the Chicago River, one of the small frogs used for bait escaped and perched
on a portion of an old wreck above the water. A Black Bass came along, and, lifting his head from
the water, picked off the frog, and descended to the depths below. The angler finds them at the
proper seasons equally eager for fly-hook, trolling-spoon, or still-bait, and always ready for a strug-
gle which puts his rod and line to a severe test. Their leaps are almost as -powerful as those of the
salmon. The negro fishermen of Florida often surround a body of Large-mouths with a seine, but
as the lines are hauled in and the arc grows smaller the dark forms of the "Trout" begin to appear,
springing over the cork line and returning, with a splash and a jet of spray, to liberty. I have
seen them rise five or six feet above the water. They are said to be taken best at night, or when
the river is high and the water muddy. Otherwise they leap over the seine. Expert seiners coil
their nets in such a manner as to prevent the escape of part of the school. The Small-mouths are
said, generally, to prefer deep or swift, cool waters, while the Large-mouths live in muddy, black
pools, or in the shelter of old stumps and ledges. In Florida they lurk among the lily -pads and
aquatic plants in shallow, dark streams, where they feed on a grub called the "bonnet- worm,"
which burrows in the flower-buds of the "bonnets" or yellow water-lilies (Nuphar advena).

The spawning season occurs on the approach of warm weather. Its date does not vary much
with latitude. In Florida, in Virginia, and in Wisconsin they build their nests in May and June.



SPAWN I NT, OF TELE BLACK BASSES. 403

Tin- oldest fish, we are told, sometimes anticipate the ordinary season, while many late spawners
are occupied with family cares until the last of July, and some young fish are not ready until
October and November. 1 After the spawning is over the Bass are "in season." They take the
hook eagerly from July till November. In the winter they are lank and black, though in season
till the ice comes.

Concerning their .spawning habits, Mr. Hallock, of the Blooming Grove Association, wrote in
1875: -'Four years ago one hundred and thirteen Black Bass from Lake Erie were placed in
Lake (Jiles, and their progeny has increased so fast as to insure good sport to the angler at
any time. The late spawners are now (early July) in their gravel beds, in the shallow waters
along shore, protecting either their spawn or their newly-hatched fry, as the case may be.
It is interesting to note the pertinacity with which they guard their precious charges, and the
vigor with which they drive away depredators and intruders of all kinds. They will frequently
allow a boat to pass over them, scarcely six inches above their backs, and obstinately keep their
ground. Suntish and such are impelled to keep their distance. There are hundreds of these
bowl-shaped excavations, eighteen inches or so in diameter, all along the sandy shallow shores of
this lake, which is very clear, and in the center some seventy feet deep, fed by bottom springs."*

The eggs are much smaller than those of a trout, and, being heavier than the water, rest on
the bottom within the limits of the nest. The only estimate of their number with which I am
familiar is that made by Mr. E. L. Sturtevant, who found about seventeen thousand in a Large-
mouth weighing two and one-half pounds. The rate of growth is easily determined by experience
in artificial ponds. In Granby. Connecticut, four-pound fish were taken in 1874, the progeny of
two hundred and fifty fish placed in the pond in 1868. The eggs require two or three weeks to
hatch. The parents watch them. In September the young are about two inches long; when well
fed they grow to four inches the first season. At two years of age they weigh about a pound, few
caught in the North weighing more than four pounds. Leaving the egg in June, they grow to two or
three inches before cold weather begins trim, sprightly little darters, with black bands across the
bases of their tails. Another twelvemonth finds them in the garb of maturity, eight or nine inches
long, and with their organs swelling in preparation for the act of spawning, which they are said to
undertake at the age of two years, and when less than a foot long. The ordinary size of the adult
fish is two and one-half to three pounds, though they are sometimes taken in the North weighing
six or seven pounds. In Florida the Large-mouths grow larger. A seven or eight pounder is not
unusual in the Saint John's; and I was told that in March, 1875, a fish weighing nineteen and one-
half pounds was caught in the lake at Gainesville, Florida.

Fish-culturists have made many efforts to hatch the eggs of the Black Bass, and have never
succeeded. One reason for their failure, perhaps, lies in the fact that while in the shad and
salmon the eggs fall from the ovaries into an abdominal cavity, whence they are easily expressed,
in the Bass and other spiny-rayed fishes they are retained until the parent fish are ready to deposit
them. This failure is the less to be regretted since the young Bass may easily be transported
from place to place in barrels of cool water, and, when once introduced, they soon multiply, if
protected, to any desired number.

Black Bass are very tenacious of life. The " Germantown Telegraph" mentions some taken at

1 Mr. Small records the capture of Black Bass containing milt and spawn in November, in the Potomac (Forest
and Stream, iii, p. 212). "Sculls," in the same paper, October 30, states that there are in the Sclmylkill Bass with
unripe spawn ; others in July. "R. M. T." speaks of having seen a Bass of half a pound guarding a nest July 10, in
the Housatonic (Forest and Stream, iii, p. 292).
'Forest and Stream, iv, 357.



40 i NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

10 o'clock a. m., sold and wrapped in paper, left in a warm room till 5 p. m., when they were
found to be alive and well. 1

The first experiment in their transportation seems to have been that mentioned by A. M. Val-
entine, who states that a pond near Janesville, Wisconsin, was stocked with Black Bass about 18A7. 2
In 1850, Mr. S. T. Tisdale carried twenty-seven Large-mouths from Saratoga Lake, New York, to
Flax Pond, in Agawam, Massachusetts. The manner in which the Potomac was stocked with
Small-mouths is also well known. It was in 1853, soon after the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
was finished, that General W. W. Shriver, of Wheeling, carried a number of young fish from the
Ohio to Cumberland, Maryland, in the water tank of a locomotive engine. These he placed in
the basin of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, whence they soon penetrated to all parts of the
Potomac Basin, and as far down the river as Mount Vernon. 3 The custom of stocking streams
soon became popular, and through private enterprise and the labors of State fish commissioners
nearly every available body of water in New England and the Middle States has been filled with
these fish. This movement has not met with universal approval, for by the ill advised enthusiasm
of some of its advocates a number of trout streams have been destroyed, and complaints are
heard that the fisheries of certain rivers have been injured by them. The results have been on the
whole very beneficial. The Bass never will become the food of the millions. The New York
market receives probably less than ten thousand pounds of them annually, and they are nowhere
very numerous. Yet hundreds of bodies of waste water are now stocked with them in sufficient
numbers to afford pleasant sport and considerable quantities of excellent food.

135. THE SUN-FISHES AND THEIR ALLIES.

By DAVID S. JORDAN.
THE ROOK BASS AMBLOPLITES BUPESTEIS Gill.

This species is known by the names of " Rock Bass," " Goggle-eye," and "Red-eye." All these
names are in general use; the first most common in the Lake region, the last farther south. It is
everywhere abundant in lakes, ponds, and larger streams throughout the Great Lake region and
the Mississippi Valley. It prefers clear waters, and is not often found in muddy bayous. It is a
hardy and gamy fish, and takes the hook readily. It is a good pan-fish, but not large, its weight
seldom exceeding one and a half pounds. Like other "Sun-fishes," it spawns in early summer.

1 Forest and Stream, i, p. 410.

9 Forest and Stream, ii, p. 341.

'THE BLACK BASS OF THE POTOMAC. The Cumberland Daily News claims for Mr. W. W. Shriver, of Wheeling,
West Virginia, the credit of originating and executing the plan of transferring the Black Bass, now so abundant in
our waters, from the Ohio to the Potomac. The Daily News is no doubt correct. The performance was one to be



Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 69 of 146)