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and finding them afterward for a time thin and weak. He thinks their spawning ground is on
the white sandy bottom to the eastward of Martha's Vineyard, toward Muskeeget. While not
discrediting the statement of Mr. Pease, it seems a little remarkable that so few persons on the
eastern coast have noticed the spawning in summer of the Bluefish ; and, although there may be
exceptions to the fact, it is not impossible that the spawning ground is in very early spring, or
even in winter, off New Jersey and Long Island or farther south. It is not impossible that, at a

tbe meadows two feet deep, so that one can take u common fork nnd pitch them into a boat or throw them on the
bank. In some places they lie in windrows on the meadows where the tide has taken them, so they take large wood-
scows alongside and load them."

1857. "BliietUh were very plenty off our shores in the early part of autumn. They are great enemies to the
menhaden ; and for several days such a war raged that, the benches were strewn with dead tish, chiefly of the latter
species. Mr. Lewis, the historian, said that in two tides he picked up nine bushels and buried them in his garden for
manure. LKWIS AND NKWIIALL, p. 452. History of Lynn.,



MOVEMENTS OF YOUNG BLUEFISH. 441

suitable period after spawning, the young, in obedience to their migratory instinct, may move
northward along the coast, -rowing rapidly us they proceed. This explains the almost sudden
appearance of fish of five inches about Wood's Holl.

We have the statement of Dr. Yarrow that vast schools of small Blueiish were met with in
Beaufort Harbor during the last week iu December, 1871. These were in company with small
schools of young menhaden and yellow-tail shad, and were apparently working their way toward
the sea by the route ot the inlet. When observed, they were coining from the southward through
the sound, moving very slowly, at times nearly leaving it, and then returning. The largest were
about four inches in length, and others were much smaller; and as many as twenty schools were
observed from the wharf at Fort Macon, each of them occupying an area of from sixty to eighty
feet square, and apparently from four to six feet iu depth. I would not be much surprised if these
fish should prove to have been spawned late in the year oft the southern coast."

Diligent research by numerous inquirers during a period of ten years has failed to add any-
thing of importance to what Professor Baird has already stated in the paragraph above quoted,
and it may be regarded as almost certain that Blueflsh do not spawn in our inshore waters. The
only important contribution to our knowledge on this subject is found iu the notes of Mr. Silas
Stearns, who believes that he has abundant evidence of their spawning iu the Gulf of Mexico.
His remarks are quoted in full below. The Hon. Kobert B. Roosevelt records that ho observed
the bluetish fry less than an inch iu length in the inlet of Far Rockaway, New York, on the 10th
of July.

SIZE. "The size varies considerably with season and locality, those spending the summer
on the southern coast, according to good authority, rarely exceeding two or three pounds in
weight, and being generally considerably less. The largest summer specimens are those found
farther to the eastward, where they are not uufrequeutly met with weighing from ten to fifteen
pounds, although this latter weight is quite unusual. Mr. Snow, however (page 44), mentions
having seen one of twenty-two pounds, and others give as their maximum from fourteen to
twenty. The average size of the schools in Vineyard Sound, during the early season, is from five
to seven pounds. The schools, however, that make their appearance in October embrace many
individuals of from ten to fifteen pounds. It is, therefore, not improbable that the difference
between the first-mentioned average and the last represents the increase by their summer feediug.
As already remarked, Bluefish in the last century sometimes attained a weight of forty or fifty
pounds in Vineyard Sound; according to Zaccheus May, thirty of them would fill a barrel."

"Forest and Stream," June 25, 1874, states that L. Ilathaway, esq., a veteran fisherman, while
fishing from the bridge at Cohasset Narrows, Massachusetts, with rod and reel, captured a Blue-
fish weighing twenty-five pounds. The largest previously caught weighed seventeen pounds.

"On getting bak to the Carolina coast in the early part of November, according to Dr. Yar-
row's statement, they are from three to five feet in length and weigh from ten to twenty pounds.
What becomes of these large fish, that so lew of them are seen iu the early spring, it is impossible
to say. If it be really true that they are much scarcer than in the fall, we may infer that their
increased size makes them a more ready prey to the larger fish and cetaceans, or that they have
accomplished their ordinary period of life; possibly that they have broken up into smaller parties,
less conspicuous to observation, or that they have materially changed their locality. The average
length of the fish that appear in the spring off the coast of Virginia and the southern part of New
Jersey, according to Dr. (Joues, Dr. Yarrow, and my own observations, is about one foot, being
probably about one year old. As a general rule, those of the smaller size keep close to the shore
and can always be met with, while the larger ones go iu schools and remain farther outside.



442 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

"I was unable to obtain any very young fish about Wood's Holl in 1871, the smallest found
making their appearance quite suddenly along the coast, especially in the Tittle bays, about the
middle of August, and then measuring about five by one and one-fifth inches. By the end of
September, however, these had reached a length of seven or eight iuches, and at the age of about
a year they probably constitute the twelve or fourteen inch fish referred to as occurring aloug the
southern coast. The fish of the third year, or those two years old, are possibly the three-pouud
fish, while the five to seven pound fish may be considered a year older still. Accurate observa-
tions are wanting, however, to determine these facts; as also whether they require two years, or
three or more, to attain sufficient maturity for breeding. As far as I know, there is no appreciable
diflerence between the sexes in their rate of growth or weight, excepting that the female is likely
to be a little deeper in the body."

A Bluefish weighing one pound measures about fourteen inches; two pounds, seventeen
inches; three pounds, twenty -one iuches; four pounds, twenty-four inches; five pounds, twenty-
six inches; six pounds, twenty-six to twenty-seven iuches, and eight pounds, twenty-nine iuches.

STEARNS ON BLUEFISH IN THE GULF OF MEXICO. Mr. Stearns' notes on the occurrence
of the Bluefish in the Gulf of Mexico are so important that they are quoted here in full:

"The Bluefish is abundant in West Florida and as far west as the Mississippi River, but is
rare or not found at all in other parts of the Gulf. At Pensacola and vicinity it is at certain
seasons one of the most important fishes of trade. Here it is caught only in seines and when
migrating, during the mouths of April, May, June, November, and December. It usually appears
ou the coast in April sometimes a little sooner and conies from the southeast, swimming directly
in from deep water, or parallel to the land, according to the condition of the sea. It sometimes
swims near the surface, either to sport or prey upon smaller surface-swimming fishes, but more
commonly at some depth in shoal water along the beach. Many schools are observed through the
months of April, May, and June approaching the laud from the eastward, and it is supposed that
there are several distinct 'runs' in that period. These 'runs' take place every year, although
much larger some years than others. It is usually the case that the fish arriving in the spring are
small, averaging two and a half pounds weight, and that those caught in the fall are larger, aver-
aging four pounds or more. A few very large individuals are found in both seasons.

"In May and June Bluefish enter the bays. They remain for some days in the swift tide-
ways when inside, and then disappear almost entirely from observation. A few are taken through
the summer with hook and line in the bays and at sea. Excepting the smallest ones, all the
Bluefish contain spawn when they arrive in the spring. With the larger fish the spawn is nearly
ripe, and with the small and intermediate size is found in nearly all stages. April 29, 1879, 1
examined two female Bluefish, weighing seven and eight pounds, and found spawn almost ripe
enough to flow from the oviduct. The same day others, smaller ones, were examined, in which
the ovaries were scarcely visible. The spawning season of the Bluefish includes several months,
I think, which are May, June, July, and August.

"There can be no doubt of its spawning iu the bays, sounds, and bayous, as all evidence
gained goes so far to prove it. On June 18, 1878, and August 9, 1878, 1 caught young Bluefish of
about three-quarters of an inch iu length in Pensacola Bay. These fry were very active and gave
me no little trouble in capturing them. Their color was a brilliant green, which faded consider-
ably when placed in alcohol. These, with others, were sent to the National Museum with my
collections of that year. Many other specimens of about that size were seen in August, but
escaped my net. During the months of November and December many small schools of Bluefisb
are seeu to pass out of the inlets, and, if there is not much surf, to follow along the beach eastward.



BLUEFISH IN THE GULF OF MEXICO. 443

Blnclisli of all sizes may be seen at this time, the smaller ones measuring in length three to five
inches, the intermediate si/cs ten, twelve, :mcl nfteen inches, and the large ones from the last-men-
tioned size to a size weighing fifteen or eighteen pounds. Ton pounds is not an unusual weight
for large Blueftsb, but those of eighteen pounds are rare. Blueflsh are said to be more abundant
on this coast than formerly, anil any change in the last five years has tended to an increase rather
than a decrease. It is an exceedingly voracious fish, preying upon any kind of fish through which
its teeth can cut and which its jaws can surround. I think its migratory movement on this const
is caused more on account of its food becoming scarcer in cold weather than on account of its
being influenced by the change of the temperature of the water, for on the coldest days of the year
(in December) Bluetisli are sometimes caught in shoal water in great abundance as well as at any
other time. The Bluefish is one of the choicest food-fishes of this coast, and is much used, both
fresh and salted."

!: \ i: 1.1. ON THE BLUEFISH IN NORTH CAROLINA. Below is given an outline of the winter
Bhielish fisheries of the Southern coast as gathered from notes made during the visit of Mr. 11. E.
Earll to that region :

The large fish are taken in two localities first, a few miles off Cape May, and again on the
Carolina coast between Cape Henry and Ocracoke Inlet. They are most abundant between Cape
Hatteras and New Inlet. Small fish frequently enter the sounds during the summer months, and
have long been taken by the residents. The larger ones seldom enter the inlets, but remain near
the outer shore, where they feed upon the menhaden, shad, and alewives, during the season of their
migrations to and from the larger sounds in fall and spring.

Apparently, the first that was known of the presence of large Bluefish in this region was in
18413, when a quantity was taken in a haul-seine near New Inlet. Gill-nets were first used for the
capture of the species in this locality in 1847, though they were not generally adopted till several
years later. The first vessel visited the region in 1866, and from that date to 1879 six to twelve
sail came regularly to the locality. The fishery reached its height between 1870 and 1876, when in
addition to the vessels fully one hundred crews of five men each fished along the shores. The
catch varies greatly from time to time, as the fish are constantly on the move and often go beyond
reach of the seines and gill-nets. Some seasons each boat's crew has averaged four or five thou-
sand fish weighing ten to fifteen pounds each, and again they have taken almost nothing. Fre-
quently the bulk of the catch of an entire season is taken in three or four days.

Since the winter of 1877 and 1878 the fish are said to have been much less abundant and of
smaller size. In the winter of 1879 and 1880 about seventy-five crews were engaged in the fishery
from the first of November till Christmas. The total catch did not exceed fifty thousand fish
averaging six pounds each. The small number taken is partially accounted for by the fact that
many of the fish were so small as to readily pass through the meshes without being caught.

During my visit in May, 1880, large schools of Bluefish were reported along the shore, and a
considerable number of shad and other species were found upon the beach where they had been
driven by their pursuers. A good many Bluefish were also stranded while in pursuit of their prey.
It seemed that there is no reason to believe that the fish have permanently left the coast, or that
they are even so scarce as is at present claimed, for the men have fished with little regularity, and
have gone only a short distance from the shore, while the bulk of the Bluefish may have been
farther out.

USES. This is one of the most important of our food-fishes, and surpassed in public estima-
tion only by the Spanish mackerel and the pompauo. It may be said to furnish a large part of
the supply to the middle and Northern States. It is a standard fish in New York, Boston, and



444 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

other seaports, and is carried in great numbers into the interior. Its flesh is very sweet and
savory, but it does not keep very well. lu the Vineyard Sound the fishermen are in the habit of
crimping their fish, or killing them, by cutting their throats in such a manner that they bleed
freely. Every one who has opportunities for observing admits that fish thus treated are far supe-
rior to any others. Great quantities of Bluefish are frozen in New York for winter consumption.
They aie still considered unfit for food on our Southern coast, and even in the markets of Washing-
ton, District of Columbia. I have frequently been stopped by fish-dealers who asked me to assure
their customers that Bluefish were eatable. They are growing into favor everywhere, however,
just as they did in Boston. Captain Atwood tells me that in 18C5 but very few were sold in Boston,
and that the demand has been increasing ever since. When he first went to Boston with a load
of Bluefish he got two cents a pound for them ; the second year they were scarcer and he got two
and one-half cents, and the year afterwards three cents.

147. THE COBIA OR CRAB-EATER ELACATE CANADA.

This fish, known in the Chesapeake Bay as the "Bonito"and "Coal-fish," and as the "Sergeant-
fish" in Southern and Eastern Florida, and in Western Florida as the "Ling" or "Snooks," is con-
sidered one of the most important food-fishes of Maryland and Virginia, though it is but little
known elsewhere. Like the Bluefish, it is cosmopolitan in its distribution, having been recorded in
the seas of China and Japan, in Southeastern Hiudostan, in the Malay Archipelago, on the coast
of Brazil, in the West Indies and the Bermudas, where it is called the " Cubby-yew," and along
our own shores from the Gulf of Mexico to Cape Cod. DeKay speaks of the capture of a single
individual in Boston Harbor. The species was originally described by Linnaius from a specimen
sent to him from South Carolina by Dr. Garden. The name " Sergeant-fish" refers to its peculiar
coloration, several stripes of brown and gray being visible on the sides of the body. The name
" Crab-eater" appears to have been ascribed to the fish by Dr. Mitchill. What is known of its habits
may be very shortly told. Holbrook remarks : " The Crab-eater is a solitary fish ; it prefers deep
and clear water and is only taken singly with a hook. It lives on the coast of Carolina late in
May, and is occasionally captured until September, when it is no longer seen in our waters. It is
exceedingly voracious, and destroys many smaller fish, which make its ordinary food, though it
does not reject crustaceous animals."

Mitchill cut up a specimen which he obtained in New York market in June, 1815, which had
been caught in the bay. He found its stomach distended with food of various sorts, including
twenty spotted sand-crabs and several young flounders. DeKay tells us that the specimen from
which his description was taken was captured in a seine in the harbor of Boston and placed in a
car with other fish. It was soon discovered that he had destroyed and eaten every fish in the
car. These fish were chiefly sculpins or porgies. Mr. S. C. Clarke, speaking of the fish fauna of
Florida, remarks : " This fish I have never seen except in the Indian River, where it is a common
species, lying under the mangrove bushes in wait for prey like a pike, which it much resembles iu
form and iu the long under jaw full of sharp teeth." The size is from two to three feet. It attains
the length of five feet and the weight of fifteen or twenty pounds. Stearns writes : " It is said by
Maj. E. B. Staples, of Sarasota, to be quite common iu South Florida."

The Cobia breeds in the Chesapeake Bay, where in 1880 Mr. R. E. Earll succeeded in artificially
fertilizing the eggs. Dr. Mitchill speaks of its availability as a food fish in the highest terms.

148. THE TRIPLE TAIL OR BLACK PERCH LOBOTES SURINAMENSIS.

The Triple-tail of the New York market, Lvbotex surinamensis, known iu South Carolina as
the "Black Perch," and to the fishermen of Saint John's River as the "Grouper," is also called



TUT. TKUM.I-: TAIL oi: m.ACK I'F.LTII. 445

b\ various authors tin- I'.lack Ti iple tail." :iinl in lS.-><;, according to Gill, was called in New York
market the Flasher." It is remarkable on aeconnt of its extraordinarily \\iile range, having been
found in China, the Malay Archipelago, at Smula :ind Molucca, in the Bay of Bengal, and in the
Mediterranean about Sicily; at Ceylon, in the West Indies about Cuba and Jamaica, on the coast of
South America, from Surinam, whence the first specimen was derived and from which locality the
species takes its scientific name, and along the coast of the United States from Saint John's Hiver
to Wood's I loll. Massachusetts. The Triple- tail is a short, thick, heavily built fish. Thedorsnl and
aiii'l tins project backwards towards the base of the caudal HO prominently as to give origin to the
common name. When alive it is a very beautiful species, silvery and gray in color, but after death
it soon becomes dingy so dingy, in fact, that many of the common names are prefixed by the
adjective -black." I saw four specimens at Jacksonville, Florida, on the 5th of April, 1875. The
largest weighed about ten pounds and measured nearly two feet in length. The species is abundant
about Charleston, where, according to Uolbrook, it appears in June and remains until September.
It feeds upon small fishes and mussels, and is said to take the hook readily when baited with clams
or with shrimps. It is occasionally taken in the lower part of the Chesapeake Bay, and Professor
Baird obtained specimens about three inches long in August among the eel-grass on Tuckahoe
Kiver in New Jersey. Stragglers have been taken at New York, and even as far north as Wood's
Holl, Massachusetts. They are occasionally brought to the New York market, where they are
highly esteemed. (Jill, writing in 1856, said: "I saw a single specimen of this species in Fulton
Market last year, which remained exposed on the stall from August 30 to September 6. It did
not seem to be known. It was about fifteen inches in length, and one dollar was demanded for it."
By the fishermen of Saint John's River, Florida, it is considered one of the finest food-fishes, and ito
large silver scales command a high price at the fancy shops, where they are sold to be used in the
manufacture of scale works.

149. THE MOON-FISH CKETODIPTEBUS FABER.

The Moon-fish is one of the rarer species on our coast, and has recently come so much into
favor in New York that among connoisseurs it is one of the most highly esteemed food-fishes. It
is also highly esteemed by residents of Washington who know it, being abundant in the markets
of that city in summer. In the northern parts of the Gulf of Mexico it is called the "Spade-fish";
from Florida to Charleston the " Angel-fish," a name which, according to Schoepf, appears to
have been current during the last century at Beaufort, North Carolina, where it is called the
"Porgee" or "Pogy," and at New York, where it is stated to be found in summer. "Three-tail
Sheepshead" and "Three-tail Porgee" are names which are said to have been formerly in use
among the New York fishermen.

The range of this species along our coast is very wide. It has been found in Guatemala, and
perhaps farther south, and the British Museum has specimens from Texas, Santo Domingo, and
Jamaica. It is said to be somewhat abundant on the coast of South Carolina, and not uncommon
at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. They are occasionally taken about New York, and several
individuals have been obtained by the Fish Commission at Woods' Holl. It is occasionally taken
in Southern California, abont San Diego. It attains the length of eighteen inches and the weight
of several pounds. The large adult specimens have a peculiar globular bone in the head, unlike
anything which has been found in any other fish. Two species have been recognized by American
ichthyologists. It seems probable that these represent different ages of the same fish. The only
study of its habits in existence is the following, which is quoted from Mr. Stearns' manuscript:

" The Spade-fish, Chtetodipterus fabcr, is common on the West Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana



446 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

coasts. I have not observed it in South Florida. It is found throughout the summer and fall in
the bays, about wharves, rock-piles, and old wrecks, where crustaceous animals are abundant. In
October and November large schools are seen along the sea-beaches, evidently leaving the coast
for warmer waters, at which time many are caught by seine fishermen. It spawns in early summer,
and the young are seen until October. I have seen specimens of Spade-fish fifteen inches long ;
but the average size is not more than eight inches. It is an excellent pan-fish, selling readily in
market."

This species is known to the fishermen of the Saint John's and Indian Rivers, Florida, under
the name "Angel-fish." Holbrook states that it appears on the shores of South Carolina in May
and June, and is then taken in considerable numbers with the seine. Jordan states that it is
common at Beaufort, North Carolina, where it is used as a food-fish. Lugger remarks that it is
not uncommon in the salt-water region near the entrance to Chesapeake Bay, but is seldom, if
ever, brought to the Baltimore markets. DeKay remarks that in the waters of New York it only
appears periodically, and occasionally in great numbers during the summer months. About 1822
they were caught here in seines in great numbers, and exposed in the markets for sale. I am not
aware that any such incursion has since been observed. On the coast of California, where,
according to Jordan, it is occasionally taken about San Diego in the kelp, it is too rare to be of
commercial importance.

150. THE EEMOEA FAMILY ECHENEIDID2E.

This family is represented on our coast by five species, which are generally known as "Suck-
ers" or " Sucking-fishes." They are among the most remarkable of fishes, the first dorsal fin having
.become transformed into a sucking organ, by means of which the fish can attach themselves very
firmly to the sides of vessels or to the gill-covers or sides of larger species of fish. One or two of
the species, such as the E. naucrates, are frequently found adhering to the sides of vessels. Others
attach themselves to sharks, and are carried by them from place to place. Since they are them-
selves excellent swimmers, the purpose of this peculiar habit is hard to understand. It appears to
be more for the purpose of following the larger fishes in order that they may share the fragments
of their feasts. Very often, especially in the case of sharks, the fish to which the Suckers attach



Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 76 of 146)