G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

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

. (page 87 of 146)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

and a half. Thirty-three hundred of that average were taken out of thirty gill nets at one lift.
The largest specimen ever taken here weighed fourteen pounds dressed. At Grand Haven, on
the east shore of Lake Michigan, White-fish average about two pounds. Higher up on the east
shore they are again larger, and average about ten pounds each in weight.

Lake Erie contains White-fish weighing as much as fourteen pounds. In the vicinity of Maumee
they are larger than at any other point on (he lake. In 187C a seventeen-pound fish was taken
at Vermillion, Lake Erie; and in 1879 one weighing sixteen pounds was captured. They are often
taken weighing ten and twelve pounds. Farther east the average size becomes smaller, the sea-
son's average weight for White-fish at Ashtabula, Ohio, being not more than two pounds and a
half. Farther to the east they are smaller still, and in the Detroit River they do not exceed a
pound and thre; -quarters average weight.

In Lake Ontario White-fish average two and a half pounds for those taken in gill-nets, while
those taken in seines will not exceed two pounds.

In order to ascertain the rate of the growth of the White-fish, Mr. George Clark tried an
experiment to which lie called the attention of the Detroit fishermen in the following words:

"ATTENTION, FlSHEKMEN."

"The 14th of May last I marked a number of White-fish with brass tags and put them into
the Detroit River. The tags were a piece of brass about the size of a ten cent piece, and a ring
about the same size, and a similar ring linking these two together. The largest ring I put in the
small fin on the back of the fish near the tail, each fish weighing about a pound and a half, the
object being to ascertain the growth of the fish.

"Fishermen, one and all, if you catch any of these fish, will yon please state when and where
caught, weigh and measure length, and send them with the tags to Crowel & Co., S. John and
Buck, of Toledo; the Paxtons, of Monroe; James Craig, A. M. Campau, C. Hnrlburt and J. P.
Clark, of Detroit; B. Reaume, of Springwells; George Clark, of Ecorse; Mr. Reaume, of Grosse Isle.

"I hope the fishermen on the Canadian shore will take an interest in this matter, and, it' they
catch any of these fish will please send them with the abovesaid specifications to the aforesaid
panics, or to Davis & Co., and Merrill, fish dealer, in Detroit, or George Clark & Co.'s fish house,
Detroit.

"If the fish cannot be sent, please send the exact weight and length of the fish, with the tag,
by mail, to any of the above parties.

"GEORGE CLARK.
"EcoKSE, October 9, 1872."

Mr. Clark never heard anything from these iriarked fishes.



<;I;O\\TII OF I.AKI: \\IHTKFISH. 509

On tin- same {Miint Mi. ri.irU. wiiting to I'liile-sor Baird in March, isT'J. sa\s: "In June,
1S(!S, I made a sweep with a seine, eighteen miles from the outlet of Lake Huron, on the shore of
tin- Like, mill caught ai oiii- S\MT|> lisli I'rniii three or four inches to twenty indies in length. Some
of the largest lish weighed fifteen |iiiiuiils. 1 concluded that they would increase in weight from
tlnvr fourths of a pound to a poiinil each year, which would require ten or fifteen years for the,
(ih to get its growth. ... lie [speaking of Mr. Wilmot of the Wilmot Fishery Company nt
Newcastle. Ontario. Canada) has gome White-fish two and a half years old last November, from
some eggs which he procured here. The largest would weigh one and a half pounds. From this
we judge the lish will gain in weight from one half to three-quarters of n pound each year."

MIGRATIONS. Relative to the movements of the White-fish in Lake Superior, Mr. George
liarnston is of the opinion that the young and immature White-fish confine their range entirely to
shallow waters near the shore. The pound nets, set in twenty to forty-five feet of water, catch
great numbers of s small fish seven or eight inches long and weighing only a few ounces. The
gill nets, usually employed in water not less than seventy to ninety feet deep, capture very few
of these small White-fish. In a tour of Lake Michigan not one case of such small fish being
captured in a gill-net scarcely any under one pound occurred. Again, a pound-net set on a
thirty-six-foot shoal, six miles from land, at Bay de Noquet, contained only Xos. 1 and 2 fish. It
might be urged that the small fish escape through the meshes of the gill-net ; yet it is more than
likely that occasional ones, entangled about the body and fins, would be taken, it being conceded
that the head of the White-fish is to a slight extent better guarded against entanglement in the
mesh than that of its congeners, the Lake Herring and the Cisco. Again, it is a significant fact
that no young White-fish are found in the stomachs of the Lake Trout. The range of the Trout in
siunmer is in deep water, and, if the young White-fish were there also, the Trout would surely feed
on them. The conclusion of Mr. George Barnston, then, is that White fish do not migrate at all
into deep water until they have attained a weight of one and one-fourth pounds. He also corrobo-
rates Major Long's statement, that White-fish ascend Michipicoten River, Lake Superior, to spawn ;
" but," he says, "they cannot and do not run up far, for very high falls and long sweeps of raging
rapids obstruct their course in both the main river and its tributary, not far from the Great Lake.
Haifa mile above the station I have assisted in seining White-fish at the spawning season, and
succeeded occasionally in making a good haul. These fish must have come from the bay or lake,
for they could never have descended the falls in safety, and the native fishermen (in all such cases
good judges) consider them lake fish."

The line of migration followed by this fish in Lake Michigan is unerring and stire, and it is
more apparent at the south end of Lake Michigan than at any other point on the lake ; in the spring
they always couie down the east shore, and in the fall the west shore. About Point au Sable the
runs begin in Juno and finish l>y the end of July, commencing again in September and continuing
more or less throughout the winter.

During the last six years the White-fish are supposed to have changed their route of migration
in the vicinity of Vermillion, Lake Erie. The spring run here comes in May and the fall run in
October. The runs of the White-fish by no means occur simultaneously at all fishing points on
Lake Erie, for the fishermen, at different points, are fishing for them as soon as the ice disappears in
the spring, and continue until the ice comes again. The height of the inns may generally IK; con-
sidered as occurring during May and the fore part of June. Thence on until the end of July iuay
be called the slack time, after which the fishing again becomes good, and continues to be so until
the end of September.

In the spring the fish work from the west end of the lake and hunt for a certain depth of



510 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

water, remaining at their chosen spot until August, when they strike shorewards. Off Erie, Lake
Erie, the water is shallow, and the fishermen are obliged to go out six to fifteen miles for White-
fish ; but off Dunkirk and Barcelona the water is deeper, and consequently shorter trips from land
will suffice for fishing. This tends to show that White-fish are lovers of deep water.

In Lake Ontario, about Port Ontario, it is probable that the White fish migrate from the Cana-
dian shore to the American shore regularly. In 1870 they were more plentiful on the American
shore ; ten years before that, again, the reverse was the case. In 1880, following the rule, they have
been scarce on the American shore, but will probably in a few years migrate again to this side of the
lake. At Kingston Harbor they occur regularly. They have been known to run twenty miles up
the river at this point; this is, however, unusual. Sometimes all the "Gray Backs" are found on
the Canadian shore just before the regular spring run of the White-fish comes on. They are
nowhere abundant on the American shore.

Mr. Peter Kiel, fishery overseer, Lake Ontario, says that White-fish are caught in early spring
at a considerable distance from the shore in about two hundred feet of water, but about the 1st of
June they approach the shore, and are then caught in great numbers on their favorite feeding
grounds, a sort of honey-combed rock, in about thirty feet of water. About the 1st of August they
retreat hastily toward the deeper and cooler portions of the lake, where they are found in their best
condition. About the middle of October they again swim shoreward for the purpose of spawning,
arriving at the proper locality from the middle of November to the 1st of December, depending
upon the severity or mildness of the season, for they do not deposit their spawn until the water
has attained a temperature of about 40 P. After spawning they again retire to the deep water,
remaining there until the next spring.

Mr. Milner has contributed the following facts regarding the movements of the White-fish in the
Great Lakes. From his observations it will appear Ihat the migration shoreward is dependent
upon the locality; depth of water, temperature, etc., are points which must be taken into
consideration. Thus, in Lake Michigan, the summer migration into shoal water seems to be almost
universal, while in Lake Erie, where the temperature is high in summer, the shoreward summer
migration is unknown.

"The assertion was sometimes made among the fishermen that the scarcity of White-fish at
any one locality was no reliable indication that the number had decreased, but that the schools
had probably migrated to some other region.

"At Waukegan, Illinois, the White-fish come into shallow water in the greatest abundance in
the months of June and July. The same habit is observed in various localities on the lakes,
though by no means at all points. Several points on the shores of Lake Michigan, in the south
half of the lake, the vicinity of the Apostle Islands, Lake Superior, and at the Thunder Bay
Islands of Lake Huron, may be referred to as localities where the July migration occurs. George
Keith, esq., a factor of the Hudson Bay Company at Michipicoten, in 1840, affords Sir John
Richardson the same information upon the habits of a species of the Coregonus It was for a long
time a difficult matter to discover the reason for this summer run on the shore, if indeed it has
been correctly accounted for. The contents of the stomach were found to be the same as at other
seasons of the year. It was not probable that the White-fish was an exception to all its congeners
of the salmonoid family, and preferred the warmer temperature of shallow water to the colder
waters outside. Besides, the schools of White-fish were always found to leave a region where wide
areas of shoal water existed as the heat of summer advanced. The theory adopted to account for
this summer visit to the shore was that the calm, quiet weather of the summer months, from the
slight disturbance of the surface, prevented the amount of aeration to the water that occurred at



MIGRATION OF Till! \VI1ITF. FISH. 5H

other seasons of the year, and the lisli sought the shorn when- the splashing on the beach and
sand-bars supplied tin- water \vi:!i the requisite uinouut of air, just as other species of this family
of fishes delight in rapids anil falls, because the breaking up of the masses of water supplies it
with a laii:e amount of respiratory gases.

"In waters like Lake Hrie, where, according to the Lake Survey, the temperature attains as
high as 73, the White fish seek the cooler deep waters in the summer, and I have not learned of
a migration upon the shore at any point, they, perhaps, preferring a less amount of aeration to a
high degree of licat.

"The fact that in the month of August the White-fish of the Sault Ste. Marie Itapids leave
the river entirely, and do not return until in September, weakens the force of the theory that the
aeration of the water is the necessity that brings them to the shore of the lake in the summer.

"Professor Agassiz, in his tour of the north shore of Lake Superior in 184!>, found the White-
tish scarce along the shore and at the rapids in the month of August. Among the Apostle
Islands, Lake Superior, and in most of the deeper portions of the lakes, no scarcity is observed at
this season of the year. At the rapids, they so entirely abandon the locality in August that the
supply offish for the hotels has to be obtained from Point Detour, at the head of Lake Huron.

"It was a disputed point among the Waukegan fishermen whether the migration was directly
in from deep water or along the shore. The fact that, in some instances, the schools of tish struck
the in'ts at one point, and afterwards entered the uets in succession along the line of the shore,
was thought by many to prove a littoral migration. But the fact was that, in all likelihood, the
advance portion of a school would touch the shore at some point and then move in either direction
along its line.

"The presence of large White-fishes in numbers at certain localities on the north shore of
Lake Michigan, of a size that are never taken at other parts of the lake, would indicate a local
habit, with no disposition to range through long distances. Another observation sustaining the
probability of this is the fact that there are many localities on the Lakes where the pound nets, a
few years ago, found prosperous fishing, and in the first few years took the White-fish in great
abundance, but found afterwards a decrease from year to year until the locality was abandoned,
while fifty miles away the business still continued successful. The well-known local instincts of
the Salmon would, to a slight extent, confirm the probability of like instincts in its related genera.
The fact that certain types of the White-fish are peculiar to particular localities, as the north
shore of Lake Michigan, the Sault Ste. Marie Itapids, Bachewauna Bay, on Lake Superior, indicates
a local habit through many generations until certain characters of a race have become established.
The same fact has been stated for the shad on the Atlantic coasts. Some observations, made in
1871, perhaps indicate the opposite of all the foregoing statements.

"In the early part of the season there had been very few fish caught on the west shore of Lake
Michigan, between Chicago and the Door Islands. South of Chicago, at the mouth of the Calumet
River, the run of White-fish was in excess of anything had for years. But, about the 15th of June,
the schools of fish left Calumet, and a few days later there was a decided improvement in the
catch at Kvanston. About June 22, the lifts at Waukegan began to be heavier than they hid
In 'I'll before. During the first week of July the fishing was observed to improve at Milwaukee,
Manitowoc, and Bailey's Harbor, and, a little later, at the Door Islands. The coincidence in dates
rather indicated a probability that the same schools of fish that clogged the nets at Calumet
during six or seven weeks had ranged northward along two hundred and sixty miles of coast.
Still, the effect on the fishing would have been the same if it had been the migrations of schools
of fish from deep water at these points in to the shore. In order, to obtain a definite knowledge of



512 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

their babits in this particular, metal tags, with numbers indicating the locality, were distributed
to fishermen at twenty points along the lake, to be fastened to the fins of live fish, which were
then to be released. Instructions were at the same time sent to all fishermen to report the capture
of h'sh bearing these marks, and the distances from where they were taken to the point of departure
would indicate the extent of their migrations. It is thought that but tew of them were used. A
similar proceeding was afterward carried out by Mr. George Clark, of Ecorse, on the Detroit
River, but none of the fish were ever heard from.

"Some of the fishermen of the west shore assert that, after severe storms encroaching on the
shore, and making the water muddy for a long distance out, when the storm subsides there is a
heavy deposit of mud on the bottom, and that the White-fish abandon the locality for a time,
because, as they surmise, their food is buried in the sediment. On the contrary, after ordinary
storms, there is generally an improvement in the catch of fish, probably for the reason that the
great aeration of the water renders them lively and incites them to move about. The migration
from the southern portion of Lake Michigan is of yearly occurrence, about the middle of June, and
is, without doubt, occasioned by the large extent of shoal water becoming heated. The same thing
occurs in Green Bay, and in the shoal regions of the western end of Lake Erie. The migrations
into shallow water, and up certain streams, in the fall of the year, for the purpose of spawning,
will be con-idered further on. This migration, and the summer visit to the shore, are the general
migrations peculiar to the White-fish, while the departure from shoal regions in summer, and from
certain localities in August, are local peculiarities."

ENEMIES. This section of the natuial history has been fully worked up by Mr. Milner in his
"Report on the Fishes of the Great Lakes," from which the following extracts are made:

"The largest percentage of destruction the White-fish suffers is without doubt in the ova
stage. The spawn-eaters of the Lakes are a numerous and widely distributed list of animals,
including fishes, amphibians, and, it is claimed, divers and ducks. The destruction of the spawn
by these methods is immense, and far exceeds the losses while in the stage of fry. The most,
wholesale devourer of the eggs is undoubtedly the Lake Herring. On opening the stomachs of
the Herring fiom the ponds in Detroit River, in November, they were found to contain the eggs of
White fish. At first it was considered possible that, as they were confined in the ponds, their
eating spawn might be a matter of necessity ; but later, at Sandusky, their stomachs were found
gorged with the ova. The Herring, the most numerous species inhabit ing the spawning grounds
of the White-fish, are without doubt the principal agents in keeping in check the increasing
numbers supplied from the fertilized ova. The suckers, sturgeon, and smaller bottom -feed ing
fishes are found with spawn in the stomach.

"TliH so-called 'water-lizard,' Menobranchitx latcraHn, Say, is very numerous in some of the
streams and portions of the lake shore. Mr. George Clark, of Ecorse, Michigan, had a minnow-
seine fitted to the bag of a sweep-seine, and at one haul took two thousand of the 'water-lizards.'
Estimating the extent that the net had passed over, he calculated the average, number of lizards
to each square rod to be four. He says, further, in one of the Detroit papers, 'The lizards were
so gorged with White-fish spawn that when they were thrown on the shore hundreds of eggs
would fly out of their mouths. . . . Some of I lie larger lizards would devour the whole spawn-
ing of a White-fish in a day or two; and when we eonsiller that these reptiles are feeding upon
eggs from November till April, some idea may be lurm.il of their vast capacity lor destruction.'

"Mr. Browne, of Gland Haven, Michigan, states that some three years ago an epidemic
seemed to prevail among the Menubranvlti in Grand IJiver in the month of June, and that their
dead carcasses were washed ashore by hundreds, so thai they lined the banks of the river, and



BNEMIKS OF T11E WIIITK -FISH. 513

the inillmeii were obliged to throw the iMxlies off into the currout, to be carried down Htrtuin to
prevent the offensive stench that was wafted into the mills from the decaying remains.

"A fisherman at Evanston, Illinois, a few years ago had nine hundred hooks set in tho lake,
and in one day took irotn these five hundred lizards, removing them all himself, as his men,
.sharing the popular notion on the Lakes, believed them to be poisonous, and preferred to cut tiwav
hook and all to taking hold of the slimy amphibian. They are, of course, entirely harmless in
this particular, and make no more attempt to bite than a frog does. A full series of this species
was this season collected from Detroit River, from the length of one and one-fourth inch to thir-
teen inches. Later, about the middle of the monl ! of July, Mr. George Clark collected a quantity
of their eggs, proving this month to be the spawning season of the animal.

"The sturgeon are very generally believed to be spawn-eaters. Though the ova of the White-
tish and the perch have been observed among the stomach contents of this fish, the principal food
has always been found to be snails, the fresh-water genera being generally represented, tho
weaker shells crushed into fragments, and the stronger ones of the Paludinultc and even Limncas
remaining unbroken. Dr. E. Sterling, of Cleveland, who examined the stomachs of a large miinlHr
of sturgeon in the vicinity of the Sandusky fisheries, made the same observation. There are few
of the bottom-feeding fishes but whose stomachs will not generally be found to contain a few eggs,
though in company with other food in greater quantity.

lu the fry stage they must suffer to some extent from the piscivorous fishes. The most numer-
ous and voracious of their enemies is likely to be the wall-eyed pike, Stizoxtedion americana, numer-
ous in the shoal waters of the lakes and comparatively rare on the deeper shores. The perch, Perca
Jiaveiicens, are very generally distributed and quite numerous; the contents of their stomachs are
generally found to be vertebrate forms. The black bass, Micropterus nigricans, is plentiful in Lake
Erie, but as its ordinary food is the crawfish, where these are numerous its depredations on the
schools of young fish would be of comparatively little importance. The white bass, Roccus chry-
xops, the muskelluuge, Esox nobilior, and the lake pike, Eaox Indus, do not inhabit the Lakes in suf-
ficient numbers to be very troublesome to the White-fishes. It is the prevailing idea on the Lakes
that the Mackinaw or Salmon Trout feeds largely on the White-fish. Here as everywhere civilized
man disturbs the balance of nature, and becomes the great enemy to all forms of life that do not
conform to his artificial methods for their protection. Not only by the hundreds of artifices for the
capture of the White-fish, but in the foul drainage from the cities, smelting- works and manufacto-
ries, and in the quantities of sawdust from the mills, they are driven from their favorite haunts and
spawning grounds, and their food destroyed by waters tainted with fatal chemical combinations."

Mr. Milner mentions the natural casualties of storms, deposits of sediment smothering the
eggs, the vegetable growth found to be so fatal in the hatching troughs, as causes of destruction
to immense quantities of White-fish spawn.

Mr. Lanman, speaking of the enemies of the White-fish, says that the great Gray Trout (Salmo
ferox) follows the White-fish to the shore and preys upon it. While the nets are set for White-
fish, the fishers, with torch and spear, attack and capture the Salmo ferox, frequently of large
size; and hence this latter fish has acquired the name of Tuladi from the river to which it is
attracted by its favorite prey.

FOOD. Mr. Milner, in his " Report upon the Fisheries of the Great Lakes," wrote the follow-
ing paragraphs on the White-fish :

"The food of the White fish has been a problem inciting numerous conjectures among
fishermen, sportsmen, and fish culturists, and baffling the investigation of a few naturalists
for a number of years past. To Dr. P. R. Hoy, of Racine, we think, belongs the credit of first
33 P



514 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

discovering correctly the character of their food. On opening the stomachs of numerous White-
fish he at first failed to determine the character of the stomach contents, until, after wash-
ing the half-digested mass in a basin of water, he found the sediment to be full of small Crus-
tacea, whose existence in the lake had never before been suspected. My examination and pre-
servation of the stomach contents from all quarters of the Lakes confirmed Dr. Hoy's observa-
tions, and discovered a few other small forms of life as the food of White-fish. The invertebrates
found were of crustaceans : species of the families Oammaridce and Mysid<e ; of the rnollusks :
species of the genus Pisidivm ; and certain insect larv. A few fish-ova were frequently found
in the stomach, and it was not unusual to find a little gravel.