G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

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

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"In the greater portion of the lake the Qammarida; constituted the principal food. In shallow
regions small Conchifers were more numerous. At Point aux Barques, on the north shore of Lake
Michigan, where a very large type of the White-fish was found, the stomach contents were entirely
of the Mysis relicta Loven. In the Sault Ste. Marie Rapids, in July, a mass of small chrysalides
was found iu the stomachs of a number of White-fish. In October, from the same locality, the
larva; of the caddis-fly were found in the stomachs, apparently carefully separated from their
artificial coverings. Stomachs opened in Lake Superior contain principally the Mysidce. At
Rocky Island, in the northwestern part of Lake Michigan, a vessel with a cargo of wheat was lost
a few years ago. The fishermen say that White-fish were taken in that vicinity for several years
afterward with wheat in their stomachs.

"Rarely White-fish will take a bait. The breakwater protecting the Illinois Central Railway
at Chicago was formerly a favorite fishing place, and in early summer was often lined with a row
of boys and men fishing for perch. There was seldom a day passed but that a few White-fish
were taken. Mr. Trompe, of Sault Ste. Marie, has frequently taken them in that locality with
a hook baited with a May-fly, Ephemeridte. At a fishing dock on Sand Island, one of the group of
the Apostle Islands, Lake Superior, there were a few taken this season with a worm bait.

" The leech, Ichthyobdella punctata, Smith, parasitic on the White-fish, and numerous in some
localities, was in no instance found in the stomach. This corroborates Dr. Hoy's observations.
A similar fact was noticed afterward at Detroit River. A parasitic crustacean, a Lerncea, was
found adhering to the White-fish in numbers, and, though many stomachs were examined, iu no
instance were any of the parasites found in the contents. Both the Lerncea and the Ichthyobdella
are related to species made use of as food by the White-fish, as near in the one instance as being
in the same class, and the other in the same order. The mouth is constructed for nibbling along
the bottom, the opening being directed nearly downward, and they gather in the small life of the
bottom and the gravel as they move slowly along.

" Dredging in the lake at different localities and examination of stomach contents at numerous
points prove that the crustaceans and the mollusk constituting the principal food of the White-
fish are distributed throughout the lake bottom, in all localities, and at all depths over about
twenty fathoms. In Torch Lake, a deep inland lake in the Grand Traverse region, Michigan,
where a large type of White-fish is found, the dredge brought up the same species of crustaceans
and mollusks as were found in Lake Michigan. The failure to find food in the stomachs of White-
fish has frequently resulted from the fact that the fish examined were taken from the pound-nets,
where they had remained long enough to digest the contents of the stomach before they were
taken from the water. Fish from the gill-nets have generally the food in the stomach only
partially digested, while a hundred fish in succession from the pound-nets may be opened and
every stomach found empty.

It is frequently asserted that aquatic vegetation afforded sustenance to the White-fish. The



mi: FOOD OF TIII-: wnm: nsn. 51 g

investigations in the past two years did not result in any confirmation of tins notion, ami it would
not accord with the habits of any specie* of the family of fishes to which the lake White-fish belongs."

A list of the precise contents of the stomachs of individuals examined by Mr. Milncr is now
appended:

" Specimens from Outer Island, Lake Superior, contained great quantities of .Vi/.w'.s relicta,
Pontoporeia lloyi, and Pinidium abditum, var. abytsorum ; and with these were a few specimens
of dipterous larvio of the genus Chironomun, a small worm (Lumbricus lacustris), JJaphnia
galeata, J). jtellucida, and a small species of Planorbis.

"From Sand Island, Lake Superior, Pontoporeia Hoyi ; larvae and pupae of Chironomus;
Valrata sincera, and Qyraulux parvut.

" From Sault Ste. Marie, one lot contained scarcely anything but small shells. Among these,
Valrata tricarinata, V. sincera, var. striatella, Amnicola generosa, A. palida (I), Gyrattlun parvtu,
and a species of Limntea were in abundance ; while there were fewer specimens of Gonioba#i
livescens, Physa vinosa (1), young, Sphatrium striatinum, and Pisidium compresxum.

" Other specimens contained nothing but the remains of insects, among which were the
imagos of two species of Diptera ; larvae and pupae of Chironomus ; larvae and pupae of some
specimens of Ephemeridce ; great numbers of the larvae, pupa-, and subimagos of a species of
Hydropsyche, and the larvae of a species of some other genus of Phryganeidce.

From Ecorse, Michigan, specimens contained a species of Hydrachna, the leg and the scales
from the wing of some lepidopterous insect, and a species of Limncea.

White-fish which I examined at Isle Koyale, in August, 1871, contained scarcely anything
but Mysis relicta and Pontoporeia Hoyi.

Ecorse, Michigan remains of a small fish and several specimens of a species of water-
boatmen (Corixa).

Specimens of Goregonus quadrilaterals from Madeline Island, Lake Superior, contained a
number of specimens of a leech (Nephelis fervida) and a neuropterous larva allied to Perla.

"These few observations are sufficient to show that the White-fish, like the different species
of Trout, feeds on a large number of species belonging to very different groups of animals. In
this brief enumeration, twenty-five species are mentioned nine of insects, four of Crustacea, one
worm, and eleven of mollusks ; and these are undoubtedly only a small part of the species upon
which the White-fish really feeds."

Much difficulty was experienced by Mr. Milner in his attempts to discover the food required
for the sustenance of some young White-fish which had been sent to him. His experiments,
together with a letter written to him by Mr. Briggs, editor of the "Lens," Chicago, with regard to
the contents of the stomachs of embryo White-fish, are here reproduced:

" Food of embryonic White-fish. The young fish reached Waukegan in safety, and were placed
in five-quart glass jars, and an experiment begun in attempting to supply them with suitable food.
A numbered label was pasted on each jar, so as to keep them distinct. Knowing that the larger
White-fish fed largely on crustaceans, an attempt to feed them on food of this character was
thought worth a trial. A few crawfish were procured and pounded to a paste, and small portions
put into jar No. 1 ; the young fish ate it readily. They were fed at night, and the next morning
every one of them was found to be dead. Jar No. 2 was supplied with bread-crumbs, and the fish
were seen to take small particles in their mouths ; they did not die so suddenly. Jar No. 3 was
supplied with sweet cream, but no evidence was afforded that the occupants fed upon it. A
quantity of rain-water was exposed to the rays of the sun for the purpose of generating minute
forms of life, and a teaspoonful was poured into jar No. 4, morning and evening, in hopes that



516 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

their proper food was of this character. lu jar No. 5 a variety of food was provided, dry fresh
beef, milk, boiled potato, and bread. The crumbs of bread and the scrapiugs from the beef
were all that the fish were seen to take into their mouths. They died, one after another, very
rapidly, and iu a few days all were dead.

"There were other things unfavorable to them, in these experiments, besides the lack of their
natural nourishment. To conduct these experiments favorably, they should be placed in a large
vessel, aud a stream of fresh water should be supplied constantly so that the water should
continue pure aud the production of conferva? be avoided. This difficulty of procuring a suita-
ble food for the young White-fish has been tlte experience of the few fish-culturists who have
hatched them.

"A set of specimens, representing young fish from the Detroit Eiver, from the troughs at
Clarkstou, and from the jars, were preserved in alcohol and submitted to Mr. S. A. Briggs, editor
of the ' Lens,' Chicago.

"A letter from Mr. Briggs contained the following :

"CHICAGO, May 28, 1872.

" My I >KA R SIB : The four vials containing C. albus came duly to hand, and have, with the
alcohol aud water in which the specimens were preserved, been carefully examined.

"The intestines of specimens Nos. 77 and 78 from Clarkston were entirely destitute of organic
matter recognizable under a power of 400 linear, which ought to be ample for the purpose. Those
of specimens 76 and 79, from Detroit Eiver, contained numerous specimens of two species of
Diatomacece, viz, Fragilaria capudna and Stephanodiscus Niagarce. The former is a filamentous
form which grows very abundantly iu our lake inlets attached to stems of lilies. The latter is a
large form which, from its peculiar build, contains considerable nutritious material.
"Very sincerely, yours,

" S. A. BRIGGS."

Two statements of a more general character are made regarding the food of the White-fish
in Lakes Erie and Ontario; the one, an extract from a letter by Mr. John W. Kerr, Hamilton,
Ontario, the other by Mr. Peter Kiel, of Wolfe Bay:

" The White-fish at this season of the year, fall and winter, feed on small shell-fish. This you
cau ascertain yourself by analyzing the contents of their stomach. In spring and summer they
feed on a kind of shrimp-like insect; and from my knowledge and experience I have never known
them to change to any other kind of food than those two kinds now described to you by me."

"The White-fish is of a fine organism, and, being entirely destitute of teeth, is neither preda-
ceous nor yet very voracious in its nature, but lives on the most simple fare, which consists princi-
pally of small worms and insects that abound iu great numbers among the plants and porous
rocks on the bottom."

SPAWNING AND DEVELOPMENT. The most elaborated discussion of (i) the habits of the White-
fish at the spawning season (noted day by day in the journal of the author), concluding with a
table showing the relative weight of ovaries and number of eggs in proportion to the weight of the
fish, (ii) the development of eggs and embryo, and (Hi) the rate of the young White-fish's growth,
has been written by Mr. Milner in his " Report on the Fisheries of the Great Lakes," and is here
given in full :

(t) The habits at spawning season. "The White-fishes throughout the larger portion of the
Lakes, come into shallow water to deposit their spawn about the middle of November, just at
the time when the Salmon Trout has finished spawning and is returning to deep water. At this



SPAWNING OK THE WHITE FISH. 517

season they come iu from deeper water in vast schools, and are taken in large quantities by the
nets. A notion, prevalent among the fishermen in some localities, that the female fishes arrived
first, and were followed, a few days later, by the male, was not confirmed by my observation. The
bottoms on the spawning grounds vary in character in different localities; rock, sand, clay, and
mud being used indifferently lor the spawning beds. The depths at which they spawn range from
eight feet to fifteen fathoms; the larger number probably spawning in depths of about eight or
ten fathoms. In the Sault Ste. Marie Kiver, and in the Detroit River, in the fall of the year, they
congregate in great numbers, for the purpose of spawning. In a number of rivers emptying into
Green Bay the White-fish was formerly taken in abundance in the spawning season. Saw-mills
are numerous on all of these streams at the present day, and the great quantity of sawdust iu
the streams is offensive to the fish, and has caused them to abandon them. In one or two rivers
of the north shore of Lake Michigan they are still found in the autumn.

"The Michipicoten River of Lake Superior, on the authority of Major Long, who commanded an
expedition to this region in 1823, and George Barnston, esq., of Montreal, Canada, formerly of the
Hudson Bay Company, is a favorite spawning ground of the White fish. The Nepigon River,
which our steamer entered while returning from the north shore of Lake Superior, about the
middle of October, was said to contain schools of White-fish, which had probably entered the
river for the purpose of spawning.

"There is a probability that there was a time when the White-fish ascended many of the clear
rivers of the Northern Lakes, though that this was a universal habit is not probable, at any rate
.since the white man has been in the country.

"The fishermen, with their gill-nets, follow inshore the migration of the White-fish in the
month of October, and a few days before the middle of November the spawn is ripe iu a few fishes,
and by the middle of the mouth is running freely, so that boats and nets are covered with the
.spawn and milt. Just at the time the ova are beginning to ripen, the Lake Trout, Salmo namay-
c-HA, has finished spawning, and is leaving for deep water. The White-fish continue to spawn
until the last week of November or the first week of December, when they, too, leave the shore
aiid seek deeper water.

"In the Detroit River, where there were fine opportunities for observing the fish at this period,
owing to tire advantages afforded by Mr. George Clark, of Ecorse, we found that the fish ascended
the river about the last week of September, usually following the same course among the islands
year after year. Mr. Clark's observations on the migration of the White-fishes had discovered
that they ascended much farther years ago than they do now. They are still taken as high up as
Cottrelville, twelve miles up the Saint Clair River. None have been caught above this point for
many years. It is a singular fact that the White-fish are not known to descend from Lake Huron
into the Saint Clair River. This is established by abundant evidence from continued fishing at
Fort Gratiot, where Mr. Clark, between the years 1830 and 1842, took large quantities of the wall-
eyed pike, Stizostedion americana, taking frequently one thousand barrels in a j r ear. The catch of
White-fish amounted to an occasional supply for his own table, except after long-continued storms
from the northward, when the fish sometimes entered the river in schools. They were never found
in this portion of the river in the spawning season.

"The same fact is claimed by the Indians iu the Sault Ste. Marie River, that the White-
fishes of the lake above never descend the rapids, while the White-fishes of the river, it is also
asserted, never ascend to Lake Superior. There is not as good evidence for the truth in this
locality as at Fort Gratiot; still, it may be the ca>c.



518 NATURAL HISTORY OP AQUATIC ANIMALS.

"Examining the fish oil tbe 30th of October, it was found that the spawn of the White-fish was
hard and firm, with rarely a fish approaching ripeness. On the 1st of November, in the picketed
pond, where the fishes are inclosed, numbers offish were seen jumping from the water, principally
the Herring, who take delight in this exercise at different seasons of the year. Occasionally a
White-fish threw its bulkier form above the surface. On the 8th of the month Mr. Clark and I
were out on the piling surrounding the pond, and found the White-fish jumping in numbers, so
that there was a continual splashing of the water. They almost uniformly jumped in pairs, and
we could see quantities of spawn in the water immediately afterwards, which rapidly sank. Mr.
Clark and I both succeeded in capturing a pair in the act of leaving the water, and found male
and female with milt and spawn running freely. Mr. Clark made use of a fine wire scoop as the
pairs of fish disappeared from the surface, and almost invariably took a quantity of spawn from
the water. The males were uniformly smaller than the females. I succeeded in catching a pair in
which the female weighed seven pounds, and the male, who escaped before he was weighed, did
not exceed one and a half pounds.

"November 9. I again saw the White-fish jumping from the water in the evening, almost uni-
formly in pairs. Rarely there were three leaped together, one female and two males. In the pairs
there was always a large one, evidently a gravid female, and a smaller one, the male. At this sea-
son of the year it is easy to detect the difference in sex, the abdomen of the female being swollen
and rounded, while the males are leaner and angular in the abdominal lines. I saw by long watch-
ing that the males were worrying the females. They seemed possessed of strong sexual ardor, and
followed the female with persistence, keeping close against her and with the head about even with
the pectoral flu. Driven by the persistent attention of the male, the female arose vertically, he fol-
lowing, and she making a convulsive effort to escape, the water being from three to ten feet deep,
they threw themselves together above the surface, and the spawn and milt were emitted at the
time when, from their position, their vents were approximated. The spasmodic fluttering ami
effort observed suggested a sexual orgasm. At times I saw them moving rapidly beneath the
water in the same close contact, and the male with his snout even with the pectoral fin of the
female, often turning together with the white of the belly upward as she turned and twisted to
escape him. Often as they came out of the water they would fall apart in different directions, but
the male invariably turned immediately in pursuit, so that I was led to think they were monog-
amous, as is the fact with their relatives the Salmon and the Speckled Trout.

"November 10. The White-fish jumping in great numbers toward sunset. In most instances,
when near by, I observed a quantity of eggs, perhaps three hundred or five hundred, emitted at
once. The inilt of the male did not discolor the water. The same actions occurred as before
observed, springing vertically from the water with a spasmodic, fluttering effort, the male's head
opposite the pectoral fin of the female, turning together beneath the water until both abdomens
showed upwards. Occasionally three sprang above the surface together. Sometimes the pair
fluttered along the surface together for a long distance.

"November 14 and 15. Went out to the pond at midnight, and again at 1 o'clock a. m., and
found the White-fish jumping. The fact that they are quiet in the daytime, previous to four or
five o'clock in the afternoon, indicates a parallel habit to that observed by Seth Green, of New
York, in the shad, they, as he asserts, spawning principally in the night, though, unlike what was
the case with the shad, we had no difficulty in finding spawuers in the forenoon with the seine.

"November 18. The fishing stopped all along the river. Visited the island. Cold, strong
wind from the southwest. Thermometer 26. No White-fish to be seen in the pond. A few
Herring coursing around the piling.



SI'AWMNc; OK TI1K WM1TK 1-MSII.



"Noveml>er 19. Same as yesterday; no White-fish to bo seen. Caught some of the herring
with the dip-net; found their spawn still hard and small; their stomachs were full of White-fish
sj)awn. Mr. Clark and 1 took a boat with two men and dredged in the. river, obtaining a quantity
of White-fish eggs. Nearly all were dead. Afterwards dipped a quantity from the pond, nearly
all of which were dead.

"November '20. Made another visit to the island. No White-fish seen in the pond. Cold,
freezing weather.

"On the U4th and 25th of the month, while at Saudusky, Ohio, numbers of White-fish were
found with the spawn in dift'erent stages of ripeness, though a majority of them had spawned.

"After spawning, the abdomen of the female fish is somewhat flabby and wrinkled, and the
fish is undoubtedly relaxed and weak; but not to the extent that the Salmon, as well as certain
other species of the Coregoni, are said to be reduced. The male shows but little indication of
weakness.

"A series of ovaries were preserved from fishes of different sizes, and a count made by weigh-
ing the entire ovaries and then counting the eggs of a definite fraction, and calculating from it the
number of the whole. Accurate scales were used for this work, and the table may be relied upon
as correct:



Weight of ti-h


Weight of
ovariOL


Number of
eg-




Oviuxt.

H


21,210




7|


28,900




10


4.-, DIM!




H


86,608









"This makes an average of about ten thousand increase for every additional pound weight in
the fish, which is precisely Mr. Seth Green's estimate, from his observations in spawning White-
fish. Considerable variation in the weight of an equal number of eggs was observed, depending
upon the stage of development at which they had arrived in the ovaries. During the spawning
season, the fish from the river were found to have very little in their stomachs.

(it) Development of eggs and embryo. "It has been proven by repeated observations by fish-
culturists that the higher the temperature of the water in which the eggs are placed the more
rapidly the embryo fish develops within the egg, and the sooner it escapes from its inclosure in the
shell. The temperature of the succeeding mouths after the spawning period probably regulates
to a considerable extent the time of hatching of the White-fish in the Lakes.

"On the llth day of April, at Ecorse, on the Detroit River, I visited Grassy Island in company
with Mr. George Clark. The inside of the bag of a seine was lined with milliuet and dragged in
the river, bringing ashore a great quantity of mud and the small forms of life inhabiting the
bottom. Sifting and washing out the mud resulted in finding one little worm-like fish-embryo,
one-half inch in length, which I at once suspected to be the specimen sought after. Other
attempts with the seine failed entirely of taking any more. Mr. Clark then proposed that, we
take a boat and search carefully on the surface for the young fish. Taking a pail and dipper, we
shoved off our boat, and Mr. Clark pulling very slowly with the oars, I hung over the gunwale, and
in a very few minutes found a little, active fish swimming with his head at the surface, and captured
him with the dipper. He proved to be identical with the one taken with the seine. In the course
of half an hour we captured forty, all of the same size and state of development. Most of them



520 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

were taken within five or six inches of the surface, though they were frequently seen coming up
from as far below as they were visible. They were nearly white, with a pair of large, black eyes,
were, very active, moving continually, propelling themselves with a constant motion of the tail,
and swimming with the head up and the body depending at an inclination of about 50. They
seemed apprehensive of danger, and turned quickly from the dipper when it came near them,
occasionally escaping. They had no gregarious instinct whatever, and though occasionally taken
in pairs it was probably an accidental circumstance.

"On April 14 we again visited the island and caught a number more of the young fish.

"A few days later Mr. Clark and I visited the breeding-house of Mr. N. W. Clark, of Clarks-
tou. He had put down a large quantity of White-fish ova in November, and had taken the water
flowing over the eggs from a pond that had remained frozen over nearly all the winter. The
temperature of the water had remaiued at 34 or 35, and the young fish had begun to hatch out
on the 1st of April, and about the 9th or 10th were all out of the shell. This temperature is prob-
ably much the same as Detroit River at Ecorse, sixty-eight miles below Lake Huron, the current
flowing at the rate of two miles per hour.

"The appearance of the umbilical sac in the specimens from both places made it evident that
they were of about the same age, and indicated the fact that in waters that are frozen over
throughout the winter the young White-fish escape from the egg about the first week of April.

"The temperature of Lake Michigan, Huron, or Superior probably does not descend below
about 40 or 43 in ordinary winters, and the young fish would be likely to make their appearance
a week or two earlier.

"The young fish lived in the glass jar of water two days, were then transferred to an eight-
ounce bottle, and carried over thirty hours by rail and steamer, and did not arrive at their desti-
nation, Waukegan, Illinois, until thirty-six hours after they left Ecorse, Michigan. They were all



Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 88 of 146)