G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

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before him usually Menhaden flesh in another form.

USES. The commercial importance of the Menhaden has only lately been rightly appreciated*
Twenty-five years ago and before, it was thought to be of very small value. A few millions were
taken every year in Massachusetts Bay, Long Island Sound, and the inlets of New Jersey. A small
portion of these were used for bait ; a few barrels occasionally salted in Massachusetts to be
exported to the West Indies. Large quantities were plowed into the soil of the farms along the


shores, stimulating tin- crops lor a time, Imt in tbe end tilling the soil with oil, parching it and
milking it unlit lor tillage. Since that time manil'olil uses have been found. As a bait fish this
excels all others; fur many yeais much the greater share of our mackerel was cauht by its aid,
\\hile the cod and halibut Heet use it rather than any other fish when it can be procured. The
total consumption of Menhaden for bait in 1877, did not fall below 80,000 barrels, or 20,000,000
lish, valued at $300,000. Teu years before, when the entire mackerel fleet was fishing with hooks,
the consumption was much greater. The Dominion mackerel fleet buy Menhaden bait in quantity,
and its value has been thought an important element in framing treaties between our government
and that of Great Uritain.

As a food resource it is found to have great possibilities. Many hundreds of barrels are sold
in the West Indies, while thousands of barrels are salted down for domestic use by families living
near the shore. In many sectious they are sold fresh in the market. Within six years there has
sprung up an important industry, which consists in packing these fish in oil, after the manner of
sardines, for home and foreign consumption. In 1874 the production of canned fish did not fall
below :.00,000 boxes.

The discovery made by Mr. S. L. Goodale, that from these fish may be extracted, for the cost
of carefully boiling them, a substance possessing all the properties of Liebig's "Extract of beef,"
opens up a vast field for future development. As a food for the domestic animals in the form of
lish meal," there seems also to be a broad opening. As a source of oil, the menhaden is of more
importance than any other marine animal. Its annual yield usually exceeds that of the whale
(from the American fisheries) by about 200,000 gallons, and in 1874 did not fall far short of the
aggregate of all the whale, seal, and cod oil made in America. In 1878 the menhaden oil and
guano industry employed capital to the amount of $2,350,000, 3,337 men, 64 steamers, 279 sailing
vessels, and consumed 777,000,000 fish; there were 56 factories, which produced 1,392,044 gallons
of oil, valued at $450,000, and 55,154 tons of crude guano, valued at $600,000; this was a poor
year. In 1874 the number of gallons produced was 3,373,000 ; in 1875, 2,681,000 ; in 1876, 2,992,000;
in 1877, 2,427,000. In 1878 the total value of manufactured products was $1,050,000; in 1874 this
was $1,809,000; in 1875, $1,582,000; in 1876, $1,671,000; in 1877, $1,608,000. Itshould be stated
that in these reports only four-fifths of the whole number of factories were included. In 1880 the
number of persons employed in the entire industry was placed at 3,635, the amount of ca| Hal
invested $2,362,841, the value of products $2,110,787, including 2,066,396 gallons of oil, worth
$733,424, and 68,904 tons of guano, worth $1,301,217. The refuse of the oil factories supplies a
material of much value for manures. As a base for nitrogen it enters largely into the composition
of most of the manufactured fertilizers. The amount of nitrogen derived from this source in 1875
u as estimated to be equivalent to that contained in 60,000,000 pounds of Peruvian guano, the gold
value of which would not have been far from $1,920,000. The yield of the menhaden fishery in
pounds is probably triple that of any other carried on by the fishermen of the United States.

In estimating the importance of the Menhaden to the United States, it should be borne in
mind that its absence from our waters would probably reduce all our other sea-fisheries to at leasfe
me fourth their present extent.


In addition to the common Menhaden, a second North American species has recently been
discovered. 1 Jhis species has been reported only from the Gulf of Mexico, where the following
observations were made by Mr. Silas Stearns:

1 See Report United States Commission Fish and Fisheries, part v, pp. 17 and 26, and Proceedings of the United
States National Museum, vol. i.


POPULAR NAMES. "The Gulf Menhaden has several vernacular names. At Key West it is
called 'Sardine,' in common with other fish of the same general appearance. At Apalachicola,
Pensacola, and Mobile it is called 'Alewife'; at New Orleans the names 'Sardine' and 'Alewil'e'
are both in use, the latter perhaps more generally. On the Texan coast it is known as 'Herring,'
'Alewife,' ' Sardine,' and ' Shad,' each locality having its peculiar name.

"I have observed the Gulf Menhaden from Key West to the Texan coast, and am told that its
range extends along the Mexican coast. It seems to be most abundant along the coast between
Cedar Keys and New Orleans. On other parts it is only an ordinarily common fish or an occasional
visitor. My observations have been made at Pensacola, where their movements are as follows:
On the first calm, warm days of April many small schools appear in the bays and sounds. From
the first appearance of these schools they can be seen -at all times in fine weather until late in the
summer, when they disappear. They remain in these bays until late in November and December,
but keep to deeper waters, and are seen, after the close of summer, only when taken in nets.

MOVEMENTS. "The first which arrive measure only five to six inches. In June they average
seven inches, and schools have been observed composed of fish of different sizes, as five, six, seven,
and eight inches long. In July the average size is about eight inches, and in August, September, and
October the individuals composing the schools measure seven, eight, nine, and ten inches in length.
Those fish caught in October and November in nets are eleven, twelve, and thirteen inches long,
and are probably full-grown. In fine weather they are first seen approaching the coast in large
schools, but if windy and cold they are not seen until they have entered the bay and the weather
has become pleasant. When once inside the large schools are broken up into many small schools,
which swim at the surface, rippling the water as they go. Their movements seem not to be affected
by the tide. Their favorite feeding or playing grounds are in quiet bayous, creeks, and nooks in
the bay, where they are unmolested by larger fishes of prey. Brackish water is also much sought
by them, and I think most, if not all, of them visit it some time during the season. A person sta-
tioned at the mouth of a fresh-water stream or river, in August or September, will see little schools
of these fish swimming round and round at the surface, just where the two kinds of water meet.
As they become accustomed to the fresh water they enter the stream and move upwards until they
reach a quiet creek or bayou. How long they stay in the river I cannot determine, for I have
noticed as many moving down as up stream. Late in September and October very few or none
are seen at the surface of the water, but I have caught many in the river and at its mouth at that
season, proving that they are still present. About the first of November I have known of a few
being taken in gill-nets in or about the rivers. During the months September and October they
are rarely seen in salt water, but come to notice again in November, by being taken in small quan-
tities in seines along the outside beaches with other fish, such as bluefish, channel bass, and sheeps-
head. After a few catches in November and December we see or hear nothing more of them until
the following spring ; but from this we cannot safely conclude that they have left these waters,
for the proper nets (gill-nets) in which to catch them in deep water are but little used in this
vicinity, and if they remained they would not be observed.

MESSMATES. " When the Gulf Menhaden arrive in spring, each one has a parasite in its month,
a crustacean called Cymothoa praigustator. This animal is found always in one position, clinging
with its hooked claws to the roof of the fish's mouth, with its head looking outward and very near
to the jaw of the fish. These parasites remain with the Menhaden as long as the latter is in salt
water; in brackish water they are less frequently observed, disappearing altogether in fresh water.
With all the fall fish of this species which I have examined there were no parasites. Tho fish do


DOt eem to Suffer physical! \ frmn tin- company of this parasite, luil I h;i\ < fancied that il \\as to
jfl rid of them that tin- lisli visit fresh water. I have noticed no other punishes upon them.

l.'r.iMiom t 'i i"N. -Tin- lirst traces of spawn arc I'oiinil in May. By . I ill v it lias become suffi-
ciently developed to be noticed by any pel-son unacenstonicd to the examination <!' such objeeta.
In the latter part of September or first of October, at which time they are last seen in abund-
ance, the ovarii-s are sufficiently grown to distend the fish's abdomen, yet not fully ripe. When
they are next caught, in November and December, on the sea-beach, they are without ovaries
anil show signs of having spawned.

FOOD. "The ('nil' Menhaden are bottom-feeding fish, as their stomachs always contain soft
In-own mud, from which I suppose it extracts microscopic animal or vegetable matter. Some
believe that it gains its nourishment in the shape of animalcuhu from the water, as it swims along
\\ith its mouth open, straining water through its gills. It is not a food-fish. A few trials have

been made to use tlielll as bait for deep sea fish, SUCU 88 red M,.ippei>. groupers, etc. Such

experiments have proved successful."
37 K



HISTORY AND NOMENCLATURE. Early writers on American fishes, especially M iidiill and
1 >c Kay, seein to Lave experienced great difficulty in differentiating into species the various forms
of river Herring or Alewives in our waters. These early writers were, however, apparently more
ilisi riminatiiig than some of their successors, for they recognized differences which have been
ignored by subsequent writers. They were as much at fault, however, in making too many species
as weio Storer and Gill in uniting all the forms under one specific name. Mitchill recognized
seven species, to wit, the "New York" Herring, Clupea halec; the "Tiny" Herring, C. pusilla;
the "Little" Herring, C.parvula; the "Sprat" Herring of New York, C. indigena; the "Spring"
Herring or "Alewife," 0. vernalis; the "Summer" Herring of New York, C. cestivalis; and the
"Blue" Herring, C. cterulea; all of which are apparently founded upon hasty studies of individuals
of different ages and varying proportions, and in reality belong to the two species named in the
heading of this article. The work of Mitchill is valuable, since by him were well defined the
two species which we recognize at the present time under the names now accepted by us, the
"Spring" and "Summer" Herrings, respectively C. vernalis and G. cestivalig. These are described
in such terms that they cannot be mistaken. It is not worth while to attempt an identification of
the other species, most of which are evidently based upon very small individuals.

De Kay took up and discussed under the same or different names most of the forms enumerated
by Mitchill, and, taking advantage of his more accurate methods of description, we are able to
form a very satisfactory idea of what was intended under each name. The Alosa tyrannus of
De Kay corresponds to the C. vernalis of Mitchill, while the C. vemalis of De Kay, in the synonym
of which he cites Mitchill's G. halec, is without much doubt the summer Herring of Mitchill,
although De Kay loses sight of Mitcbill's name C. cestiralis. The C. fasciata of De Kay, to which
he, without hesitation, refers Mitchill's C. puttilla, is probably the young of the summer Herring.

It is useless to attempt to trace throughout the entire literature on the subject the various
errors in the identification of the river Herrings. Storer, in his "History of the Fishes of Massa-
chusetts," distinguishes the two species.under the names Alosa cyanonoton and A. tyrannus, and
supplies figures of each. These are not, however, sufficiently characteristic to be serviceable in
identification. The name tyranntis, which was used by both De Kay and Storer for the spring
Herring, belongs by rights to the Menhaden, as has been elsewhere demonstrated.

Douglass in his "North America," Boston and London, 1740, remarks, in speaking of New
England :

"Alewives by some of the country people are called Herrings. They are of the Herring tribe,
but somewhat larger than the true Herring. They are very mean, dry, and insipid fish. Some of
tin-in are cured in the manner of white Herrings, and sent to the sugar islands for the slaves, but
lierause ot i heir bad quality they are not in request ; in some places they are used to manure land.
They are very plenty, and come up the rivers and brooks into ponds in the spring. Having



spawned, they return to the sea. They never take the hook. Many fish go up the rivers into
ponds earlier or later in the spring to spawn, viz, salmon, Shad, Alewives, tomcod, smelts, etc.,
and many good laws have been made in New England to prevent the obstruction of their passage
by weirs, etc., as they are of great benefit to the inhabitants near these rivers and ponds."

From 18G1 until 1880 nearly all American zoologists were contented to consider the various
kinds of river Herrings as members of a single species, which was designated Pomolobus pseudo-
harengus, the specific name pseudo-harengvs having originated in Wilson's article in volume ix of
the American edition of Bees' Encyclopaedia. There is no positive evidence to prove that this
volume was published prior to Mitchill's work on the ''Fish of New York," which appeared in
1815, and in which the names now accepted by us were first proposed. The American edition is
said by Allibone to have been in course of publication from 1809 to 1820. There is, however, no
date upon the title-page of volume is, and consequently the priority of the name pseudo-harengus
over the others is doubtful. At any rate, the description given by Wilson is so vague that it
cannot well be assigned to one species in preference to the others. 1 If it is to be assigned to
either, it most assuredly belongs to the species which Mitchill calls C. vernalis, and which is cha-
racterized by its long head, large eye, and high fin. Wilson, however, did not distinguish the two
species, and his intention was evidently to include them both under one name. The only specific
characteristic given is the date of its advent, which, according to him, precedes that of the Shad
by about three weeks. Since there is no statement of the locality where this occurs, this also is
quite indefinite. Taking into consideration also the fact that Wilson's article was published
anonymously in a book without date, I think we can safely set aside the name pseudo-harengm and
consider that the two names used by Mitchill in the discussion of his spring and summer Herrings
are definitely assigned to these two species.

The attention of the zoologists of the Fish Commission was first called to the probable exist-
ence of two species by the persistent opinions of the fishermen of the Potomac, who recognized
two forms differing in habit and in general appearance which they called the "Branch" Herring
and the "Glut" Herring respectively. The late Mr. Milner, in the course of his river work, as
early as 1876, came to the conclusion that the two forms were specifically distinct, but the problem
was not definitely worked out until 1879. The announcement of the discovery of the two species
and a definition of their characters were first published in the report of the Virginia Fish Com-
mission for 1879.

These species may easily be distinguished from each other by the following characters: C.
(cstiralis is more elongate in form, has a lower body, less elevated fins, and smaller eyes than G.
vernalis. The proportions of the bones of the head in C. cestivalis differ from those in G. vernalis,
as also does the coloration of the lining of the abdomen, which in C. cestivalis is black, and in C.
vernali-s gray.

The popular names applied to these fishes differ in almost every river along the coast. G.
vernalis is known along the Potomac Eiver as the "Branch" Herring; on the Albemarle Eiver as
the "Big-eyed" Herring and the "Wall-eyed" Herring; in Canada it is known as the "Gaspe-
reau" or " Gasperdt." It is pre-eminently the "Alewife" of New England; the "Ellwife" or
"Ellwhop" of the Connecticut Kiver. The other species, C. cestivalis, undoubtedly occurs occa-
sionally in its company, but is probably not common in the Connecticut and Housatonic Eivers,
and in many parts of Massachusetts is distinguished by another name,

1 " I'teudo-harengut (American Herring). Body above ash-color, inclining to dull greenish-blue; sides and belly
silvery; no spots on the sides; head small, tapering; under jaw little longer; ascends our rivers from the sea with the
Shad lo deposit their eggs in shallow water; they are about three weeks in advance of the Shad; well tasted either
fri'sb or salted, but not so fat as Eiiroui an Herring."


From the "Collections of tin- Massachusetts lli.stori.-al Society, ISli!." 1 ait) taken the following
physiological and historical notes on the occurrence of the Alewile at Wan-ham. Massachusetts:

"Of the Alt-wife there are evidently two kinds, not only in si/e lint habit, which annually
visit the brooks passing to the sea at Wareliam. The larger, which set in some days earlier,
invariably seek the Weweantitt sources. These, it is said, are preferred for present use, perhaps
because they are earliest. The second, less in size, and usually called 'Black backs,' equally
true to instinct, as invariably seek the Agawam. These are genera ly barreled for exportation.
In the sea, at the outlet of these streams, not far asunder, these fish must for weeks swim in com-
mon, yet each selects its own and peculiar stream. Hence an opinion prevails on the spot that
these fish seek the particular lake where they were spawned.

"Another popular anecdote is as follows: Alewives had ceased to visit a pond in Weymouth,
which- they had formerly frequented. The municipal authorities took the usual measures, by
opening the sluiceways in the spring at mill-dams, and also procured live Alewives from other
lM)iids, placing them in this, where they spawned, and sought the sea. No Alewives, however,
appeared here until the third year;* hence three years have been assumed by some as the period of

growth of this fish.

"These popular opinions, at either place, may or may not agree with the laws of the natural
history of migratory fish.

"The young Alewives we have noticed to descend about the 20th of June and before, con-
tinuing so to do some time, when they are about two inches long, their full growth being from
twelve to fifteen inches. We have imbibed an opinion that this fish attains its size in a year, but
if asked for proof we cannot produce it.

"These fish, it is said, do not visit our brooks in such numbers as in former days. The com-
plaint is of old date. Thus, in 1753, Douglass remarks on migratory fishes: 'The people living
upon the banks of Merrimack observe, that several species of fish, such as salmon, Shad, and Ale-
wives, are not so plenty in their seasons as formerly; perhaps from disturbance, or some other
disgust, as it happens with Herrings in the several friths of Scotland.' Again, speaking of Her-
rings, he says: 'They seem to be variable or whimsical as to their ground.' It is a fact, too, that
where they most abound, on the coast of Norway and Sweden, their occasional disappearance is a
subject of remark. 3

"The Herring is essentially different from the Alewife in size (much smaller) and in habit. It
continues, we believe, in the open sea, and does not seek pond-heads. Attempts are sometimes
made, by artificial cuts, to induce them to visit ponds which had not before a natural outlet. These
little cuts, flowing in the morning, become intermittent at noon, as the spring and summer advance.
Evaporation, therefore, which is very great from the surface of the pond, should, probably, be
considered in the experiment, making the canal as low as the midsummer level of the pond, other-
wise it may be that the fish perish in the passage. This may, in other respects, have its incon-
veniences, at seasons when the ponds are full.

"The town of Plymouth, for a series of years, annually voted from one theusand to five hun-
dred and two hundred barrels of Alewives to be taken at all their brooks, in former years.

"In the year 1730, the inhabitants were ordered not to take more than four barrels each; a

1 Vol. iv, second series, pp. 294-296.

This anecdote was related in a circle of the members of the general court at Boston, when a member from
Maine remarked that a similar event had occurred in his vicinity.

'Previous to 1752 the Herrings had entirely disappeared seventy-two years on the coast of Sweden ; and yet, in
1783, 139,000 barrels were cured by salt nt the month of the Gothela, near Gotteubnrg. STUDIES OF NATUKK.


large individual supply indeed, compared with the present period (1815), when it is difficult for an
householder to obtain two hundred Alewives, seldom so many.

"In 1762, at a vendue the surplus appears to have been sold in twenty-five barrel lots, which
sold at 3*. Id. and 4. the barrel. In 1763, Plymouth and Wareham took one hundred and fifty
barrels at the Agawam brook; 1 two hundred barrels was the usual vote, down to a modern date,
perhaps 1776. Menhaden were also taken in quantity at Wareham, and barreled for exportation,
in former years."

The G. cestivalis is the "Glut" Herring of the Albemarle and the Chesapeake, and the "English"
Herring of the Ogeechee Eiver. In the Saint John's River, Florida, it is known simply as the
"Herring." On the coast of Massachusetts it is called the "Blue-back," a name which is common
to the late runs of the same species of the Rappahannock. Around the Gulf of Maine this species
is also known by the names "Kyack" or "Kyauk," "Saw-belly," and " Cat- thrasher." Although
the coast fishermen of Massachusetts and Maine claim to distinguish the two species, the "Blue-
backs" and the "Alewives," their judgment is by no means infallible, for I have frequently had
them sort out into two piles the fishes which they distinguish under these names, and found that
their discrimination was not at all reliable. The features to which they mainly trusted in the deter-
mination of C. cestivalis are the bluer color of the back and the greater serration upon the ventral-
ridge. The other species, when the scales on its back are rubbed off, is as blue as this, and the
serration of the belly is dependent entirely upon the extent to which the back has become stiffened
in the death struggle and the consequent degree of arching of the ventral ridge. The young of
one or both species are sold in the Boston markets under the name " Sprats," and in New York
they make up a large proportion of the so-called " Whitebait." In the report of the Massachusetts
Commissioner of Fisheries for 1869, Col. Theodore Lyman called attention to the probable occur-
rence of two species in Massachusetts, but his diagnostic characters seem hardly well chosen. The
form which he calls the "Gray-back" is undoubtedly G. vernalis, and the "Black-bellies," which lie
is inclined to believe distinct, would appear to be another run of the same species. The river Her-
ring, which he speaks of as a large variety, not much esteemed, and supposed to spawn in tidal
water, may possibly be the same as C. cestivalis. The Black-bellies, if their habits are properly
described, have much in common with G. cestivalis. There is, however, much to be learned con-

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 98 of 146)