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Ontario. Game and fish commission.

Commissioners' report online

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Three species of Bony Ganoids occur in Ontario, two Gar-pikes (Lepidosteus
osseus and L. platystomus) and the Mudfish (Amia calva).

The Gar-pikes have an elongated, almost cylindrical body covered with the



442



obliquely arranged lozenge-shaped scales which are so characteristic of the genus.
The jaws are elongated into a beak which is twice the length of the head in the
long-nosed species (L. osseus), but shorter and oroader in the other species. In
both the beak is very well provided with teeth, there being several rows of small
teeth and one row of larger size.

As in the Sturgeon, there is a hyoidean half-gill attached to the deep surface
of the gill-cover, but the spiracles do not open to the outside and are small in
size. One of the peculiarities of the skeleton is that the vertebrae instead of hav-
ing cup-like surfaces as in the Amia and the ordinary bony fishes are united by a
ball and so2ket joint, the soskefc being on the hinder surface of each vertebra.

The remaining represent! veoF this important group, A mia calva, is of common
occurrence in the Great Lakes and sluggish waters southwards. In various
places it is known under different popular names: Lake Dogfish from its
voracity, Mudfish from the waters it frequents, Bowfin from the characteristic
long dorsal. In shape the Mudfish somewhat recalls the Shad tribe, and it is
perhaps to this division of the bony fishes to which it is most nearly allied. All
naturalists are agreed that the Amia is the leading representative of an extinct
transition group between the ancient Ganoid fishes and the modern Teleosts.

From the latter, however, there are still many points of distinction ; such as
the completeness of the cartilaginous skull under the outside dermal bones encas-
ing it, the presence of a similar dermil bone between the lower jaws and of two
peculiar file-like structures attached to the hinder edge of the gill-opening.

The general colouring of the MudHsh is dark olive-green above, pale below,
but the males are marked by a round black spot bordered by yellow at the base of
the caudal, which is absent in the females.

SUB-CLASS V. TELEOSTEI.

The general structure of the Tel costs has been described on p. 429;
it now remains to give some details as to the peculiarities of the various sub-'
divisions of the group.

They are primarily classified into Physostomous and Physoclystous
Teleosts : i.e. those in which the air-bladder opens into the gullet in the adult,
and those where it is completely shut oft. Even in those forms where the air-
bladder does open by a tube into the gullet, its importance as a breathing organ
is quite unlike that in the Bony Ganoids, and its functions are therefore regarded
as being more closely related to the locomotion of the fish. Those Teleosts in
which the air-bladder is closed are regarded as further removed from the Bony
^anoids than the others, and it is therefore desirable to treat of the latter first

PHYSOSTOMI.

In this division the scales are usually cycloid, and the fin-rays (with the
exception of one or more anterior ones, modified into defensive spines) soft.

3 most primitive families are undoubtedly the Catfishes, Suckers and
Minnows, and they all agree in possessing the connection between the air-bladder

s which ifc "
of a typical



and m having the lower jaw projecting beyond the upper, and



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443



A. natalis, a species with a broad head and a longer anal fin than the above,
(A 24-27). Further information is desirable as to the geographical distribution
and any differences of habit of these species.

The great Catfish of the lakes and larger rivers, (Amiurus nigricans)
plate 5, is at once distinguishable by its great size it may run to a weight of
100 Ibs. and its forked tail. The young may be known by the fin-formula
(D, I, 5 ; P, I, 9 ; A. 25) from the above species. Apart from its only being found
in large bodies of water, it appears to share the mode of life of the smaller
species, l-ut little appears to be known as to the peculiarities, which a species so
distinct is sure to possess.

For completeness sake, reference may be made here to the small Stone- Cats
(Noturus) which are inconspicuous on account of their size (4-5 inches), but
differ from the Catfish proper in their habits of lurking beneath stones, and in the
length of the adipose fin which is almost continuous with the tail-fin. Two
species are reported from the Great Lakes region JV. gyrinus and N. flavus*
the latter being characterized by its serrated pectoral spine.

The Suckers (CATOSTOMID^E) are a family of fish which can hardly be said
to be of economical importance, for their flesh is coarse, watery and destitute of
flavour, but they, like the Minnows, are at least important as furnishing food
to the carnivorous fishes. Their great abundance also, especially when they
ascend streams in the spring, has caused them to be occasionally used by farmers
for fertilizing purposes.

They differ from the Catfishes in their coat of cycloid scales, the conical
head narrowing to the small mouth, which is destitute of the surrounding
barbels, but has protractile fleshy lips, and toothless jaws. There are no spines
as in the Catfish, the anal fins are always shorfcer than in that family and
there is no adipose fin. The air-bladder is divided into two or three compart-
ments, an arrangement which has been supposed to favour sudden changes of
the position of the head in swimming, but most probably has some other function

In addition to the genus Catostomus which gives its name to the family,
and to which the Common Sucker (C. teres) belongs, four other genera occur in
the Lake region, viz.: Ictiobus, Erimyzon, Minytrema, Moxostoma.

The first mentioned, including the Buffalo fishes of the Mississippi Valley and
one species from the Great Lakes (/. Thompsoni), is at once distinguished by its
long dorsal fin of 27 rays, while the others rarely have half as many ; of these
Catostomus, Erimyzon, Minytrema, agree in having the air-bladder divided into
two compartments, whereas in Moxostoma it has three. Catostomus embraces
comparatively small-scaled forms in which 80-100 scales are found in the course
of the lateral line, while Erimyzon, Moxostoma and Minytrema have large scales,
from 40 to 50 in the lateral line.

Of the numerous species of Catostomus, two, C. catostomus, the long-nosed
Sucker, and C. teres, the common Sucker, are known to occur in Ontario, the
former the larger of the two being more abundant northward and westward.
It is distinguished by the projecting snout which overhangs the mouth, and by
the greater number of scales (95-114) in the course of the lateral line as com-
pared with the common species (64-70). Both species indicate their affinity to
the next family (Gyprinidoe) by the males possessing a special breeding dress
in spring, consisting of a rosy lateral band, and numerous excrescences about the
head and anal fin.



444

The Chub Suckers (Erimyzon sucetta), are small fish, never exceeding ten
inches in leno-bh, while the Spotted Sucker (Minytrema melanops), which re-
ceives its name from each scale having a blackish spot at its base, attains a length
of eighteen inches.

Of the large-scaled Suckers the Redhorses or Mullets are much commoner
than the above. The most abundant species is Moxostoma aureolum, which
reaches the size of two feet and upwards, and is distinguished by a yellowish
brown colour and bright red fins, but there is also a silvery form (M. amsurum)
with a longer dorsal fin (D 15-18 instead of 13).

" q ;JClosely allied to the Suckers are numerous small fresh-water fish known as
Chub Dace, Shiners, Minnows, etc., belonging to the family CYPRINIM:, a family
widely represented in the Old World as well, although, the Suckers are charac-
teristically North American.

None of them are of any economical importance, except in so far as they
furnish food for the Jarger fishes. Much remains to be learned about the geo-
graphical distribution of the family in Ontario, it being a matter of considerable
difficulty to distinguish the various species from each other. They differ from
the Suckers in that the upper maxillary bone does not contribute to form the
border of the mouth. The teeth on the lower pharyngeal bones furnish to
naturalists the most convenient way ot recognizing the species.

Of the numerous species the following may be noted : Pimephales notatws,
the fat-head minnow ; Notropis (Minnilus) megalops, the Red-fin or Dace, and
N. atherinoides, the Rosy Minnow ; Hybopsis (Ceratichthys) dissimilis, the
Spotted Shiner ; Semotilus bullaris, the Fall-fish or Chub ; Pkoxinus dongatus,
the Red-Sided Shiner ; Notemigonus chrysoleucus, the Golden Shiner, and many
others.

Any description of these forms, sufficient to allow of their correct diagnosis,
would transgress the limits of this report. Jordan's Manual of the Vertebrates of
North America gives tables facilitating the discrimination of the various species.

In addition to these small Cyprinoids familiar as a group, but less known
specifically, are two introduced genera which require some notice. One of these
is the goid-fish, Carassius auratus, a native of China, and domesticated there for
centuries. It is known everywhere as an aquarium fish, and varies very much
both in form and colouration. The other is the Carp proper (Cyprinus carpio)
also an Asiatic fish but valued and cultivated both in Europe and America as a
food-fish. Special reference will be made to its peculiarities hereafter, (p, 470).



A second natural group of Physostomi is formed of the Moon-eyes, Herring
and Shad, which have numerous fresh-water representatives, but are not so
exclusively fresh-water in their habits as the preceding families.

In all, the body is compressed and covered with silvery scales usually cycloid
and often deciduous. The prenaaxillaries are not protractile, and the maxillaries
contribute to form the edge of the upper jaw. The anal fin is of considerable
length although low, and the caudal much forked.

The Moon-eyes are confined to the fresh waters of North America, and
belong to a single genus Hyodon which gives its name to the family. The
popular name is derived from the very large eyes, the scientific name from
the strong teeth with which the tongue is armed. One of the most obvious dis-
tinctions from the Herring family is that the teeth are crowded on^every available
surface of support within the mouth.



[PLATE 11.]




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445



The commonest species is the Moon-eye or Toothed Herring of the Lakes
tergisus^ : it frequently is taken in pound -nets, but is not regarded as
a valuable food-fish. On the other hand the Gold-Eye, H. alosoides (so-called on
account of the belly coming to a sharp keel as in the Shad) is a fish of some import-
ance in the North-west both commercially and to the sportsman. It is common
in the Saskatchewan valley, but is probably confined to that part ol Ontario
which drains into Lake Winnipeg, p. 428.

The CLUPEIDJE or Herring family differ from the Moon-eyes in having an
almost toothless mouth, but very long gill-rakers ; they are all gregarious fish
swimming in immense schools, but although many are marine, others, like the
salmon, ascend fresh-water streams to spawn, and of these some may become
permanently land-locked.

The sea-herring (CLupea harengus) is of course one of the most valuable and
abundant of food-fish, but it is entirely confined to the sea ; the Shad on the other
hand (G. sapidissima) ascends rivers to spawn and was formerly abundant even
in the Lower Ottawa. The only member of the genus, however, which can now
be said to be common within the Province is the Gaspereau or Alewife
<((7. pseudoharengus orvernalis), introduced into Lake Ontario since 1873 and now
very abundant. Another species, the Ohio Shad (G. ckrysochloris), has been in-
troduced into Lake Erie, but is not valued for food.

One of the marked features of the herrings is the keeled abdomen with its
saw-like edge. Teeth may be present on the vomer as in the sea-herring, or on
the jaws as in the Shad, or may be absent in the adult as in the Alewife and Shad
proper. The latter species is distinguished by the gill-cover being deeper than it
is long, also by its finer and more numerous gill-rakers.

The Gaspereau appears to have been accidentally introduced into Lake Ontario
when the intention was to plant shad. At least it was formerly very uncommon
in the lower St. Lawrence, rarely straggling up higher than Metis. It is still
uncertain whether the fish, which appear abundantly every spring toward the end
of April, and disappear just as suddenly in September or October, go down to the
ocean in the fall and return thence in the spring or whether they merely retire to
the deep waters of the lake. The time of their movement is very probably a
matter of temperature. They come in towards the shores in immense schools at
the spawning season, rising to the surface and rippling it as mackerel do. The
schools are composed of adult fish of 8 to 9 \ inches in length, and are regarded as
a nuisance in the Thousand Island region where they fill the pound and trap nets
to the exclusion of other fish. They are, however, valuable from their quantity
if not for their quality, and besides furnishing a cheap food the surplus catch
can be employed in the manufacture of fertilisers.

Obstacles in the way of river dams, etc., preventing the Alewives reaching
their natural spawning grounds and thus diminishing their number, have been
regarded by the late Professor Baird as a cause of the decrease of the inshore
-cod and other fisheries, the Alewives being a favourite food of the carnivorous fish.
It is probable that the presence of Alewives in Lake Ontario may re-act favourably
on its fisheries by furnishing an abundant food for the larger lake fish. Little
is known with regard to the spawning of the Alewife in Lake Ontario : it is said
to occur in shoal water in June. The eggs number from 60,000 to 100,000, and are
somewhat adhesive ; three or four days suffice to hatch them, and the young fish
obtain a length of two or three inches before the winter. Immense numbers of dead
Alewives are found on the surface of the lake in the early summer ; the cause of



446



their death is obscure, it being hardly possible that the explanation offered as to
some of the smaller lakes of New York State the use of explosives for wholesale
killing of food-fish is the true one.

The shad (C. sapidissima) is undoubtedly one of the most important of Am-
erican food fishes. It used to be abundant in the Lower Ottawa, but the pollution
of the river, by sawdust etc., appears to have rendered its former spawning grounds
unavailable. Its spawning habits resemble those of the Alewife; the eggs are spun
out by the female on to a sandy bar while in rapid motion, and the male scatters
the niilt at the same time, both sinking slowly to the bottom. Three to eight days
suffice for hatching, after which the young escape and are able to swim freely.
A ripe shad contains from twenty to forty thousand eggs. The males are smaller
(IJ-Glb.) than the females (3J-8) and are earlier mature. The same apparent
local instinct is said to be exhibited by the shad as by the salmon ; the young
hatched in any particular stream returning to it after an interval of two to three
years when adult. It is possible that this is to be interpreted by their not going
far from the mouths of the rivers in which they have been bred, j "ncv^SS

Allied to the shad is a fish of similar form recently introduced into Lake
Ontario and Erie, but of no value economically. It is known as the Gizzard-
shad (Dorosoma, cepedianum) on account of its muscular stomach and is further
distinguished by the last ray of the dorsal being produced into a long thread. It
has occasionally been found dead at the surface in considerable numbers.



By far the most important family of the fresh-water Teleosts, as regards
economical value and the number of species, is undoubtedly that of the SALMONID.E.
Like the foregoing, many of the members are anadromous, living a part of their
life in the sea but ascending rivers to spaw*n. Other forms which are confined to
large bodies of fresh water often congregate about the mouths of the rivers fall-
ing into them or ascend these for the same purpose. The Capelin (Mallotus
vUlosus) and Smelt (Osmerus eperlanus) are exclusively marine forms; the Salmon
and Trout are found in both salt and fresh water, while the Whitefish, Grayling
and Lake Trout are confined to inland waters.

In all of the forms that concern us here, the intestine is furnished with
numerous pyloric cceca, which serve to increase its surface. Unlike the shad the
abdomen is rounded, and there is present an adipose fin. The Whitefish
(Coregonus) are distinguished by an entire absence of teeth, and by the large
size of the scales. Of the toothed genera, the Grayling (Thymallus) is at once char-
acterized by its long and high dorsal fin, while the Salmon (Salmo) and Brook
and Lake Trout (Salvelinus) agree in having teeth on the jaws and tongue, but
ier in that the vomer m the latter genus is destitute of teeth.

The genus Coregonus is not confined to North America but is also found in
Jurge inland waters such for example as the Swiss Lakes in Europe and Asia.
Ihe species are somewnat difficult to distinguish, innumerable local varieties
mg recognized by fishermen, which probably do not deserve to rank as distinct
Ihe body is compressed in all and the air-bladder very large, the
5 cceca very numerous, and the eggs numerous and of small size.
Six species occur within the Province, which may be arranged in two groups
rding as the lower jaw is included within or projects beyond the upper. To the
r ?T ^ ? mm n J Whitefish & dupeiformis), and with itCquadrila-

f^^^- c ' hoyi > while to the latte

and the Tulhbee of Manitoba, (C. tullibee)



acco



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447



The common Whitefish is the most important, abundant and widely distri-
buted of these. It is distinguished by its compressed body, its elevated back
a peculiarity especially marked in the adult arid its small short head with
obliquely truncated snout.

C. quadrilateralis is rounder in body,(it is the Roundfish of Richardson) and'
further differs in having a larger head, stouter gill-rakers and a dark-blue colour
of the back from the foregoing species, to the size of which it does not reach. Ii>
is commoner northward than in the Great Lakes.

C. Idbradoricus is commoner towards the north-east, as its name suggests",
but it is also found in Lake Superior and northward ; it has the compressed body
of the common whitefish, but the length of head of the Roundfish. It only
attains a length of one foot, and has some teeth on the tongue which the white-
fish lacks. A whitefish of similar size occurring in the deeper waters of Lakes Michi-
gan and Ontario is known as the Cisco in the former and as the " long-jaw " in
the latter ; it is distinguished by the bright silvery color of the under parts, but
also by the smaller number of fin-rays (D 10, A 10.) and of the scales in a vertical
row. In its larger mouth it approaches the Lake Herring (C. artedi), which
occurs in immense shoals in the lakes and especially in Lakes Erie and Ontario,
and is, next to the Whitefish, the most important member of the group. The
variety known in commerce as the Cisco of Lake Ontario, is a deep water
form, much fatter than the ordinary Lake Herring, and bringing as much as one-
third higher price on account of its making better kippers than the other. Lastly
the Tullibee, which is commoner in Manitoba than in Ontario, is intermediate to a
certain extent between the Lake Herring and Whitefish, but has the deep com-
pressed body of the latter and scales which, being larger in front and peculiarly
marked, are characteristic of this species alone.

The Whitefish proper deserves special attention on account of its importance
from the economical standpoint. As remarked above it exhibits considerable
variation both in size and form. The largest fish are taken in Lake Superior,
where they may weigh as much as 20 Ib, whereas in Lake Erie they rarely attain
to half that weight. The fish are mature when much smaller, the males being
conspicuously smaller than the females.

The observed variations in form are associated with a marked preference for
adhering to some particular locality even in large bodies of water. This would
seem to be incompatible with the migrations of the fish in the lakes, but it is
probable that these movements are from deep into shallow water and vice versa.
Fishermen at least are confident that Whitefish taken in different localities can be
easily recognized, that those e.g. taken in the upper end of Lake Ontario are
different from those in the lower end of Lake Erie; and that the fish e.g. taken in
Batchewaung Bay, Lake Superior, are peculiar to that bay. Indians at the Sault
say that the Whitefish of the lake above never descend the rapids, while those of
the river never ascend to the lake.

In Lake Ontario and also in the upper lakes, but not in Lake Erie, w^here
the water is too warm, two shoreward movements are observed ; the first occurs
in June with the approach of warm weather and its object would appear to be
the larvae of the various aquatic insects which are then abundant. When the
shallow water becomes too warm they retreat again into the deeper, waters of the
lake, where the shrimp-like erustaceaof these depths (Mysis relicta and Pontoporeia
affinis) furnish them with abundant food. After a stay of two or three months,
that is to say till about the middle of October, there begins the second shoreward
movement, this time for the purpose of spawning, the spawning grounds being
slowly reached towards the middle of November or the beginning of December.
After this function has been successfully accomplished they retreat again into



448



the deep waters of the lakes. In the fall, and just before the spawning season,
various minute shell-fish would appear to constitute the bulk of their food.

The places selected for spawning grounds are honey-combed rocks or
gravelly bottoms, in water of 30 to 50 feet depth, the crevices in which afford a
safe place of lodgment for the eggs and protect them to a certain extent from
the watchful spawn-eaters, the suckers, lake herring and lake lizards or Meno-




Fig. 12. CANADIAN LAKE LIZARD, OB MENOBRANCH. (Necturus niaculatus.)

branchs (fig. 12). On the north shore of Lake Superior the mouths of the great
rivers, like & the Michipicoten and Neepigon, are favourite places ; possibly a relic of
a former anadromous habit, such as characterises other Salmonoids. To cope
successfully with the destructive spawn-eaters large numbers of eggs are deposited,
although many of them are destined to destruction. It has been calculated that
a female Whitefish sheds 10,000 for every pound of her weight

It is possible that the spawning habits in the rivers and lakes differ, the
fish exhibiting greater activity in the former than in the latter. In both, how-
ever, they pair, the male being uniformly much smaller than the female. In the
Detroit River the fish are described as jumping in pairs at night, the male swim-
ming along beside the female with his snout up towards the pectoral fin, and
both suddenly leaping from the water, spawn and milt running from them the
while. In Lake Ontario, on the other hand, the female has been described as
ploughing a nest in the gravelly bottom, where she remains for two or three
days until all the eggs are deposited. Possibly the spawning habits of the vari-
ous species differ, but sufficient attention has not been given to the subject.

In contrast with the short period of development described for the Clupeoids
(p 445) the Whitefish eggs require about 100 days to hatch out at the natural
temperature of the water. They thus escape from the egg about the beginning
of April, and have entirely absorbed the yolk-sac by the end of that month,
when they have reached the length of half "an inch.

The little minnows thereafter make for deeper water, but it is stated that
the fish do not seek the greater depths until they have attained a weight of over
& pound ; many of these immature fish are therefore caught in pound-nets, while
the gill-nets secure no fish under a pound in weight.

The principal enemy of the Whitefish after it has attained maturity is the



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