ESTABLISHMENT OF FISH RESCUE STATIONS IN THE
STATE OF WISCONSIN
..,>... COMMITTEE ON THE
MERCHANT MARINE AND FISHERIES
HOUSE OF REPKESENTATIVES
.• J. «30^0
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 12, 1921
GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
COMMITTEE ON THE MERCHANT MARINE AND FISHERIES.
House of Representatives,
WILLIAM S. GREENE, Massachusetts, Chairman.
GEORGE W. EDMONDS, Pennsylvania.
FREDERICK W. ROWE, New York.
FRANK D. SCOTT, Michigan.
WALLACE H. WHITE, Jr., Maine.
FREDERICK R. LEHLBACH, New Jersey.
SHERMAN E. BURROUGHS, New Hampshire
CHARLES F. CURRY, California.
EDWIN D. RICKETTS, Ohio.
CARL R. CHINDBLOM, Illmois.
FRANK CROWTHER, New York.
CLIFFORD E. RANDALL, Wisconsui.
WILLIAM N. ANDREWS, Maryland.
Rene G. de Tonn.\ncour, Clerli
RUFUS HARDY, Texas.
PETER J. DOOLING, New York.
LADISLAS LAZARO, Louisiana.
DAVID H. KINCHELOE, Kentucky.
WILLIAM B. BANKHEAD, Alabama.
WILLIAM C. WRIGHT, Georgia.
EWIN L. DAVIS, Tennessee.
THOMAS H. CULLEN, New York.
LIBRAKY OF CONGRESS
AUG 1 ^ 1924 *
OOC U MENTS_DIIVISIO_N_ j
ESTABLISHMEiNT OF FISH RESCUE STATION IN THE STATE
Committee on the Merchant Marine and Fisheries,
House of Representatives,
Wednesday^ January 12^ 1921.
The committee met at 10.30 o'clock a. m., Hon. William S. Greene
The Chairman. We will take np H. E. 15525 and will hear from
Representative Esch first.
The bill is as follows :
I H. 11. 1.5525, Sixty-sixth Congress, third session.]
A BILL To piovide fov the establishment on the Mississippi River, in the State of Wis-
consin, of a flsh-rescue station, to be under the direction of the Bureau of Fisheries
of the Department of Commerce.
Be it citactcd hij ihe Senate and House of Rcijresentatires of the United
States of America in Congress assembled, That there shall be established on the
Mississipiti River, in the State of Wifaeonsin, a station for the i-escue of fishes
and the propagation of mussels in connection with fish-rescue operations, to be
under the direction of the Bureau of Fisheries of the Department of Conunerce,
at a point to be selected by the Secretar.v of Commerce, and for this purpose
there, is authorized to be appropriated the sum of .$7.5,000 for the construction
of buildings and the purchase of equipment, boats, and such other accessories
as may be deemed necessary for the successful operation of such station.
Sec. 2. That in connection with the establishment of such flsh-rescue station
there is authorized the following personnel, namely : One district supervisor at
$3,000, to have general charge of fish-rescue and fish-cultural operations in the
Mississippi Valley ; a field superintendent at .$2,400 ; two field foremen at $1,800 ;
five fish-culturists at large at $1,400 each; one engineer at large at $1,400; one
clerk at $1,200 ; two coxswains at large at $1,200 each ; and two apprentice
fish-culturists at $1,800 each.
STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN J. ESCH, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CON-
GRESS FROM THE STATE OF WISCONSIN.
Mr. Esch. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, this bill is to provide
for the establishment on the Mississippi River, in the afte of Wis-
consin, of a fish-rescue station, to be under the d?t"edtion of the
Bureau of Fisheries, Department of Commerce. ^^^
The fish-rescue work is something- of a departure in connection
with the work of the Bureau of Fisheries, although it began some-
thing like 18 or 20 years ago, so far as the upper Mississippi River
is concerned, under the direction of R. S. Johnson, who, at that time,
was an official in the Bureau of Fisheries. He conceived the notion
that much beneficial work could be done by rescuing fish in the
landlocked waters of the upper river upon the subsidence of the
river, beginning with the midsummer months and continuing until
4 ESTABLISHMENT OF FISH RESCUE STATION IN WISCONSIN.
the freeze-up; but he had small equipment and had very sinall ap-
propriations, so that the work was practically tentative for quite
a number of years. In 1914, however, the fish rescued in the upper
river amounted to about 2,500,000, and from that year on there
has been a very mai'ked increase in the amount of fish rescued.
Rescue ^vork, so far as is concerned in this bill, means the sein-
ing of landlocked puddles, pools, bayous, lakes, ponds, and so on,
in the upper river, and t»ansporting the fish thus seined out of the
pools, lakes, bayous, etc.. to the main- channel. The reason for this
is simple. The Mississippi River, in its upper reaches, fluctuates
from 12 to 15 feet and there are vast bottom lands, the valley of
the upper river being from 200 to 500 miles in width, traversed by
numerous cross streams or bayous and lagoons in which the fish
The water in the upper river begins to subside about midsummer
after the June rise, and remains low practically throughout the
balance of the year. As the water recedes there are many lakes,
pools, and puddles created, and the fish that have been bred therein
are landlocked, can not escape, and so, in many, many instances,
perish. They perish, first, because the pool itself may become abso-
lutely dry or become so shallow that there is not sufficient food
therein to preserve life: secondly, they perish because, if they hap-
pen to survive until winter comes, the ice forming over them abso-
lutely destroys them, because the ice in the upper river sometimes
reaches a thickness of 30 inches, and the pool being frozen over
there is no air and they suffocate. In fact, there are many cases
in which the pools freeze absolutely solid. Rescue work, therefore,
means the saving of these fish in these landlocked pools, lakes, and
bayous and putting them back in the main stream.
Mr. Chindblo]\i. It is one of the few cases. Congressman, where
nature does not seem to provide for itself.
Mr. EscH. It does not. and therefore man, Avith his intelligence,
must come in to save the fish. The work has grown to such a rapid
extent that it is necessary to have a station established from which
all operations in the u])per river would be conducted. The bill
provides such a' station — building the structures, providing the neces-
sary water equipment, and providing for the necessary personnel.
I do not know that I can give you a better idea of the necessity,
character, and value of this work than to give you my experience
one day the middle of September last. I was invited by Supt. Collier,
who has charge of the upper river rescue work, to accom])any him
to the fichJx " .operations near Lynxville, Wis., 40 miles below La
Crosse, my^lsw-|ie town. We reached the station at Lynxville early in
the morning and in a launch went to a landlocked sluice which was
to be seined that day by two crews consisting of five men each, each
with a foreman. That sluice was one-third of a mile from the river
bank. 1,500 feet long, and an average of 150 feet wide. The crews
started wdth a seine about 150 feet long at, say, the lower end of this
lake, and dragged the net up to the center. The net consisted, I
think, of an 8-inch mesh, the top cord being buoyed with cork buovs
to float it and the lower cord being fitted with leaden weights to keep
it on the bottom. As the crews at each end of the net, walking along
the banks, drew the net toAvard the center, all the fish were o-raduallv
driven ahead of the net. When that net had been drago-ed^^out four
ESTABLISHMENT OF FISH RESCUE STATION IN WISCONSIN. 5
or five hundred feet toAvard the center of the hike it was staked and
made fast, so that no fish conld get below it. Then the crew took
another net of about the same length and about 150 feet long, and
starting at the upper end of the lake and dragging toward the center.
When they got to the center they Avove together the two ends of the
net, leaving the other two ends disengaged. That made an area of
water something like 100 feet in diameter surrounded by the net.
The men began pulling in the net. constricting the diameter "gradually.
As they did that, they utilized the open the disengaged ends of the
nets in making a runway in the middle and opening into clear -water,
something like 50 feet in length and with the distance of the nets 3
or 4 feet apart. When the diameter of the net had gotten down to
50 feet we noticed considerable agitation upon the surface of the
water. In some cases the larger fish jumped out, evidently much
agitated, and a few leaped over the cork edge of the net and escaped —
a very few. When the diameter had gotten down to about 25 feet,
the surface was almost in full agitation, there was such a mass of fish.
The men got out at the outside of this circle and gradually pushed
the net in toward the entrance to the ruuAvay. a*nd the fish finally were
all driven into the runway. Then the men took tubs and with dip-
nets lifted the fish into the tubs, and as the tubs were filled they were
carried about a third of a mile and dumped into the main river.
In that small pool or lake in that one day these 12 men took out 98
tubs of fish, aggregating 560,000 buffaloes, rough fish and game fish ;
there were literally thousands of black bass, pike, bull heads, catfish,
and crappies, and then of rough fish, such as carp.
That is an illustration of the w&.j in which this rescue work is
carried on. That was a banner day, I admit it, but the average last
year of a single crew was 110,000 fish rescued a day.
To give you some idea of the importance of this work, as I stated,
in 191-t there were about two and a half million rescued. In 1918
they had rescued 34,000,000. in 1919 they rescued 157,000,000. and
in this last sejtson, owing to the fact that it was shorter and owing
to the fact the wages of the men were higher, they rescued 116,750.000.
I do not know that we can comprehend what that means. The pond
fishes that are propagated in the 140 hatcheries of the Ignited States,
according to a statement I have given me b^^ Mr. Leach, aggregated
only 1.800,000. 8o you have in this rescue work many, many more
times the amount of game fish rescued than are propagated artificially
in the Government hatcheries.
Xow, as to the cost. ]Mr. Leach, in a letter to me of January 14,
states as follows :
In reply to your question some time ago, regarding the cost of producing fisli
at tlie bureau's stations, you are advised that during tlie calendar year 1919
1.800,000 pond fishes were produced at the various stations operated by the
bureau. Their approximate cost per thousand was .$4.42 for flngerlings No. 2A.
What does that mean?
Mr. Leach. That means 2^ inches in length.
Mr. EscH (continuing) :
You will therefore readily see that the 156,388,000 tish rescued during the
past season by the bureau at a cost of 20 cents per thousand furnishes a good
illustration of the great value of the work.
6 ESTABLISHMEXT OF FISH RESCUE STATION IX WlSCOXSIlsr.
Mr. Randall. And the cost last year was higher than the year
before, was it not? '
Mr. EscH. Yes. The cost last year was about 21.7 cents per
thousand, while the year before, 1919, the cost was approximately
20 cents. I think, gentlemen, that you can not put Government
money to more valuable use in the matter of conservation and food
production than in this rescue work on the Mississippi River. It
can not be done.
Now, as to the value. In 1918. the rough fish, that would be the
carp and buffalo, amounted to 2,500,000 pounds, aggregating enough
to make 400 carloads. The3^were shipped to the eastern markets, the
chief market being New York, and the amount received therefor was
$250,000. This gives you some idea of the commercial side of this
remarkable work, not saying anything about the side of the angler.
In a letter sent to me by Commissioner Smith, under date of Janu-
ary 18, 1920, he states :
Durinjj the senson recently closed —
That would be the season of 1919 —
156.338,000 food flshes from li to 4 inches long, representin::: iwaeticully all
the commercial species han<lled in the markets of the Middle West, were re-
moved by the bureaii from shallow landlocked pools along the IMississsippi
River, and all but 820.140 of them were imn)ediately returned to the main river.
Of the comparatively small number distributed, only 10 per cent were shipped
to distant points. The remainder wei-e delivered to applicants, who ]ilanted
them in watei's connected with the IMississippi watershed.
As is probably well known to you. all the fishes thus salvaged would neces-
sarily have i)erished and have lieen entirely wasted when the tem])orary pools
formed at the time of freshet became dry or frozen.
Judging from the results obtained :it the bureau's hatcheries, where the losses
on fish carried to the fingerling stage do not exceed 50 per cent, it is estimated
that at least 25 per cent of the number of fish salvaged in the 1919 operations
will reach the markets within two to three years and that the average weight
at that time for all species will not be less than 1^ pounds. Figured on the
average cost per pound paid l?y commercial dealers in the upper Mississippi
Valley during December, 1919. the fish salvaged by the bureau duriiag that year
will he worth .$6,527,000 in two or three years' time —
Which is jDractically more than the Avhole Bureau of Fisheries cost
Mr. "Whitk. There has been introduced into the House and re-
ferred to this committee and. by this committee to a subcommittee on
fisheries, a great many bills providing for fish-cultural stations and
Avork of that nature. Offhand, I sliould guess there are 50 or 75
of them that are sleeping in the subcommittee, calling for an aggre-
gate of a good many millions of dollars. The subcommittee has not
acted, I think, largely because we got a pretty plain intimation from
some authority in the House that they could not look with favor on
any such demand for money at this time. I take it you have drawn —
and I want to get it into my head — you draw a distinction between
fish-cultural stations, as they ordinarily designate them, and this
Mr. EscH. Absolutely.
Mr. White. And there is no suggestion of a fish-cultural plant in
connection with this proposal of yours?
Mr. EscH. Not at all ; solely rescue work.
Mr. White. This is purely a rescue proposition, and we can dis-
tinguish between that and this mass of other bills ?
ESTABLISHMENT OF FI8K JJESCUE STATION IN WISC^ONSIN 7
Mr. EscH. I think you can very readily make a distinction. And
I call another point to your attention which might justify favorable
action on this bill, in that it also provides for the propagation of
mussels in connection with the rescue operations.
Mr. Chindblom. Before you go to that subject — it may be this
question would more properly be put to some representative of the
bureau— are there other rescue stations of this kind in the country?
Mr: EscH. There are no rescue stations in the United States.
This work is not confined to the upper river, but in the winter
months Mr. Collier and his assistants go to the Louisiana waters, as
Dr. Lazero knows, to do rescue work in tlie lower regions of the
Mr. Chindblom. And there ai'e no stations anywhere^
Mr. EscH. There are no stations anywhere; tliis is the only one.
And I will say the great field for rescue worlc extends from Prescott,
Minn., which is about 25 miles below St. Paul, to Sabula, Iowa, a
stretch of approximately MX) miles. The opportunities for rescue
work in that 800 miles are simply magnificent. Here these millions
and millions of food fishes have been goin^i' to Avaste year after year
until this rescue work started, and we can only scratch, as I might
say, a part of the ground: we can not begin to cover the territory
because of the limited appropriation and limited facilities.
The Chairman. Is this rescue work carried on by private enter-
prise or by the Government ?
Mr. EscH. Oh, the (xovernment has charge of the whole matter.
Mr. WnrrE. What are the several States in that neighborhood
doing, if anything, in connection with this work?
Mr. EscH. At first there was very marked hostility to the opera-
tions of the Government in this rescue work. Now they are heartily
cooperating and giving and surrendering the right of rescue work.
That is their own territory, and at one time they practically almost
forbade the (lovernment's rescuing fish.
Mr. White. You say they are surrendering ; are they contributing ?
Mr. EscH. They have, but I think the director can a^dvise you more
clearly as to that. I know at one time Supt. JSTevins, of our conserva-
tion commission of Wisconsin, attempted to secure some pike and
bass for distribution in the inner waters of our State, and it was very
simply stated that it was not primarily designed for rescue.
Now. in connection Avith the propagation of mussels, Avhich dif-
ferentiates this bill from any fish-cultural l)ill and which, in my
judgment, would alone justify its enactment, let me say some 16
or 16 years ago Profs. La Favre and Johnson, of the University
of Missouri, made experiments as to artificial propagation of fresh-
water mussels, and they made some of those experiments in a little
wooden station in my own home city. I therefore had the oppor-
tunity of seeing a demonstration. They showed that a fresh-Avater
mussel propagates in different months of the year; that the eggs
of the ripe m?issel can^be expressed or taken from the mussel, put in
a tank of Avater, and then, if fish are placed in the tank, those mussel
eggs or glochidium — that is the technical term — fasten themselves
upon the gills, fins, and tails of (he fish in the tank and there they
foUoAV a parasitic life of from four to five or six Aveeks to tAvo months,
when they are sloughed off and drop on the bottom of the stream and
are ready to start their independent existence.
8 p:stablishme:\"t of fish rescue statiox ix Wisconsin.
Now. we Avant, in connection with the fish-rescue work, to have
fish cultiiralists in every rescue crew supplied with the riirht kind
of mussels, so that as the tubs are taken from the landlocked pools
and before beino- dumped into the main channel, the fish culturalists
would place in each tub a certain number of glochidium. and by the
time the tub reaches the main bank the fish will have been impreg-
nated with the glochidium and it is all done in the one process. So
that we will be distributing the mussel all up and down the river
and we can, therefore, propagate the mussel, which is much suited
for propagation, for the production of pearl buttons. And Mr. Hull
is here, in whose district are a large number of button factories, in
the upper river, where it is a large industry, and one which, unless
Ave produce a large supply of these mussels. Avill have to go out of
business, involving many thousands of employees.
Mr. Davis. Will the distribution of these mussels be universal ;
in other words, would they be distributed in such a way that they
Avould be aA^ailable in deeper waters?
Mr EscH. They are put right into the river
Mr. Davis. I understand that.
Mr, EscH. The fish is impregnated and then the fish goes where
he Avills and each fish seek^ its oAvn spaAA-ning place and season. We
do not knoAv Avhere they go. but Ave find they can be artificially propa-
gated and the work is successful. The Government has already rec-
ognized the A'alue of the mussel production by establishing a hatchery
at Fair Port. Iowa. I think it was established some 10 or 20 years
Mr. Davis. What I meant Avas this. Mr. Esch : It is not valuable
from a commercial standpoint except where those mussels are in
comparatiA^ely shalloAv Avater. In other words, they can not be
gathered in any other way, can they?
Mr. Esch. Oh. they fish for the mussels in the upper river prac-
tically in the main channels.
Mr. Davis. With a form <^f dredge?
Mr. Esch. They have rakes on wdiich are numerous hooks, and
these are dropjied to the bottom of the river and dragged along on
the bottom, and as the hook comes in contact Avith the mussel it grabs
hold of it and is pidled up: it don't know enough to let go.
Mr. (^HiNDBLOM. Maybe somebodA' else can answer this question
more readily, but Avhat do we know about the migration of these
particular kinds of fish you haAe up there in the landlocked waters?
Will they traA^el A^ery far?
Mr. Esch. I judge so. because the conditions are practically the
same for hundreds of miles along the river; but I would prefer to
haA-e you ask the question of Mr. Leach or Director Smith. I think
it ought to be realized that here is a chance for doing, Avith a small
amount of money, an enormous amt^jnt of good, because fish are the
cheapest form of meat food.
STATEMENT OF DR. HUGH M. SMITH, COMMISSIONER OF
Dr. Smith. I Avould like to concur in eAerything that INIr. Esch has
said about the nature and importance of this work, and in ansAver
to the question of Mr. Chindblom a moment ago I Avill say prac-
tically all of the fishes involved in these operations are more or less
ESTABLISHMEisT OF FISH RESCUE STATION IX WlSCOIsSlN. 9
migratoiy. so that when rescued fish in Wisconsin are returned to
the main stream, those fish may be caught for the market in Missouri
or Illinois or Iowa or farther south. And when you innoculate such
fish with the young mussels the fisli will distribute those mussels all
over the length of the Mississippi Valley. So tliat this really is not
State work; it is work which is interstate and very properly falls to
the charge of the Federal GoA'ernnient. Work done anywhere in the
Mississippi Valley at any point may benefit all the States in the
Mr. Lazaro. Dr. Smith. Mr. Esch a while ago spoke of some res-
cue work being done in Louisiana. W^ould you mind telling us what
kind of work is done there and just how much work?
Dr. Smith. That is a field that has not been properly developed
because we have not had the facilities, but Louisiana undoubtedly
offers fine opportunities for the rescue of some of the most valuable
food fishes — black bass, and particularly buffalofish and catfish.
Mr. Ci-iiNDRLOM. I suppose the headwaters of all the big streams in
the country would furnish opportunity for this kind of a station,
would they not ?
Dr. Smith. The opportunity is particularly marked in the Mis-
sissippi and its tributaries, but we could very properly extend the
work into the Missouri and the Ohio and various other of the major
Mr. Davis. How about the Cumberland and the Tennessee?
Dr. Smith. If those rivers are subject to freshet and leave the
fishes stranded in the farm lands, as on the Mississippi, then there is
certainly a field and somebody ought to go in and do the work,
because this is a form of fish conservation which for immediate re-
sults has no equal. W^e are operating many fish hatcheries, as Mr.
Esch has pointed out, but if we had 350 hatcheries handling the same
kind of fish we are rescuing we could not have exceeded by artificial
means what we did in the rescue operations in 1919. It is an actual
fact that 345 hatcheries would have been required to produce the
fish that were saved from certain destruction by this fish-rescue work
in 1919. and this work is done at a cost that is insignificant. About
80 per cent of the fish Ave rescued in 1919 were salvaged at a cost of
13 cents per thousand, all overhead charges included.
Mr. Chairman. I prepared a popular article on this subject last
year, thinking it would appeal to many people in various parts of the
country, and. with your permission. I would like to pass copies of
this reprint among the members of the committee.
The Chairman. I recollect a number of years ago we had quite
extensiA'e hearings in regard to the mussel business.
Dr. Smith. Yes.
Mr. Raxdall. Ought the contents of this article not appear as a
part of our hearing ?
The Chairman. I think it might be a A^ery good idea.
Mr. Esch. You could not put in the illustrations. I su])pose. witli-
out authority of the House ; but the text could ])e put in.
Mr. Chindblom. I guess we could put in the illustrations if Dr.
Smith can furnish the plates.
Dr. Smith. Yes; we have the photographs. Tlie mussel industry,
to which reference has been made and Avhicli represents an annual
10 ESTABLISHMENT OF FISH EESCU'E STATION IN WISCONSIN.
value of a great many million dollars, with the dependent pearl-
button business, is absolutely dependent on the presence and abun-