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Mexico, Mr. Stearns writes :

"The Sting Ray or Stingaree is abundant all along the Gulf coast It is present all the year,
but is most commonly seen is warm weather, while upon the shoals in search of food. I have
caught these fish with young continuously from April to the latter part of October. The usual
number of a brood is three or four, but I have seen as many as eight or nine taken from largo
individuals. Possibly the age or size of the parent may affect the number of young they bear.
They feed upon shell-fish. Small ones are quite tame, coming near the shore in search of food,
and when disturbed quickly bury themselves in the sand or dart away a short distance. The
larger and older ones are more wary, seldom coming into very shoal water, ami at the least disturb-
ance swim away with great rapidity to deep water. The Sting Ray has a barbed spine on its tail
which it uses in self-defense. It is sometimes caught with hook and line, but more often in seines,
and then it uses its tail as a whip upon its captors, trying to wound them with its spine. Such
wounds are often dangerous, and very painful and difficult to heal. The Sting Ray attains an
enormous size, and specimens six or seven feet across the back are frequently caught. I caught a
specimen off Cedar Keys whose spine had been broken off and replaced by a new one which grew
out beneath the old one.

"Capt. Joseph Fogarty, of Manatee, reports having seen a large school of Sting Rays in Long
Boat Inlet. They were swimming near the bottom, very closely crowded together.


"The Sting Ray and Whip Ray are very often eaten on the Gulf coast, and are sold daily in
the New Orleans market."


The Butterfly Ray, Pteroplatea maclura, although a member of the same family with the Sting
Ray, differs very much in its external appearance, and would hardly be supposed by the unlearned
to be a fish at all. The tail is exceedingly small, while the pectoral flaps are enormously devel-
oped. The body often attains the weight of ten or twelve pounds, while its length is not more
than three or four feet. The enormous extent of the pectoral flaps, resembling wings, have given
origin to the common name. In an individual of the above-mentioned size the tail would not be
more than three or four inches long. This species is taken in summer in the pounds, and, when
Skates become more popular as an article of food, will doubtless, on account of its great size, be
of economic importance. Little or nothing is known of its habits.


Of the Eagle Ray family, Myliobati&ce, of which there are three species, all except the Bishop
Ray straggle north to Southern New England in summer, but only one seems to be found in
Florida and the Gulf; this is the "Whipparee" or "Corn-Cracker" of the South (Rhlnoptera quad-
riloba). Its habits are thus described by Mr. Silas Stearns :

"The Whipparee is common on the Florida coast. It is present in the bays the year round.
In warm weather it lives on sand bars in shoal water, and in cold weather retires to deeper water.
It feeds upon molluscous animals, chiefly the razor-shell fish, which is one of the commonest kinds.
The Whij) Ray is viviparous and brings forth its young in spring and summer, the breeding season
apparently extending over five or six months. I have not found a Whip Ray containing more than
three young ones, usually only two. When the young fish leave the parent they are quite active
and undoubtedly able to care for themselves. The adults have stout dorsal spines, which they use
as weapons of defense. These spines are barbed and slimy, and wounds from them are very trouble-
some and sometimes dangerous. The Whip Ray is sometimes six or seven feet across the back.
During the last of July, 1880, 1 saw large schools of young Whip Rays, probably about half-
grown, swimming at the surface at sea off Saint Andrew's Bay, and also at a point twenty miles
up that bay."

The " Eagle Ray," or " Sharp-nosed Ray," Mylobath Fremenvillei, does not attain a large size
and is comparatively unusual in occurrence. Its food, as observed in Southern Massachusetts, is
closely similar to that of the common Sting Ray.

The Bishop Ray, Stoasodon narinari, the "Obispo" of Cuba, is found in the West Indies and
at the Bermudas ; stragglers have been observed at Norfolk, Virginia.


The Devil-fish, Mania birostris, has been observed as far north as Cape May, and is said to be
often see on the Gulf coast of Florida, as it swims on the surface of the water. This species attains
an enormous size ; individuals have been caught measuring thirty feet or more from tip to tip of
the flaps. It is especially abundant on the coast of South Carolina, where its pursuit is a favorite
amusement among the planters, or rather was in former years. Every one is familiar with the
thrilling accounts given of this amusement by Elliott in his "Carolina Sports by Land and Water."
There are instances on record of small vessels having been carried out to sea by these fish which
have become entangled in the anchor ropes. The appearance of these fish at the surface, especially
at the breeding season, has given origin, doubtless, to some of the stories of sea-serpents current
on the Southern coast.



Of the Skates, Kaiida; there are five species on our Atlantic coast, a list of which, with (li< ir
coiiunon and scientific names and a statement of their geographical distribution, will be found on
the check-list in the appendix. They are all troublesome to the lishermau, clogging his lines and
pound-nets; but none of them are of the slightest economical value except the so-called " Barn door
Skate," Raia tern, which is occasionally salted for use by the fishermen of Portsmouth, New
Hampshire, and which has, within the last two or three years, attracted some notice in New York.
Miss Corson, in her cooking school, has called attention to its excellent qualities as a food-fish,
and Skates may be found on the bill of fare at certain restaurants, such as Mouquin's, on Fulton
street. Only the " wings," or the fleshy flaps to the pectoral fins, are used.


The Torpedo is found north as far as Cape Ann, a specimen having been taken at Lanesville
in the summer of 1878. It is more or less abundant along the Southern New England and middle
Slati^ ma-.!.

The Torpedo is occasionally thrown upon the shore, and its capture in the pound-nets is not
unusual. It is of no economic importance, but is of great interest to physiologists on account of
its powerful electric apparatus. The fishermen know its peculiarities, and carefully avoid handling
it, since a shock from a living individual is sufficient to knock a man down. It is usually called
the "Cramp-fish," and, in pursuance of the old idea of the influence of signatures in medicines,
the oil made from the liver is prized by fishermen as a specific for rheumatism and cramp. Captain
Atwood writes:

"I have seen considerable many. They run ashore, and they have been harpooned from the
shore. I have seen five hundred, I think. I used to go and look for them for their livers, for the
oil. The oil is one of the best lamp oils that I ever saw. It has been used sometimes beneficially
in cases of cramp. I got a gallon of oil from one liver. I don't know but I have seen a Cramp-
fish big enough to make three gallons of oil."


Of the numerous Hays on the Pacific coast only two or three are of economic value, being
brought into the market of San Francisco, when their pectoral tins are sold to the French and
Italians. These are of little importance, as they are so cheap that there is no profit in bringing
them to the city at all when any transportation charges are paid. One of the Sting Hays (I'tero-
platea marmorata) sometimes comes into the market of Los Angeles, and the tails of Rhinobatun
product tu are sometimes preserved and eaten by the Chinese and Mexicans.

The following is a full list of the species now known : Manttt Irirotttritt, the Devil-fish, the largest
of all Hays; sometimes come north to San Diego. Myliobatia ctilifornicus, the common Sting Hay,
from Cape Mendociuo southward; is destructive to oyster beds, which are always shut in with a
sort of picket-fence to keep these animals out. The "sting" of this and other species often pro-
duces severe flesh wounds, which may be accompanied by blood-poisoning, and sometimes causes
death. 1 Fteroplatea marmorata, Tryyon dipterurun, and Urolophus HalUri, all Sting Kays, found

'On Thursday week, as D. K. Williams, of Anaheim, was at the landing amusing himself li.sliing with a net, he
was severely .-hiii;; by a lish known OH the Slingaree. He was lifting a few small lish from tin- net. and among others

picked up what appeared to lie a small flounder, when he received :i tierce sting from the tail of the reptih liin

liglit forefinger. He immediately cum need ..licking the poison from the wound, lint in a few moments he suffered

great agony and became delirious. His friend* took him at once to a hoUHC :iud gave him three pints of wbiaky,
uhii -h, together with constant attention, brought him through safely in about tiftceu hours, and be is now entirely
recovered. Anaheim Gazette, April 14, 1871.


south of Point Conception only. Baia inornate, Baia binoculata, Baia rhina, and Baia stellulata,
all true Rays, ranging from Santa Barbara or Monterey northward; B. binoculata and B. rhina
as far as Alaska. B. inornata and B. binoculata are brought into the market of San Francisco in
considerable numbers. The latter reaches a length of six feet, the former of two and a half feet.
Bhinobatus exasperatus, J. & G.,in San Diego Bay; Bhinobatus productus, and Bhinobatus triseriatus,
from San Francisco southward, and the Torpedo, Torpedo californica, about San Francisco, com-
plete the list.

Only the French in San Francisco can be said to be fond of the Rays, and so long as the
present abundance of better flsh continues none of them will have any special economic value.
The oil in the liver is so little that it is only preserved by the Indians.


Of the Saw-fishes, Pristidce, there is at least one species, Pristis pectinatus, on the Florida
coast. Stragglers are taken occasionally in the Chesapeake Bay, and even farther north. A
specimen sixteen feet three inches in length and four feet in width was taken at Cape May in July,
1878. Its saw was four feet three inches long, and was armed with forty nine teeth. The Saw-
fish is, however, rarely seen north of Florida. In the Everglades these fish are said to be exceed-
ingly abundant. In the Saint John's River individuals of all sizes, from one to eight feet in
length, are taken as high up as Jacksonville. They are considered by the fishermen to be very
ranch of a nuisance, since they are exceedingly powerful and play great havoc with the shad nets.
As they swim they move laterally, with a swinging motion, the head and snout, which latter is
powerfully armed on each side with very strong teeth. Mr. Camps, of New Berlin, told me that
he had three cast-iron rowlocks broken off close to the gunwale by a single blow of the saw of a
large individual. In the Indian River and its tributaries the Saw-fish is said to be very common,
attaining the width of six or eight feet. On the Gulf coast, according to Stearns, it is rather
common, being a bottom fish and frequently caught in seines. Stearns states that he once saw a
specimen in Saint Andrew's Bay that must have been fully fifteen feet long.


There are at least twenty species of Sharks upon our Atlantic coast, some of which are of
considerable economic value, while others are simply of interest as being annoyances to fishermen.


This species is a native of the Arctic Seas, but has been observed in the Western Atlantic as
far south as Now York, and on the European coast to Portugal. It is known among our fisher-
men as the "Bone Shark," and is also called the "Basking Shark" from its habit of basking or
remaining quiet for a long time in one place. It is the " Sun-fish" of the Irish and Welsh coasts;
the "Sail-fish" of Northern Great Britain, while in the Orkneys it is called the "Hoe Mother,"
contracted to "Homer" the word "Homer" signifying the mother of the spiny Dogfish which is
there known by the name "Hoe." The Bone Shark is one of the largest of Sharks, and many
years ago a learned dissertation was published by its first describer, Bishop Gunner, of Norway,
attempting to prove that this was the species of fish which swallowed Jonah. Yarrell examined
a specimen, taken off Brighton, which measured thirty-six feet in length; a large individual was
secured in the lower harbor at New York in 1822, while in 1828 a smaller individual obtained in
Maine was brought to New York, the dimensions of which were twenty-eight feet in length and
sixteen feet in circumference. In September, 1839, an individual thirty-four feet long was stranded


at Eastport, Maine. Storer records the capture of an individual, taken at Provincetown in 1839

ami exhibited at Boston, which measured thirty feet and three inches. It is not unfrequoutly har-
pooned l>v the whalers on the Pacific coast. A specimen was examined at Monterey by Jordan
and Gilbert.

Very little is known of its habits. It is usually seen in summer, though this is doubtless due
to the fact that the fishermen are then in a position to observe them, while in winter the fishermen
remain in harbor and would not be so likely to notice their occurrence. Yarrell remarks: "When
north winds prevail they are most frequent on the west coast of Scotland, also on the north and
west roast of Ireland ; it' westerly u imK tlie\ are net mniMial alon u t| M > \\ h,.le hnent' the M.iitliein


If these observations are correct, it seems probable that easterly and northerly winds are most
favorable for their appearance in the waters of New England.

These Sharks are sluggish in their movements, swimming lazily at the surface, and are said to
be so indifferent to the approach of boats that they will allow them to touch their bodies without
moving, though, when struck with the harpoon, they swim away with much rapidity and strength.

The only observations upon its food have been made in the vicinity of the Orkneys by Mr.
Lowe, who states that its stomach contained a red, pulpy mass, probably the roe of sea-urchins.
I.ime.eus supposed its food to consist chiefly of medusae or jelly-fishes. The teeth are very small,
and the structure of the gill-rakers would indicate that it feeds at the surface, straining its
food, like the whalebone- whales. The gill-openings extend from the back nearly to the median line
of the throat. The liver of this Shark is very large and yields a great quantity of oil. When
they make their appearance in our waters they are usually harpooned by the fishermen, who con-
sider their discovery as a great piece of good fortune. About the middle of last century there is
said to have been quite an extensive pursuit of this species in Massachusetts, considerable quan-
tities of oil being taken. In 1848 a vessel, cruising on the coast of Maine for humpback-whales,
fell in with many of them off Cape Elizabeth, and secured several of them. Captain Atwood
writes: " They are very rare now; once in a great while you will see one. I don't think that more
than half a dozen have been caught near Provincetown since 1810. I have heard of as high as
twelve barrels being taken from a single one, but have never seen one which yielded more than
eight barrels."

In 1835 an individual was caught in a mackerel-net in Provincetown Harbor and harpooned;
in 1836 or 1837 a second one was caught in a net, and after being secured the carcass was freed
by the fishermen from the net and afterwards drifted ashore in a state of decomposition. After
lying on the beach several days a fisherman visited him in order to get a slice to feed to his hens,
as is the custom at Provincetowu he supposing it to be a dead whale. Ascertaining what the
animal was, he removed the liver and sold the oil in Boston for $103. it having produced five or
six barrels. In 1847 a third was capt.ired. The pursuit of this animal is attended with consider-
able excitement and danger.

Yarrell has recorded 1 the occurrence in the summer of 1870 at Eastport, Maine, of three speci-
mens, twenty-five to thirty feet in length, and also of one taken in 1868, which measured thirty-
five feet. Captain Atwood gives the following account of his experience with one:

"Coming one time from Boston to Provincetown with my two boys, I saw the fin of a big
Bone Shark. We lowered the boat and pulled up on to him. This was about 1863. I should
think he was thirty-five or thirty -eight feet long. It was smooth weather, and I threw the harpoon

'Bulletin, Esoex Inntitutc, iii,p.6.


into him and lie darted down into tbe water, and finally he went down again, and kept coming up
and going down. I began at four o'clock and tried to haul him up until a,bout supper-time, but could
not, and he towed the smack all night. He came on until he got abreast of the oil works at
Provincetown, and then he turned and I couldn't get him up; he went about as fast as you would
row a dory moderately. The water became shoaler and shoaler until there was eight or ten feet
over his back, and then he went towards Beach Hill. We were in the dory and he then came
back within a quarter of a mile of the vessel. We went aboard and got something to eat. We
got him within six or eight feet of the top of the water and the warp parted and we lost him. I
don't think one has been killed here for more than twenty years."

These monsters are occasionally stuffed and carried about the country by showmen, advertised
under various high-sounding names.


This species, called at Provincetown the "Blue Shark," occurs in the Northern Atlantic, being
occasionally seen at various points on the coast of the United States from Newfoundland to Florida,
and in the West Indies. In the Eastern Atlantic it is found everywhere from the south of the
North Cape, entering the Mediterranean. It has also been recorded from Japan. It is abundant
on the coast of Great Britain, where it is known as the "Porbeagle." It also occurs in California.

The ordinary length of this species is from eight to ten feet. They roam about in summer,
often several together, preying upon small fish and squids, being particularly fond of mackerel.
They are very abundant on the coast of Massachusetts in the mackerel season, and are a great
annoyance to the fishermen who use nets, since they become entangled in the twine, destroying
the nets by tearing them and rolling them up. Although their livers yield a considerable quantity
of oil, formerly prized by curriers, I am unable to learn that they are now regarded as of any
practical value.

Storer wrote, in 1847, that the procuring of oil from these fish, which was once a regular busi-
ness, had at that time been almost entirely abandoned. The practice of saving the oil was a com-
mon one, but had been abandoned on account of the apparent decrease in the quantity obtainable. 1
Storer also, in 1846, quoting from Captain At wood, remarked : " Seven gallons of oil were at that
time frequently extracted from the liver of a single fish, while eleven and a half gallons have been
taken from one. Of late years this fish has yielded less oil than formerly, so that they are now
scarcely worth saving. Formerly a barrel of oil was made from the livers of eleven fish. Captain
Atwood tells me that, many years since, his father procured often a barrel of oil from eight livers;
not selecting the best, but employing large and small indiscriminately ; but now at least one hun-
dred livers would be required to furnish this amount of oil."


The so-called " Man-eater Shark," the American form of which has been described under the
name Carcharodon Atwoodii, in honor of Captain Atwood, who sent specimens to Storer, the histo-
rian of the " Fishes of Massachusetts," is probably identical with the Great Blue Shark, Carcha-
ria* Rondektii, common throughout the Atlantic and Mediterranean, and also known to occur in
the Indian Ocean and about the Cape of Good Hope and Australia. In tropical seas it attains an

1 A Mackerel Shark, measuring nine feet in length, was seen by two men flouncing upon the flats in this harbor
on Saturday last, having got entangled in the eel-grass in shoal water, who went to him and cut his throat. His liver
made three gallons of pure oil. liarnstable Patriot, September 8, 1833.

Till. SAND SHARK. 671

mormons size. The British Museum has the jaws of an individual, thirty-six feet in length, taken
in Australia. Its inoutli is wide, its teeth large, and its jaws strong; it is probable that this
species and the Tiger Shark aiv among the most voracious of their kind.

Th is is an exceedingly rare species ou our Atlantic coast. Storer could learn of the capture of
but three individuals from 1820 to 1800, one measuring six feet in length, a second nine feet,
and a third thirteen feet. The specimen which he described was captured at Provincetown, and
was brought to Boston for exhibition. When llrst seeu it was swimming in ten feet of water on
the Long Point side of Provincetown Harbor. A boat's crew having given chase, a harpoon was
thrown into it, when it turned toward the boat and seized it with great ferocity near the Iwws.
lnt he act several of its teeth were broken oft". It was eventually killed by being frequently lanced.
A specimen was observed at Kastport, Maine, in August, 1872. It is frequently taken in Monterey
l!ay. A specimen lately taken at Soquel, California, had a young sea-lion whole in its stomach.

Captain At wood writes: "The Man-eater is rare; I don't remember of having fallen in with
but four; these were, with one exception, all caught in mackerel-nets. I suppose about two or
three may be caught every year about Provincetown, but fishermen cut them out of the nets and
let them go."

The enormous fossil Sharks' teeth which are found in the phosphate beds of South Carolina
belong to a Shark closely related to our Man-eater, and, judging from the proportionate size of the
teeth, individuals measuring seventy or eighty feet in length cannot have l>een at all uncommon.

The alleged attacks upon men by Sharks, if any credence is to be attached to them, should
doubtless be credited to this species and to the Tiger Sharks. Such attacks are, however, of very
rare occurrence, and the stories of them lose nothing of the marvelous in repetition. I quote
one of the few accounts which have found their way into permanent record:

"On the 12th of July, 1830, Mr. Joseph Blaney, aged fifty -two, went out in a fishing-boat at
Swampscot, Massachusetts, when a Shark overset his boat and killed him. [This Shark must have

lieeli lAtremely ferocious. .Mr. l;l;illf\ unit out inlo the li;i\ ill one <>!' the l.ilirc S\\ am|i-ot boats,

which he left, and in a small boat rowed away, alone, to fish. After some hours he was seen to
wave his hat for assistance. Another boat immediately started toward him, and presently the fish
was seen to slide off, Mr. Blaney still remaining in his boat. But the Shark renewed the attack,
carrying down the boat before the other could arrive. It came to the surface bottom up, and the
unfortunate man was no more seen.]" 1


This species, known also ou the coast of Maine as the " Shovel-nosed Shark," and at Prov-
incetowu as the "Dogfish Shark," is found on our coast from New England southward to Charles-
ton, and is believed by Giinther to occur also about Australia and the Cape of Good Hope. Little is
known of its habits or movements; it is occasionally found straggling upon the shores at Cape Cod
or entangled in the mackerel-nets. It is a sluggish species and hugs the bottom closely, feeding
upon crabs, lobsters, and squids. The ordinary length is five or six feet, but about Nantucket
they grow much larger, attaining the length of nine or ten feet and the weight of two hundred
pounds or more. It is a favorite amusement of summer visitors at Nantucket to fish for them, and
ten or twelve are frequently taken by one man in a day. Their bodies are used for manure, while

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 112 of 146)