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paper may be found in the Report of the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries, Part V,
1877, pp. 531-557. This paper is not without value, although it contains many false statements,
the writer appearing to have been but slightly acquainted with the more recent ichthyological dis-
coveries. In the translation referred to, the paper has been revised and annotated by Dr. Bean, and
is sufficiently accurate so far as the American species are concerned.


NAMES OP THE CODFISH. Mr. J. Carson Brevoort, of New York, contributes the following
interesting sketch of the names applied to the cod family by the different nations of Europe :

"The appellations under which the weather-dried Codfish, split and stretched on a short stick,
is known throughout the civilized world can all be traced to one common root, based upon the
mode of preparation for the market.

"Among the Greeks the large Codfish were called Bacchi, from Bacchus, a rod. By the Latins
the fish was named Oadus, from a Sanscrit root cad or gad, a rod. We find this root in English in
'goad, 'and, perhaps, in 'cat-o'-uine tails'; in Gaelic gad and godan, signifying a small rod. By the
Iberians the dried Cod were called Bacalaos, from Bacnleum, a small stick. 1 This points also to
the root of the French Baguette, a rod, Bilboquet, the toy known as cup and ball, really a stick and
ball, and other words. By the Anglo-Saxons it was called the Cod, from the word gad or goad, a
rod. By the Germans it was known as the Stockjisch, from Stock, a stick.

"The Hollanders varied a little from this, and as far back as the year 1400 called it the
Kabeljaauw, which seems to be from the Dutch gabel, a fork. They also called it the Bakkeljauue.

"The French Morue is not from the above root. 'It may be from the Celtic Mor, the sea. The
French, however, never prepared the Cod by drying it on a stick, but salted it as the Morue verte,
or green Cod. The French Molue is merely a change in the liquid consonants.

"When the Cod is dried on the downs it is called Dunfish, from the Gaelic root Dvin, a hill.
If dried on the rocks it becomes the Rock Cod, or the Klippfisk of the Norwegians. Among these
last the Cod is called the Dorset, or Torsk, in English Tusk, from the Gothic Diirren, to dry.

"The English 'Aberdeen fish,' or French Labcrdan, is from the Gaelic Abar, the mouth; Dan,
a river, or fish caught near the river's mouth."

These remarks are suggestive in the extreme, since they explain the origin of almost all of
the names now applied to this species both in its fresh and cured condition. 2

1 The rod held by Mercury was called a Baculeum.

*8keat in his Etymological Dictionary, recently published, does not confirm the views advanced by Mr. Brevoort,
remarking, "I suppose that this word cod must be the same as the Middle English codde or cod, a busk, bag, bolster;
though the resemblance of the fish to a bolster is but fanciful. It is obvious that Shakespeare knew nothing of the
Linntean name gadus (Greek yaSot), nor is the derivation of cod from gadus at all satisfactory."


The name by which this species was known among the Narragausett Indian* is indicated by
the following sentence from Roger Williams' "Key into the Languages of America":

" Panganaut, tamwock. Cod, Which is the first that comes a little before the Spring."

In the vicinity of Cape Ann the young Cod, too small to swallow a bait, are sometimes known
to the fishermen as " Pickers," and throughout all Eastern Massachusetts the name "Scrod,"or
"Scrode," is in common use. In its primary meaning it seems to refer to these small fish slightly
corned, in which condition they are a favorite article of food, but the name is also transferred to
the young fish themselves. The fishermen recognize several varieties of Cod for which they have
different names. Rock Cod are those which are found in shoal water among the reefs and ledges,
and which usually are of a dark color: these fish are often brilliant red in color, owing to the
fact that t lie small animals upon which they live feed upon the red algae, abundant in those
localities, and from them have absorbed the red coloring matter into their tissues. "Rockling"
are probably young Rock Cod. In the vicinity of Scituate, Massachusetts, Bock Cod are also called
"Native Cod."

Another class of names api>ears to apply to those fish which live near the shores, but which
are less closely limited to the reefs. These are called "Shoal- water Cod," " Shore Cod," "Inshore
Cod," "Worm Cod," "Clam Cod," ."Black Snappers," "Black Biters," " Brown Cod," "Ground
Keepers," and "Ground Tenders" or "Groupers."

Still another class of fish is known by such names as "Deep-water Cod," "Bank Coil," and
"School Cod."

There are also certain local schools of fish which have names of their own ; for instance, the
"Herring Fish" or "Herring Cod" of Southeastern Maine, and the "Squid School" of Nantucket
and other parts of the coast, the " Pasture School " of Cape Ann, and the so-called " Shad School"
which frequented Massachusetts Bay between 1815 and 1830.

In Southeastern Maine the name "Pine-tree Cod" is also in use. It is difficult at present to
determine exactly to what extent these names are used and what their precise meaning may be,
but it is almost certain that each community of fishermen has its own peculiar names by which to
designate local peculiarities of habit and movement.

In the markets the Cod from George's Bank are usually classed as "George's fish," and are
considered to be of superior value. George's fish are very fat fish with white " napes." This name
is becoming a commercial term to describe Codfish of the finest quality. No one of these names,
excepting Rock Cod, or Red Cod, appears to be in use in Great Britain, although there, as here,
there are various names of local significance, which are of little interest, however, to Americans.

"Bank Cod" and "Shore Cod" are commercial names, used in the same manner as the name
"George's Cod."

HISTORY OF THE CODFISH IN AMERICA. As early as 1 415 A. D., English vessels frequented the
fishing grounds near Iceland, and it is claimed by some authorities that the Banks of Newfoundland
were known to the Basques centuries before the discovery of the American continent. The Banks
of Newfoundland were among the principal inducements which led the English to establish colonies
in this country, and in the records of early voyages are many allusions to the abundance of Cod
along our shores.

In the Appendix may be found an essay, by Mr. Robert 8. Rantoul, on "The Cod in Massachu-
setts' History," a paper read at a field meeting of the Essex Institute at Gloucester, September 14,
I860. It is really an epitome of the early history of the cod fisheries of the United States, con-
taining much interesting information upon the use of the Codfish upon the seal of Massachusetts
and upon the colonial coinage.


A Nova Scotia coin or bank-token has upon it the figure of a Codfish. Upon the obverse is a
plow with the legend "Speed the Plough," upon the reverse a salted Codfish with the words,
"Success to the Fisheries."

DISTRIBUTION OF THE COD. Tue Codfish is found in the North Atlantic, in the North
Pacific, and in the Polar Ocean, its range extending far beyond the Arctic Circle. It seems
unnecessary to enumerate all the localities in which it has been observed, for its geographical
range may be defined with sufficient accuracy and by a much more comprehensive statement: In the
Western Atlantic the species occurs in the winter in considerable abundance as far south as the
mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, latitude 37, and stragglers have been observed about Ocracoke
Inlet. 1 The southern limit of this species may safely be considered to be Cape Hatteras, in latitude
35 10'. Along the coast of the Middle States, New England, and British North America, and
upon all the off-shore banks of this region, Cod are found usually in great abundance, daring
part of the year at least. They have been observed also in the Gulf of Boothia, latitude 70 io
75, and in the southeastern part of Baffin's Land to the northward of Cumberland Sound, and it
is more than probable that they occur in the waters of the Arctic Sea to the north of the American
continent, or away round to Bering Straits. 2

The Cod has been observed on the western coast of Greenland. In the North Atlantic the
range of the species extends to Iceland and Spitzbergen, latitude 80; along the arctic coast of
Europe, as far as Eastern Finmark, and probably round to Siberia; while southward it ranges at
least to Brittany. Its southern limit is probably near the Bay of Biscay, latitude 40, although
Yarrell states that it is found south to Gibraltar. It does not enter the Mediterranean, but pene-
trates into the Baltic to the coast of Western Russia. Its distribution in the North Pacific is not
so well understood, though it appears to occur in the same abundance on all the off-shore banks of
this region, and also close to the coasts to the north of the Straits of Fuca. According to Jordan,
there is said to be a cod bank outside of the mouth of the Columbia, but the species at present is
of no economic importance south of Alaska. A full discussion of the Alaskan Codfish is given
below by Dr. Bean in the chapter on THE ALASKA COD-FISHERY.

The Cod enters fresh water upon occasion. 3 It is found, according to Canadian authors, well
up the estuary of the Saint Lawrence, though how far up is not definitely stated, probably not
beyond the limits of brackish water. Dr. C. C. Abbott records that on the 23d or 24th of January,
1876, a healthy, strong, active Codfish, weighing nearly four pounds, was taken in a draw-net in
the Delaware River near Trenton, New Jersey; the stomach of the fish showed that it had been in
river-water several days. Many of them had been taken about Philadelphia between 1856 and
1869. 4

Mr. George R. Smith, of Millbridge, Maine, states that Cod are found all along the coast, even
entering brackish water at the mouths of rivers.

Mr. Wilson M. Albee, of Mohegan, Maine, affirms that Cod occur in all places along the coast
of that region, even in brackish water.

Mr. A. T. Gamage, of Damariscotta, Maine, says : " There is not a place of any extent on the
coast of Maine and seaward where Cod are not found. They occur from the edge of the breakers

1 The mackerel schooner " Relenter," of Gloucester, April 5, 1880, caught, on one hand-line, some 600 pounds of
large Cod, with mackerel bait, in twenty fathoms of water, when about eight miles off Cape Charles. A. H. CLARK.

3 RICHARDSON : Fauna Boreali Americana, p. 243.

'"Forest and Stream," December 25, 1873, contains the following astounding statement, which, of course, is
entirely unworthy of credence: "Three Codfish, weighing six pounds each, were caught in the Saint John's River,
Florida, near Palatka, last week; the first of the kind ever caught in Southern waters. Tho ' Herald,' says Captain
Vogel, of the steamer 'Dictator,' pronounced them genuine Codfish."

4 American Naturalist, iv.p. 116.

mi: coi>: C,F.OC,I;AIMIICAI. IHSTIMIT rmv 203

nut to seventy-live fathoms ami up to fifty miles anil further, wherever ,iu\ hank lias In-en discov-
ered, finite frequently they enter brackish water in pursuit of their natural food."

Thomas Day, of Parker's Island, Maine, says that small Cod have been caught in the
Kenneltee Itiver.

Mr. M. A. Ilanna, of Howery Meaeh. says that they are sometimes caught in rlvors at some
distance from the sea, where the water at the surface is quite fresh.

These statements are confirmed by several other i>ersons. The New York "Evening Post" of
February <>. 1*77, says that a six pound Codfish was taken ou February 1 in the Hudson River
above I'eekskill, New York.

'I'm: SCHOOLING OF THK CoDi-'tsH. Before taking into consideration the periodical move-
ments of the Codfish, it seems necessary to study the manner in which they assemble together in
schools. Mr. Karll, who has studied witli great thoroughness the habits of the Codfish about
Cape Ann, writes as follows upon this topic:

'In examining the Codlish landed from time to time, one cannot but notice the great indi-
vidual variation in the species. But in addition to this seemingly accident.il variation, that gives
e\ery gradation to either extreme, there is a more constant difference in both form and color, due
perhaps to the peculiar habits and surroundings of the individual. This difference is so noticeable
that the fishermen can easily distinguish the one from the other, and they have come to call the
one a school tish in distinction from the other, which they call a shore fish or ; ground-tender.'

"The school fish are supposed to be constantly on the move, remaining usually in the deep
water, where they are very active in the pursuit of their prey, consuming such quantities as to
keep them in excellent flesh. Such fish are usually very shapely, with small and very distinct dark
spots on a light background, and seem to have the head quite small in proportion to the body. On
the whole, they are just such fish as would be expected from continued activity and good living.
On the other hand, the shore fish, or 'ground-tenders,' live constantly among the rocks and sea-
weeds along the shore, where the water is less pure and the food less abundant. They seem to
lead solitary lives during a greater part of the year, being scattered along different portions of the
coast, living upon the little rocky spots, where they feed upon such animals as they chance to find;
or at times entering the shoaler water among the sea-weeds, where they feed upon the mollusks
and articulates that are often so abundant in such localities. They are generally in poorer flesh
than the school lish, having a relatively larger head in proportion to their bulk, with larger and
less distinct spots ou a darker background. In addition to these large fish, that for some reason
seem to prefer the shore as a feeding ground, there are many young and immature that have not
yet joined the school fish in their migrations. These fish are the sole dependence of the l>oat fish-
ermen in summer, or from June to November, and one must know the grounds pretty thoroughly,
and row about from one feeding spot to another, in order to secure any considerable number of
them. During the months of June, July, and August the fishing is quite limited, being confined
to a few boat fishermen who row, or sail, out daily with hand-lines, returning in the afternoon with
from one hundred and fifty to three hundred pound-, which they usually sell at fair prices tx>
supply the fresh -fish trade.

"Early in the fall the spawning instincts of the fish cause them to gradually gather from the
different parts of the shore to special rocky grounds, where they remain until they have deposited
their eggs. At such times, being more numerous in these localities, the fishing becomes more
profitable, so that many small vessels and a larger number of boats frequent these, grounds, and
by the middle of October the daily catch reaches about four hundred pounds per man.

"Thus far the catch has l>een comj^sed almost wholly of the young and shore fish ; but about


the 1st of November the fall school of spawning fish, known as the ' pasture school,' makes its
appearance. All the smaller vessels and boats are now pressed into service, and the winter
fisheries are soon at their height. The vessels are usually provided with dories, taking from three
to twelve each, according to the size of their crews. Such fishermen as are unable to ship on the
vessels now row or sail out in boats. These often endure great hardships, as the wind may rise
suddenly and drive them out to sea, giving them a hard pull of hours before they can regain the
shore, while an occasional unfortunate fails to return.

"The pasture school is composed of fish averaging probably between twelve and fourteen
pounds, some being much larger, while others are quite small. In the falls of 1877 and 1878 the
fishing was unusually good until the first of January, the average daily catch per man often
reaching eight to nine hundred pounds, while an active fisherman at times caught nearly twice
that quantity.

"At the present time there are but few towns on the north side of the cape extensively
engaged in the shore fisheries, and for this reason little is definitely known about the first appear-
ance of the Ipswich Bay school of Codfish in that locality. We cannot even feel certain of the
month when they reach the grounds, as the fishermen have many and conflicting opinions on the
subject. From the best obtainable information it seems probable that Cod have visited these waters
regularly for many years, and that they were formerly taken in considerable numbers by the boat
fishermen of the section who rowed out from the shore in pleasant weather during the winter
months. But for a number of years these grounds were nearly deserted, and it was not until
1877-'78 that the shore fishermen of Gloucester and Swampscott learned their value.

"In January, 1879, after the fish had left ' the pasture,' several vessels sailed for Ipswich Bay,
where they found the Cod remarkably plenty, returning in a short time with unusually large fares.
The news spread rapidly, and soon all the shore fleet were in the bay, while vessels of sixty to
seventy tons abandoned the other fisheries and fitted oat for this locality. Vessels from other towns
along the shore soon joined the fleet, and by the middle of February 104 sail, with upwards of COO
men, were fishing within a radius of five or six miles, and twenty to twenty-five thousand pounds
of round fish were sometimes taken in a day by the crew of a single schooner.

"The above number of vessels was reached only during the height of the season, and several
causes operated to reduce the fleet so that at times it was quite small. But allowing an average of
45 sail during the entire four months, each vessel carrying six dories, the trawls averaging 800
hooks each, and we have the enormous number of 216,000 baited hooks spread out upon the sandy
bottom to tempt the spawning fish. It is not surprising, therefore, that the catch reached fully
11,250,000 pounds on this little patch of ground between the first of February and the last of May.

"Fishermen are agreed that the individuals composing this school averaged larger than those
of any school that had previously visited the shore. There were almost no small ones among them,
the great bulk being of uniformly large size with a few very large. Of over five thousand, selected
without regard to size at different times during the season, the average weight was 20J pounds.

"Fishing continued good in Ipswich Bay until the first of June, when the school left the shore,
being perhaps hurried in their movements by a large school of dogfish (tiqualus americanux)
that made their appearance in the bay about this time.

"After the school-fish leave the shore in summer the fishermen frequently resort to the outer
grounds, such as Jeflry's and Stellwagen Banks, when they often secure good fares from what they
suppose to be a new school that visits these grounds for the purpose of feeding. We have had little
opportunity for examining these fish, but there seems a strong probability that they belong to the


school that has just left the shore, and that they remain on these grounds for a few days or
weeks on their way to deeper water."

I have before me the statements of ninety -four fishermen, most of whom are of the opinion
t hut the Cod associate together in schools throughout the entire year; many of them, however,
speak of particular schools of very large size which they noticed at particular seasons. Captain
Atwood, on the other hand, makes the assertion that the Cod never school, but that they wander
independently over the bottom in search of food.

It seems most reasonable to suppose that the Codfish, like most other species which habitually
feed on the bottom, are less disposed to wander together in great bodies from place to place than
the surface-swimming fishes which usually feed upon substances or animals which are found col-
lected together in one place in great quantity. The Codfish, being habitually bottom -feeders, find
their food, it is probable, with more or less uniformity, over the areas which they frequent, and are
ordinarily met with moving about independently. They are most likely to occur in great numbers
in places where food is particularly abundant. At certain seasons of the year they are brought
together by a common desire for wandering together from place to place in immense bodies, some-
times their object being a united attack upon some special kind of fowl only to be found at that
season, and in particular places. The capelin and lant schools, known to the fishermen of
Newfoundland, Labrador, and the Grand Banks, are examples of such association, as also is the
herring school observed in the spring in Massachusetts Bay, and the great schools known on
the coast of Norway under the name of Lodde-fisk.

Capt Epea W. Merchant, of Gloucester, tells me about a remarkable school of Codfish
which frequented Massachusetts Bay between the years 1815 and 1830. This was called the
"shad school." They continued in the bay from early April until the middle of May. They were
caught with alewives and shad for bait. The fishermen were accustomed to get these fish for
bait as soon as they began to run. The Cod seemed to be waiting for them. The "shad school"
was composed of young, sharp-nosed, bright-eyed school fish of regular size, very different from
the ground-tenders or grubbers.

Professor Baird has made some interesting generalizations concerning the effect upon the
abundance of Cod of the decrease in the shad and alewives off the mouths of our rivers
caused by over-fishing in inland waters. 1

Another cause of the assembling of the Codfish together is the reproductive instinct, in obe-
dience to which the fish gather together in localities where the temperature aud depth of water are
suitable for the deposition of eggs. A school of this kind is the so-called " pasture school," already
referred to in the quotation from Mr. Earll, and the great schools the so-called "fish-mountains"
which make their appearance on the coast of Norway in January, February, and March, and which
have been so well described by Professor Sars.*

The fisheries carried on at this time are called "spawn fisheries" to distinguish them from
those which are carried on later in the spring on the coast of Finmark, the object of which is the
capture of Codfish following schools of bait.

"Codfish," continues Mr. Earll, "are gregarious in their habits, going in schools of greater or
loss size, and are governed in their movements by the presence or absence of food, the spawning
instinct, and the temperature of the water. When migrating, the schools arc quite dense, though
by uo means like schools of menhaden or mackerel. But when they reach the feeding ground they

1 Report United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries, pt. ii, 1874, pp. xi-xiv.

9 Report of the "Practical and Scientific Investigations of the Cod Fisheries near the Lofoden Island*," made
during the years 18tM-'69 by 8. O. Sara ; translated by H. Jacobson. Report United States Commission of Fish and
Fisheries, pt. v, 1879, pp. 565-661.


seem to distribute themselves over a large area, though more or less grouped together iu little
bunches. This is particularly noticeable on the shore, when the fish are moving about in search
of food, and the fisherman soon catches up all that chance to be on one patch of rocks, and must
then row to another in order to find a new supply. The same thing is seen on western banks, where
a vessel usually carries dories to distribute her crew over different parts of the ground, and often,
by setting her trawls iu one locality for a day or two, seems to catch up all of the fish, and must
then 'shift her berth.' Fishermen also cite many instances where the fishing is excellent on a
few particular, well-defined spots on different parts of the ground, while almost no fish can be
taken iu other places.

"During the spawning season this tendency to become scattered is less noticeable, for the
instincts of the fish seem to bring them nearer together, and great numbers are often taken in one
particular locality. Even here, however, the tendency to separate into groups occurs, for some

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 37 of 146)