G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

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found some similar beds on the coast of Alaska which he attributed to the walrus, but which are more
probably the remains of mollusks eaten by the Codfish. They feed also upon crabs of all kinds,
lobsters and star fish, and have been seen at the surface catching the potato beetles and " June-
bugs" which have drifted out from the shore. It is said that they succeed occasionally in capturing
a duck, 2 and that they vary their diet by browsing upon carrageen, or Irish moss, which grows on
the ledges near the shore. In searching at the bottom for shells and worms, Codfish often pick
up objects which can hardly be regarded as nutritious. A very amusing catalogue of such objects
might be included in this chapter, in which would be enumerated articles such as scissors, brass
oil-cans, potato parings, corn cobs, and head of a rubber doll. The finding of finger-rings and
fragments of oil-clothing, and the heel of a boot, inside of a large Codfish has suggested the idea
that sometimes they swallow the fishermen.

"A wedding ring which belonged to Pauline Burnam, an English lady who was lost in the
steamship Anglo Saxon, wrecked off Chance Cove, N. F., in 1861, was lately restored to her rela-
tions by a St. Johns (N. F.) fisherman, who found the ring in the entrails of a Codfish. The
lucky fisherman received a present of 50 for restoring the highly prized memento to the lady's son." 1

Stones of considerable size are often found in their stomachs, and fishermen have a theory
that this is a sign of an approaching storm and that the fish thus take in ballast to enable them

'EARl.l.: loc. i' it.

*Th6 Vineyard Gazette says that Mr. James Osborne took a Codfish on Wednesday, at the " South Side," which
weighed over sixty pounds. On dressing it, two fall-grown ducks (old squaws) were found in its entrails. They were
quite fresh, having most of their feathers on. Gloucester Telegraph, May 6, 1857.

Boston Journal, July 6, 1871.

ro<n> or TIII-: COD. 213

to i. main at tlio bottom when tin- waters are troubled. It is more likely tbat these stones are
swallowed on account of sea-anemones or otber edible substances which may be attached to them,
in just the same manner that the shells of mollusks arc taken in for the sake of the nutritions
parts which they contain.

It is believed that certain schools of Codfish feed almost entirely at the bottom, while others
prey upon fish. The fishermen claim to be able to distinguish these two classes by their general
appearance, the first being heavier, with shorter heads, blunter noses, and smaller fins, and fre-
quently known as ''grubbers" or "ground-keepers," while fish belonging to whatare known as the
squid school, the herring school, and the lant school, which are probably the same fish at different
seasons of the year, are brighter-eyed, slenderer in form, with sharper head, and in every way
better adapted for swift locomotion. On the coast of Labrador, as well as in Scandinavia, Codfish
follow the schools of spawning capelin in to the shore and prey greedily upon them, and elsewhere,
at other seasons, they feed with no less voracity upon other species of fish which may be schooling,
and of which they destroy vast numbers, such as mackerel, menhaden, herring, alewife, salmon,
sculpin, flounders, cunners, and haddock.

In November, 1877, Mr. Viual N. Edwards found in the stomachs of Cod taken at Noman's
Land many species of fish, some of which, like Eumexogrammus subbifurcatus, are fonnd only at
great depths, and others, like the two-spined stickle-back, Gasterosevs biaculeatus, and the little
file-fish, Monocanthus setifer, must have been taken at the surface or near the shore.

On the Grand Banks, especially in shallow water about the Virgin Rocks, I have been told
that they follow the lant to the surface, pursuing them with great fierceness. Along our northern
coasts they replace, to some extent, the voracious blueflsh and bonito of the South. Captain
Atwood remarks that the amount of food which they consume is enormous, when the size of the
fish is taken into account. He has seen them on the coast of Labrador, where the capelin were in
great numbers, with their stomachs filled to the greatest possible extent, and capelin in their
months which they were unable to swallow for want of room, and in this condition they were still
biting at the hook. They even feed upon the young of their own kind. They are said to feed
largely upon herring spawn, though they are not seen in great numbers, about the spawning
grounds until the schools of parent fish have departed. The herring, also, is a favorite article of
food, and when these fish approach the shores or are seen on the banks it is a very good sign that
Cod will soon be abundant. Mr. Earll remarks :

"I am told that in the spring of 1879 an immense school of herring moved closely across
George's Bank, and that with them came the largest school of Cod that has been seen in that
locality for a long time. The Cod remained constantly among the herring, so that when the latter
had passed the fishing fleet, the vessels were obliged to weigh anchor and follow them in order to
secure the Cod.

"About Provincetown the common squid sometimes appear in great numbers, and they are
most vigorously preyed upon by the Cod."

The same accurate observer gives the following notes concerning their food while breeding:

"During the spawning season the Codfish cease to search for food, and give less attention to
feeding than at other times, though they will usually take the bait when placed before them. That
they do not search for food is shown by the fact that the pasture school remained within a few
miles of a large school of sperling without being drawn after them; and that the Ipswich Bay
school was largest after the sperling had left the coast, and remained for a number of months on
sandy wastes which supported only three species of invertebrates, Buccinvm undatvm, Fuus sp.,
and Astoria* vulgari*, in any considerable abundance. The examination of the stomachs of several


hundred individuals showed four-fifths of all to be entirely empty, while a greater part of the
remainder contained only bait picked from the trawls of the fishermen. A small number contained
fish of one or more species that had probably been captured in the locality, while a few scattering
invertebrates were found. Of the species mentioned as abundant on the grounds, not a star-fish
and but two shells of one species and one of the other were found. But it was clearly shown that
the fish would not refuse food, for often the stomachs were well filled with bait picked from the
trawl before the fish were hooked. From ten to fifteen pieces were frequently found, and in one
case eighteen were counted.

"The females when fully ripe seemed less willing to feed than at other times, and few were
caught with the moving hand-lines ; but when the trawl was used, thus leaving the bait motionless
on the bottom for hours at a time, they were induced to bite, and many were taken with the eggs
running from them. Ripe males seemed to bite readily at any time.

"The young fish, as has been remarked, seems to spend the first three or four years of its life
in shoal water, among the rocks and alga3. Here its food consists at first of the minutest forms,
and later principally of small Crustacea, though it often picks up mollusks and worms, and even
enters the harbors in summer, where it remains about the wharves, picking up bits of refuse thrown
from the fish-houses."

Capt. R. H. Hurlbert tells me that sometimes a school of Codfish will bite at night j these the
fishermen call "Night Cod."

In 1860 the schooner "C. C. Davis" caught one entire trip of fish on George's Bank all in
the night, and there are other instances on record, though, as a rule, these fish feed only in the

REPRODUCTION. Two important papers on the breeding of the Codfish have recently been
printed in the Report of the United States Fish Commission. The first of these is a translation
of a report by Prof. G. O. Sars upon the practical and scientific investigations concerning the Cod-
fish of the Loffodeu Islands, Norway, made during the years 1864-'69, in behalf of the Norwegian
Government. 1 His observations are full of interest. He tells us how, from year to year, ho
observed the movements of the Codfish and studied out their spawning habits.

In 1864 he visited the Loffoden Islands, in January, February, and March. He observed the
coming in of the fish, as they approached the coast, swimming up the fiords in large schools, and
in the latter part of February, and from that time until the end of March, found the eggs in
immense numbers floating at the surface.

In 1865 he reached the islands in the beginning of March and remained until the middle of
May. He gathered the eggs as they floated at the surface, and hatched them out in glass jars.
He also artificially impregnated the eggs and found that the period of incubation lasted eighteen
days. He also observed a few very small young fish at the surface.

In 1866 he was on the ground on the 7th of May, and remained until July. This year he
found great quantities of young Codfish the largest being about one and a half inches in
length swimming under the jelly fish (which are so numerous in those northern waters), and
also under other objects floating in the sea.

In 1867 he reached the islands late in July, and remained until the beginning of October, and
succeeded in finding the young fish, two inches or slightly more in length, swimming near the
surface in the "slicks," and also in the shallow inlets near the shores, in company with the young
pollock, while the stomachs of all the larger Codfish and pollock taken in the neighborhood were
full of them. He also found in the beginning of October many larger young Codfish, upwards

1 United States Fish Commission, pt. v, pp. 565-661.


of four indies in length and about seven mouths old, as estimated, at the bottom, at a depth <>f
several fathoms.

In ISiis he began his observations in November, and in Novemlierand Deeember fonml young
lish six or seven inehes in length at a deptli of eight to twelve fathoms, usually iu the vicinity of
steep ledges and rocks. This year he remained until March, and in February found great num-
bers of young ( 'odlish, the average length of which was about one foot, at an average of twenty
to thirty fathoms, on sandy bottom. " Iu the, beginning,'' he remarks, "I thought that these must
be two-\ ear-old fish, but when I afterwards sot my line in shallower places I also collected smaller
lish, so that I soon had all the different grades of size."

This last visit extended over into the year 1869, and at the time of his departure the schools
of spawning fish were again on the ground. He had thus traced the development of the dullish
throughout a period of twelve months, and had secured a very complete chain of evidence with
\vhieh to bind together the isolated facts regarding the growth and habits of the young fish which
had hitherto been or should hereafter be observed.

From 1870 to 1873 he continued his observations upon the young and adult fish, and in
midsummer found Cod at a distance of twenty to thirty Norwegian miles from the shore, and
at a depth of from one hundred to one hundred and fifty fathoms. These observations, as
has already been remarked, are of the utmost importance, and the reports of Professor Sara are
full of observations of the most suggestive kind concerning the {owl, the movements, and the
general habits of the fish.

The other paper referred to, which is of equal value, is the report of Mr. R. E. Earll upon the
natural history and artificial propagation of the Cod, as observed at the station of the United
States Fish Commission at Gloucester, Massachusetts. 1 His remarks upon the reproduction of the
Codfish are here quoted in full, with the single observation that no one has so carefully observed
the spawning habits of any other species offish.

"The Cod is one of the most prolific of the ocean fishes, and we find not only thousands but
millions of eggs in a single female. All members of this family contain large numbers of eggs,
but the Codfish is the most prolific of all.

"The exact number of eggs in a female varies greatly with the individual, being dependent
largely upon its size and age. To ascertain the number for the different sizes, a series of six fish,
representing various stages of growth from twenty-one to seventy-five pounds, was taken, and
the eggs were estimated. Care was exercised that the series should contain only immature
female.-. M. lli. il tin i- .-hniild ha\e been lost, ami that nil might be i.f nearh eijual si/e.
The ovaries were taken from the fish and their weight accurately ascertained; after which small
quantities were taken from different parts of each and weighed on delicately adjusted scales,
the eggs in these portions being carefully counted. The number contained in a given weight
being known, it was easy to ascertain approximately the entire number for each fish.

"The results obtained are given in a table, quoted below, showing a twenty -one-pound fish to
have 2,700,000, and a seveuty-five-pound one, 9,100,000. The largest number of eggs found in the
pollock was 4,029,200, and in the haddock 1,840,000.

"When the eggs are first seen iu the fish they are so small as to be hardly distinguishable,
but they continue to increase in size until maturity, and, after impregnation, have a diameter,
depending upon the size of the parent, varying from one-nineteenth to one-seventeenth of an inch.
A live to eight pound fish has eggs of the smaller si/.e, while a twenty-five-pound one has them
between an eighteenth and a seventeenth.

1 Report of United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries, pt. 6, IHTrt, pp. 685-740.


"From weighing and measuring known quantities it is found that one pound avoirdupois will
contain 190,000 of the smaller size, or that 1,000,000 eggs well drained will weigh about five
pounds. Again, by assuming one-nineteenth of an inch as the standard, or by precipitating a
known quantity in chromic acid and measuring, we find one quart, or fifty-seven and three-quarters
cubic inches, to contain a little less than 400,000, or that 1,000,000 will measure between two and
a half and three quarts.

" With these facts in mind, it will be an easy matter to estimate the quantity of eggs taken
for hatching purposes during any given season.

"When the little fish first breaks through the shell of the egg that confines it. the fetal curve
or crook is still quite noticeable, but it soon straightens, and is then about five-sixteenths of an
inch in length. At this time the yelk-sack, situated well forward, is quite large, but so transparent
as to escape the notice of the ordinary observer. This is gradually absorbed, disappearing wholly
in about ten to fifteen days, and the little fish begins to move about with a peculiar serpentine
motion, at times darting quite rapidly, and then remaining motionless, as if resting from its
exertions. It now begins its independent existence, and moves about more frequently, apparently
in search of food. From this date it is impossible to follow the Cod, for none have been confined,
and it is only by catching large numbers at different seasons and carefully recording their weights
and measurements that one is enabled to judge of their growth. The habits of the species, that
cause them to live near the shore for the first few years, furnish excellent opportunities for such
observations, and many were examined during our stay at Cape Ann.

"At the outset the problem becomes difficult, in that the spawning period, instead of being
limited to a few weeks, as is the case with most species, extends over fully three-fourths of the year,
and the difficulty is greatly increased by other causes that affect the rate of growth of individuals
hatched at the same time.

"The results were what might be expected; for a table of measurements, made late in June,
gave an almost continuous series, with only one or two breaks, that could with certainty be taken
to represent the non-spawning period of the fish. But though the gaps were so completely closed
by the extremes in variation, which seemed to cause even an overlapping, showing the last hatched
of one season to be smaller than the first hatched of the next succeeding, yet there was a tendency for
the greater number of individuals to be thrown into groups at intervals in the series, these seeming
to represent the height of the spawning season for the different years. The break was distinct
between the smallest and those of a year earlier, so that, taking the height of the spawning season
on the south side of Cape Ann to be December, the large number of young fry ranging from one
and a half to three inches must have been hatched the previous winter, and were consequently
about six months old. The large number of individuals having a length of nine to thirteen inches
indicated the normal growth of those hatched a year earlier, or fish of eighteen months, to be ten
to eleven inches, and their weight seven to eight ounces. The next group, or the fish thought to
be thirty months old, measured from seventeen to eighteen inches, with an average weight of two
to two and a quarter pounds. The fish now begin to increase more in weight than in length, soon
appearing in the markets as ' Scrod,' and by the following summer measure about twenty-two
inches and weigh from four to five pounds.

"Beyond this period nothing can be determined, for the variation, constantly growing greater,
now gives every size and weight, with no indication of breaks in the series.

"But enough has been learned, if the above be correct, to show that the male reaches maturity
at three and the female at four years; for the smallest ripe male noticed during the season of
1878-'79 weighed three and a half and the smallest ripe female five pounds.


" Evidence is not wanting to show that a Cod spawns every year, aud that it deposits the
entire number of eggs in the ovaries each season. We have examined hundreds of specimens and
have failed to find a single instance where the condition of the ovaries did not clearly indicate
that such was the case. During the first of the season no mature fish were found in which
eggs were not present, though they often varied greatly in development from very small to
nearly ripe. Again, later in the season, no spent fish were seen with any eggs remaining
in the ovaries; and no fish were found during the spawning period in which the condition of the
ovaries did not indicate that the eggs were gradually maturing, and would be deposited before the
close of the season.

"The eggs contained in the ovaries are separated into little irregular conical clusters, each
being connected with the general mass by a slender thread that expands into a delicate membrane
containing minute and diffusely branched blood-vessels. This membrane envelops each of the eggs,
and the blood-vessels supply the nutrition so necessary to their future growth and development.
As the eggs mature they gradually increase in size, until, when ripe, they become detached from
the membrane, and pass down through secondary channels into the main channel leading to the
genital opening of the female.

"The first ripe female seen during the season of 1878-'79 was found in a lot of shore-
fish or ground-tenders landed September 2. The eggs were noticed to be running from this fish as
it lay upon the floor of the fish-house. On opening it, we found that it had just begun spawning,
for a few eggs only, perhaps five per cent, of the entire number, were transparent, and a small
number of these had separated from the membrane and fallen into the channels leading to the
genital opening, while the great bulk were far less mature and represented almost every stage of
development from green to ripe.

"From this date ripe fish, both males and females, were occasionally taken, though they did
not become abundant until the middle of October. Early in November, when the school-fish made
their appearance on the south side of Cape Ann, the individuals varied greatly in their spawning
condition; some were quite ripe and had already thrown a portion of their eggs, while others were
so green as to indicate that they would not spawn for several months at least, though, in nearly
all, the eggs had begun to enlarge. By the first of December fully fifty per cent, of the catch had
commenced spawning, but when driven away, probably by the unusually heavy storms, in January,
a few were not quite ripe, and the majority had not thrown all their eggs.

"About the first of February the fish in Ipswich Bay were found to average fully ninety per
cent, males, with the spermaries mostly well developed. At this time there was a great variation
in the ovaries of the females; of these not more than one in ten had spawned, while fully sixty
per cent, were still green. By the middle of the month the females numbered about forty per cent.,
though over half had not commenced spawning. On March 13, three hundred fish from this school
were opened, with the following results: Fourteen per cent, were spent males; fifty -three per cent,
were ripe males; six per cent, were spent females; fourteen percent, were females in various stages
of spawning; aud eleven per cent, were green females. May 10, fully half of the females had not
finished spawning, and an occasional green one was noticed. Even in June, when the fish left the
coast, a very few, though ripe, had not finished throwing their eggs.

"The results of the above observation prove not only interesting, but surprising, for we find
the Codfish spawning through nine consecutive months in the same locality, a period far exceeding
that required by any other species of which we have any knowledge.

"This fact can be more easily understood when we remember that the individuals do not
deposit all their eggs in a single day or week, but probably continue the operation of spawning


over a period of fully two months. That this is true there can be little doubt, for when the
females first begin to throw their eggs only a very small percentage of the whole number are ripe,
while the balance show every gradation to the perfectly green and immature. By frequent exam-
ination of individuals in more advanced stages, it was found that the eggs gradually continue to
increase in size as they mature, and that as fast as they become detached from the membrane they
pass down through the channels to the opening, and are excluded from the body, either at the
will of the parent or by internal pressure caused by the increasing size of the eggs, to make room
for others. It would be impossible for a fish to retain all, or even a small part, of its eggs iti the
roe-bags until the last had matured, for the increase during the development is very great, and
they would come to have a bulk greater than the entire stomach cavity of the fish. The pro-
ducts of the ovaries of a seventy-five pound fit-h, after impregnation, would weigh about forty-five
pounds and measure nearly seven gallons, equal to over half of either the weight or bulk of the fish.

"Another proof that the Codfish deposits its eggs gradually during a long period is seen in the
fact that few can be taken from the fish at a time. In 'stripping the fish,' at the hatchery in
Gloucester, it was found that only one quart, or less than 400,000 eggs, could be taken from a
twenty-one pound fish at a single stripping. Allowing the ovaries of this fish to contain 2,700,000
eggs, and the time of spawning to be two months, the fish must deposit in the natural way 337,500,
or nearly a quart, each week.

"But by the artificial method, where strong external pressure is applied, many more eggs are
probably secured at once than would be naturally thrown by the fish. Thus the fish must either
gradually deposit more or less eggs each day, during the entire spawning season, or it must deposit
at intervals separated by only a day or two at most.

"The schools of Cod move about but little during the spawning season, except when driven
away by enemies or by violent storms. After they reach the waters of Cape Ann, fishing continues
best in the same localities, and even upon the same spots, until they leave. The individuals, too,
seem to move about but little among themselves. When the female becomes ripe she remains
quietly near the bottom, while the male, a little more active, often swims higher up. This is indi-

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 39 of 146)