G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

The fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) online

. (page 48 of 146)
Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 48 of 146)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

affinity to Ophiodon, and not from any supposed resemblance to the true codfish. The Cultus Cod
reaches a length of five feet, and a weight of fifty or sixty pounds, the largest specimens being
taken in northern waters. Many very small ones come into the San Francisco market, being taken
in the sweep-nets of the paranzelle. These weigh less than a pound; the average of the large ones
is from six to ten pounds. It ranges from Santa Barbara to Alaska, being very abundant every-
where north of Point Concepcion. It lives about rocky places, and sometimes in considerable
depths, and spawns in summer. It feeds upon fishes and Crustacea and is excessively voracious.
It often swallows a red rock-fish when the latter is on the hook, and is thus taken. Like other
large fishes, it is subject to the attacks of the hag-fish (Polistotrema). As a food-fish it holds a
high rank, being considered rather superior to the rock-fish. From its great abundance, it is one
of the most important fishes on the Pacific coast.

Zaniolepis latipinnis Girard. This species ranges from San Francisco northward in deep
water. It reaches a length of about a foot, and is of no economic value.

Oxylebius pictw Gill. This bright-colored little fish ranges from Santa Barbara to Vancouver's
Island, living among rocks near shore. It reaches a length of six inches, is rarely taken, and then
used only for bait.

Myriolepw zonifer Lock. The single specimen known was takeu at Monterey.

BLACK CANDLE-PISH (Anoplopoma fimbria (Pallas) Gill). This species is known in Puget
Sound by the name of "Horse-mackerel." At San Francisco it is usually called "Candle-fish."
In the markets it is sometimes fraudulently sold as Spanish mackerel. It reaches a length of
twenty inches and a weight of five pounds. It ranges from Monterey northward to Sitka, in rather
deep water, and is generally common, especially northward. At Seattle it is one of the most
abundant fishes, but in the San Francisco market it is seldom seen in large numbers. It feeds on
crustaceans, worms, and small fishes. As a food-fish it is held in low esteem, the flesh being rather
tough and tasteless.

In the Straits of Fuca it reaches a much larger size than has been noticed elsewhere. It is here
very highly valued by the Indians, according to Mr. Swan. It is called by the Indians " Beshow."

In Alaska, according to Dr. Bean, the most important chiroid fishes are Ophiodon clongatm,
Anoplopoma Jimbria, Hexagrammus decagrammus, H. lagocephalus, H. ordinatus, H. asper, and the
" Yellow Fish," " Striped Fish," or "Atka Mackerel," Pleurogrammus monopterygius (Pallas) Gill,
which is the chief of them all. This fish is most abundant about the Aleutian chain and the
Shumagins, its northern limit as now understood being about Kodiak, and its western limit at
Attti. It congregates in immense schools, and can be taken in purse-seines like the mackerel,
which it strongly resembles in taste after being salted in the same manner.


NAMES. One of the best known shore species of the Atlantic coast is the Tautog or Black-
fish. This fish is now found in greater or less abundance from Saint John, New Brunswick, to
Charleston, South Carolina. East of New York it is usually called Tautog, a name of Indian ori-
gin, which first occurs in Roger Williams' "Key to American Language," printed in 1643, in which
this fish is enumerated among the edible species of Southern New England. "Tautauog" would
consequently seem to be a word from the dialect of the Narragansett Indians. On the coast of New


n i.scallcd "Black-lish": in NYw Jersey also" Black-fish" and "Smooth Black-fish," "Tautog,"
or < 'hull": <>n the eastern short- of Virginia "Moll," or "Will George"; at the mouth of the
Chesapeake "Salt-water Chub," and in North Carolina the "Oyster-fish." Of all these names
Tailing is by tar the most desirable for general use. There are several other species along our
coast railed Black fish, especially the sea-bass, which is often associated with the Tautog. The
names Oyster-fish and Chub are also pre-engaged by other species.

DISTRIBUTION. Though the present geographical distribution of the Tautog is well understood,
there is reason to believe that its range has been very considerably extended in the present century
by the agency of man. That this species was known in Rhode Island two hundred and thirty
years ago is reasonably certain from the reference by Roger Williams, already referred to, and
in 177ti it was stated by Schoepf that it was very abundant in summer at New York. It is in
greatest abundance between the southern angle of Cape Cod and the Capes of Delaware, which
would indicate that within these limits, at least, the sj>ecies has always existed. The waters of
Long Island Sound and those immediately adjoining seem especially well adapted for its residence.

Mitchill, writing in 1814, remarked: "The Tautog was not originally known in Massachusetts
Bay: but within a few years he has been carried beyond Cape Cod, and has multiplied so alum
dantly that the Boston market has now a full supply without the necessity of importing from
Newport and Providence." This statement is confirmed in a way by Mr. Isaac Hinckley, of Phila-
delphia, who tells me that in 1824 he saw several individuals from Cohasset Bocks, Jerusalem Road,
Massachusetts, and that the fish was at that time said by the fishermen to be entirely new to them.
Storer, writing about 1867, remarked: "Although a few years only have passed since this species
as brought into Massachusetts Bay, it is now taken along a large portion of the coast. At
Plymouth, Nahant, and Lynn, at some seasons, it is found in considerable numbers, and is fre-
quently caught from the bridges leading from Boston. The Boston market is for the most part
supplied by Plymouth and Wellfleet." As early as 1851 they had spread northward to the Bay of
Fundy, and in that year it is stated that many were sold in the fish market at Saint John, the
largest of which weighed eight pounds : Mr. Lanman wrote that he obtained there in July and
August specimens nineteen inches long and weighing four pounds.

The rocky shores of Cape Ann seem particularly well adapted to its peculiar habit s. and large
numbers are annually obtained from the rocks. So long has it been acclimated and so well
known is it, that the local authorities of that region are inclined to doubt that it is not native,
The "Gloucester Telegraph" of May 5, 1860, challenged the statement that the Tautog was a new
tish, declaring that many years ago they were very plenty, and that after a period of scarcity they
reappeared. So abundant had they become in 1836 in the harbor of Wellfleet, Massachusetts, that
three Connecticut, smacks were accustomed summer after summer to devote their entire energies to
their capture in this locality, and this fishery has continued up to the present day. In sandy
loealities. like the harbor of Proviucetowu, they have never secured a firm hold, though large
specimens are sometimes taken under the wharves.

As to the extension of the range of this species southward we have the statement of Holbrook,
quoted by DeKay, writing in 1842: "Attempts have been made to introduce this fish farther
south, but with limited success. I am informed by my friend, Dr. Holbrook, that General Thomas
1'inekney imported from Rhode Island a smack load of the Tautog and set them adrift in the
harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, where they are to be found to this day. They are still
occasionally caught, weighing from one to two pounds, but never in such quantities as to be
brought to market." Mr. Earll obtained specimens at Charleston in January, 1880. Certain ich-


thyologists, among whom is Professor Jordan, express skepticism as to the range having been
thus artificially extended southward.

At Cape Lookout, North Carolina, Jordan records the species, uuder the name "Oyster-fish,"
as rather common, the young abundant about the wharves. About Norfolk and in the mouth of
Chesapeake Bay they occur, and also on the coast of Southern New Jersey, where they are taken
in the vicinity of Beasley's Point, in the channel ways and along the shores, and they are said to be
somewhat common on the banks off Sandy Hook and in the southern bays of Long Island. These
sandy regions, however, are not so much frequented by them as those abounding in rocky beaches
and ledges.

HABITS.' Although the Tautog appears to thrive in cool water, as has been shown by the rapid
extension of the northern range, they seek refuge from too great cold by retreating in winter to
somewhat deeper water than that preferred in summer. Here they appear to take refuge under
the stones and in crevices of the rocks, if we may judge from their habits as observed in aquaria,
their smooth, slimy skins, with scales protected from abrasion by a thick epidermis, enabling them
to move about among the sharp-pointed rocks unharmed. They are on this account also especially
well suited for confinement in the wells of smacks and in "live-cars," where it is customary to keep
them living until required for market. They appear to enter upon an actual state of hibernation,
ceasing to feed and the vital functions partially suspended. It is the opinion of fishermen that during
the hibernating season the vent becomes entirely closed up, as is known to be the case with hiber-
nating mammals. It is certain that they do not retreat far from the shore in winter, and that
very cold weather, especially in connection with a run of low tides, often causes very remarkable
fatalities. There are instances of their death in immense numbers. In February, 1857, after a very
cold season, hundreds of tons drifted upon the beach at Block Island, and along the southern shores
of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and a similar catastrophe took place in 1841. In March, 1875,
it is stated that as much as a ton was thrown ashore in the drift ice at Cnttyhunk. They were
seen floating by the Hen and Chickens light-ship for three successive days. In Southern New
England they become torpid in November and December. It is stated that they are sometimes
caught as late as Christmas. It is probable that many do not enter upon a state of complete tor-
pidity, but remain in a partially active state in deep holes not far from the shore, and that it is
these, rather than the hibernating individuals, which are especially liable to injury from the cold.
A few are taken in Rhode Island in midwinter both by line and in lobster-pots. North of Cape
Cod they are rarely taken except in summer, 1 while towards the southern limit of their range they
are apparently as abundant in winter as at any other time. Mr. Nathan King, a Rhode Island
fisherman, states that when the sun is very hot the Tautog leaves the clear spots for shelter among
the weeds and rocks.

FOOD. As might be inferred from its haunts and from the character of its strong, sharp teeth,
the food of this fish consists of the hard-shelled mollusks and crustaceans which are so abundant
among the rocks. In their stomachs have been found, among other things, lobsters, crabs of va-
rious species, clams, mollusks, squids, scallops, barnacles, and sand-dollars. Many of the smaller
inollusks they swallow, shells and all, ejecting the hard parts after the flesh has been digested.
The common bait for Tautog in the spring is the clam, preferably the soft clam, for at this time the
fishermen say they have tender mouths. In the fall crabs and lobsters are used, the fiddler-crab
and rock-crab being the favorites. They are sometimes taken with a bait of marine worms.

REPRODUCTION. In Narragansett Bay and vicinity they spawn from the end of April until

'The first of the season were taken at Gloucester May 13, 1881.


The pound fishermen liinl them to In- full of ripe eggs when they begin to approach the
shore in early summer. Mr. ( 'hristopher K. Dyer, of Nc\\ iJedford. has \\itnes.M-d the operation
nt' spawning in ISux/anl's Bay in tlie middle of Juno, in water about two fathoms tire]). This
was in is."iit or isiid. about two miles east of Secoimet Point. The number of eggs lias not yet
been determined, nor is it known how long the period of incubation continues, but young fish are
found abundantly in the eel-grass along the shore in August and September, and have been
observed at various points from Cape Lookout to Monomoy. There can be no question, however,
that there are breeding grounds near Charleston, South Carolina-, and north to Cape Cod, since the
-pecics is very local in its habits and does not make long journeys to select spawning beds. Little
is known of their rate of growth, though it is probably slow. Capt. Benjamin Edwards, of Wood's
Hull, Massachusetts, kept thousands of small Tautog confined in a pond for Jive years, and at the
end of that time, when six years old, none weighed more than two and one-half pounds. A half-
pound tish which he confined in a lobster-car, with plenty of room and plenty of food, increased
from one half to three-quarters of a pound in six months. The average weight of those sent to
market does not exceed two or three pounds, though individuals weighing ten, twelve, and four-
teen pounds are by no means unusual. The largest on record was obtained near New York in July,
1S70, and is preserved in the National Museum its length thirty-six and one-half inches, its
weight twenty-two and one-half pounds.

A H i NUANCE. The abundance of this species past and present has been actively discussed
and much interesting testimony on the subject may be found in the report of the United States
Commissioner of Fisheries. This was one of the fish regarding which the claim was made that
it has l>een almost exterminated in Rhode Island by overfishing: upon this point, however, the
opinions of fishermen and experts are much at variance. In 1870 when, according to general
(pinion, Tautog had been almost exterminated in the waters of Narragansett Bay, the records of
Newport fob-markets show that in one day, November 2, eleven men caught about .'$,000 pounds
of Tautog with hook and line, besides cod and other flsh, while on the following day the catch
of fifteen men was 28,000 pounds, besides codfish caught to the amount of 600 pounds, being an
average of over 2,000 pounds to each man. These catches compare very favorably with that
iveorded at Fir Rock Ledge, VVarebam, ten years previous, when, on the 9th of October, two men
caught, in three hours, 271 pounds of Tautog, a catch which was pronounced by local authorities
the greatest ever made in those waters. 1 Colonel Lyman. Massachusetts commissioner, writing in
1-sT'J. remarked: "Great complaint is made of the scarcity of this valued species north and south
of Cape Cod. but especially near the mouth of Xarragansett Bay, where they are said to be not
more than one-eighth as numerous as they were a score of years ago." Although much testimony
lias been printed in the reports of the Fish Commission of the United States and of Rhode Island,
the gem nil tendency of which is to show that old fishermen believe that Tautog and other fish are
much less abundant than in the days of their youth, nothing definite has yet been proved.

The Tautog has always been a favorite table fish, especially in New York, its flesh being
white, dry, and of a delicate flavor. Storer states that they are frequently pickled, and may be
kept in weak brine for a long time, and in this state they are considered by epicures a delicacy.

Tin: TAIIOGOK BLACK-FISH FISHERY. The capture of Tautog is chiefly accomplished by the
line fishermen of Southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and the weir fishermen of the same
district. No one tishes for Tautog alone, and it is consequently more difficult to estimate the

1 Banistable Patriot, October 9, 1860.


quantity annually taken. About 200,000 pounds were brought to the New York market last year.
Local consumption is considerable, and the total amount annually taken may be estimated at from
400,000 to 450,000 pounds. At least two hundred fishermen are entirely or partly engaged in this
business between Cape Cod and New York. The catch of such fishermen in Narragansett Bay is
estimated at 6,000 pounds each annually. This gives in round numbers 100,000 pounds taken by
hook and line along this stretch of coast. To this should be added 20,000 pounds estimated to be
taken on the coast of New Jersey and southward, and 20,000 more north of Cape Cod. Tautog are
also frequently taken in the weirs and pounds, and the catch of these for the year 1876 was esti.
mated as is shown in the following table :


Weirs on north side of Cape Cod 2, 274

Weirs on south side of Cape Cod 561

Weirs in Vineyard Sound 29, 220

Weirs in Buzzard's Bay 39, 423

Weirs in Narragansett Bay 156, 750

Weirs on Block Island 33,153

AVeirs in Fisher's Island Sound 14, 000

Weirs on eastern end of Long Island 36, 000

311, 381

At Noank, Connecticut, there is in the fall a season of "black-fishing" which continues from the
middle of October until the snow begins to fall, about the first of December. About twenty-five men
are engaged in this fishery during the season specified, some of whom begin a month or two earlier.
They fish in Fisher's Island Sound at a depth of six to eight fathoms, using crabs and lobsters for
bait. The average catch of each man for the season is estimated by Captain Ashby at one thou-
sand pounds. The most northerly point where there is a regular fishery ior them is, as has already
been mentioned, in Wellfleet harbor. According to DeKay, three smacks were constantly em-
ployed from April to November. These smacks doubtless, then as now, hailed from Connecticut.
In 1879 these vessels were still upon the old ground, one of them hailing from Westport and one
or two from New London. One of the skippers was said to have fished upon this ground every
seasou for thirty years. I was told in Wellfleet that they ordinarily remained about three weeks
to fill their wells, obtaining in that time from two to four thousand pounds.

Angling for Tautog from rocks is a favorite pursuit of amateur fishermen all along the coast,
particularly about New York, where there are precipitous shores, the anglers standing upon the
rocks. July 12, 1879, Capt. S. J. Martin caught in this way, at Eastern Point, Gloucester, seven,
two of which weighed twenty-one and a half pounds. In Long Island Sound and other protected
waters they are usually fished for from a boat anchored among the reefs or near wrecked vessels.
Mitchill, writing in 1814, describes the methods of this fishery better than any other subsequent
authority : "Rocky shores and bottoms are the haunts of Blackfish. Long experience, is required
to find all these places of resort. Nice observations on the landmarks in different directions are
requisite to enable a fishing party to anchor on the proper spot. For example, when a certain rock
and tree range one way, with a barn window appearing over a headland the other way, the boat
lying at the point where two such lines intersect each other, is exactly over some famous rendez-
vous. ... At some places Black-fish bite best upon the flood. In others they are voracious
during the ebb. Thunder accompanying a shower is an indication that no more of them cun be
caught. The appearance of a porpoise infallibly puts an end to the sport. Dull weather with an
easterly wind is generally the omen of ill luck. . . . Some persons who live contiguous to


the shores where are situated the rocks which are frequented by Tautog invite the fish there by
baiting. By this is meant tin- throwing overboard broken clams or crabs to induce the Black-fish
to renew their visits; and fine sport is procured."

As has been already stated, the Tautog on the coasts of the United States is extremely sensi-
tive to cold, and at the approach of the time of hibernation the vent becomes sealed, the fish thus
becoming prepared for a minimum consumption of its own fat during its winter sleep.

The subjoined notice of the torpidity of the Tautog and the Scup by Captain Atwood will be
found on page 212 of the Report of the United States Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries for
1871-'72. 1


The Chogset or Cunuer, Ctenolabriu acbtpersus, is very similar in appearance to the Tautog,
though much smaller and far less important. Its range is more northerly. I can find no record
of its occurrence south of New York. DeKay remarks: "I am not aware that it is found south of
Delaware Bay." From New York to the Straits of Canso the species is exceedingly abundant,
being found everywhere in harbors and bays, particularly in the vicinity of fish-houses where offal
is thrown overboard. Cuvier had specimens from Newfoundland, but it abounds on the coast of
Labrador. It is closely related to the " Goldsinny," Ctenolabrus rupegtris, and the "Connor" or
"Gilt-head," Crenilabrus melops, of Great Britain and adjoining Europe. It has numerous common
names. In Southern New England it is called "Cbogset," a name of Indian origin, sometimes pro-
nounced Cachogset. This name appears to have been in occasional use as far west as New York,
where, in Mitchill's time, it was also called "Blueflsh." In Maine, the British Provinces, and in
some parts of Massachusetts the name " Gunner" is in use, evidently having been brought over by
the English colonists who remembered a very similar fish at home which has this name. In New
York, in revolutionary times, the name "Burgall" was in use, and continued in use at least until
1854, when it is stated by Gill to have been the accepted name in the New York market. This name
also is of English origin, certain species of this family being called "Bergylt" in parts of England.
This name appears to hold in Eastern Long Island at the present time. At Provincetown they
are called "Sea-perch," and at the Isle of Shoals and occasionally on the adjoining mainland
"Blue-perch" and "Perch," this also being a reminiscence of English usage. At Salem they are
railed "Nippers," and occasionally here and elsewhere " Bait-stealers." Where Gunners are found
at all they are exceedingly abundant, and, though performing a useful duty as scavengers, are a pest
of fishermen, from their habit of nibbling the bait from their hooks. They are the especial detes-
tation of those who fish for tautog, since the two species are ordinarily found together. Their

1 In Brown's "American Angler's Guide," in the article on Tantog or Black-fish, it is remarked: "The Black-
tlsh abounds in the vicinity of Long Island, and is a stationary inhabitant of the salt water. He may be kept for a
long time in ponds or cars, and even fatted there. When the cold of winter bennmbs him he refuses to ont any more,
and a membrane is observed to form over the vent and close it. He begins to regain appetite with the return of
warmth in the spring." (P. 178.)

" Now wo know that Tantog hibernate among rocks near the const and in our rivers, and it has been stated by
Mr. L. Tallman or Mr. Daniel Chnrch that some years ago, after a very cold snap, not only many Tautog were
washed ashore frozen stiff, but afterward quantities were also fonnd dead among rocks off the coast. If, during the
winter, they don't feed as stated above, and this membrane closes them up, the conclusion must be that they remain
in a state of torpor or sleep during cold weather. Now it happens that the scup, when first taken by traps, are in a
state of tnquir ; they neither eat nor have any passage. It is probably sealed up like the Tantog, and nothing in the
shape of food is to bo fonnd within them. Some say they are blind, and they seem hardly able or willing to move.

"The inference, then, is, that the scup have also been hibernating within a short distance from the coast, in the
same state as the Tantog. This would account for the stray scnp mentioned by Mr. South wick as having been occa-
sionally found in March. A warm day wakes him up, and he visits the shore for a day or so and then returns. To
my mind this is a more reasonable way of accounting for his presence than to assume that he has been left behind.
If these facts arc as stated, it is to be presumed that soup are a local fish, and do not leave their localities any more
than Tantog, about the propriety of the classification of which as a local fish there, is no question." ATWOOD.
18 F


food is very similar to that of the tautog, except that they cannot swallow large shells. They

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 48 of 146)