G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

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in shoal water south of Long Island. A. W. Simpson states that the species has been observed in
the sounds about Cape Hatteras in August, September, and October. It. E. Earll finds evidence
that stragglers occasionally enter the Chesai>eake. Along the coasts of the Middle States and of
New England Mackerel abound throughout the summer mouths, and are also found in great num-
bers in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, where, in past years, fishermen of the United States congre-
gated in great numbers to participate in their capture. They are also found on the coast of
Labrador, though there is no evidence that they ordinarily frequent the waters north of the Straits
of Belle Isle.

Captain Atwood 1 has expressed the opinion that they vis'c Northern Labrador only in seasons
remarkable for the prevalence of westerly winds, and that in other seasons they do not go so far

Professor Hind was told by the residents of Aillik and Kypokok, Labrador, one hundred
and fifty miles northwest of Hamilton Inlet, that Mackerel were abundant there in 1871, and that
a few were caught in cod-seines. While at Double Island harbor, some fifteen miles north of
Hopedale, a French Canadian resident informed him that there is "a scattering of Mackerel' 1 on
that part of the coast.

They appear also at times to have been abundant on the northeastern coast of Newfoundland,
though their appearance there is quite irregular. Mackerel do not occur in Hudson's Bay nor on
the coast of Greenland. It seems probable that the natural northern limit of the species in the
Western Atlantic is not far from the Straits of Belle Isle. Professor Packard, who visited this
region in 1866, recorded that a few Mackerel are taken in August in Salmon Bay and Red Bay, but
that the Straits of Belle Isle were evidently the northern limits of the genus, while Fortin, one of
the best Canadian authorities on fisheries, in his annual report for 1864, stated that in summer
they appear in some places, such as Little Mecattina, on the adjoining coast, latitude 50 north,
and even sometimes enter the Straits of Belle Isle.*

1 Proceedings, Boston Society of Natural History, vol. 10, p. 66.

'In 1860 Capt. Peter Avery, of the schooner Alabama, of Provincetown, took 100 barrels of fat Mackerel at Port
au Port, Newfoundland. Captain Atwood, however, has seen them at the Bay of Islands. He has also seen largo
schools at Mecattina.

Capt. J. W. Collins writes: "As early as 1837 or 183(3, Capt. Stephen Rich, of Gloucester, spent almost the entire
mackerel -fishing season on the coast of Labrador in pursuit, of Mackerel. He was induced by the reports brought him
by the Labrador cod-fishermen to make this attempt. They had reported seeing Mackerel abundant in the vicinity of
the Straits of Belle Isle, and Captain Rich, being of an adventurous turn, decided to devote one summer to the \\\\-
gation of the subject, feeling in hoped of obtaining a largo catch. My father was one of the crow, and I have often
heard him tell that the trip was entirely unsuccessful, notwithstanding the tact that they cru ised all the w.-i\ fnmi
Mecattiiia Islands through the Straits of Belle Isle, and on the northwest coast of Newfoundland as far down ax the
Bay of Inland.-. I'ew or no Mackerel wen- taken until the vessel returned in the fall to the southern part of the Gulf
of Saint Lawrence,, where a small fare was obtained in a few weeks' tUhing."


Perley says that they are rarely known to visit the coast of Labrador. H. R. Storer, after
carefully studying the fauna of Southern Labrador, in 1849, came to the conclusion that they were
sometimes found at Little Mecattiua.

In the various reports of the Canadian inspectors of fisheries on the Labrador coast from 1864
to 1870 may be found evidence that Mackerel are rarely taken even on the Labrador coast of the
Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

Professor Verrill, who visited Anticosti and Miugau in 1861, was unable to find any Mackerel
in the waters of that region, although the best methods of catching them were often used.

Some years ago Mackerel were abundant in the Bay of Fundy, as many as twelve vessels from
Eastport, besides others, being engaged in their capture, chiefly about Digby and Saint Mary's
Bay. They have now so completely disappeared as not to form an item in the commercial record
of the catch.

The species is found throughout the entire length of the Norwegian coast from the Christiania
Fjord to the North Cape and Varanger Fjord, latitude 71. It occurs on the south coast of Swe-
den, and, entering the Baltic, is found along the shores of Eastern Denmark and Eastern Prussia,
and also abundantly in the German Ocean and the English Channel, as well as everywhere in all
parts of the British Isles, and southward to the Mediterranean, where it abounds, especially in the
Adriatic. There is no record of its capture in Africa, South America, in the West Indies, the
Gulf of Mexico, or even about the Bermudas.

The Mackerel, then, would appear to be a shore-loving fish, not addicted to wide wanderings
in the ocean, and with range limited in the Western Atlantic between latitudes 35 and 56; in
the Eastern Atlantic between 36 and 71.

MIGRATIONS. The migrations of the Mackerel, the causes of their appearance and disap-
pearance at certain seasons at different points along the coast, the causes of their relative abun-
dance and scarcity in different years, have previously been discussed by numerous writers. The
subject has received special attention on account of the disputes between our own and the Canadian
Government concerning the value to our fishermen of the right to participate in the mackerel
fisheries in the Provincial waters.

Notwithstanding the great amount of paper which has been covered with theories to explain
the various mooted questions, it cannot be said that the habits of the Mackerel are understood at
all better than those of other fishes which have not attracted so much attention. The most volu-
minous writer upon this subject has been Prof. Henry Youle Hind, who devotes many pages of
his book, "The Effect of the Fishery Clauses of the Treaty of Washington on the Fisheries and
Fishermen of British North America," to the attempt to prove that the Mackerel which have been
at certain seasons in the past so abundant in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and on the Atlantic coast
of Nova Scotia remain there throughout the year, hibernating in deep waters not very remote from
the shore. 1 1 have attempted to show the weakness of his argument in an essay published in the

'Mr. Barnet Phillips, in the New York Times, December 31, 1880, thus criticises the theory of Mr. Hind, while
referring to Mr. William H. Ricleing's essay entitled "First Families of the Atlantic":

"In an article entitled 'First Families of the Atlantic,' to be found in the January number of Harper's Muga/im .
certain assertions are advanced in regard to the habits of the Mackerel which are entirely of an ex parle. charartrr,
and might unintentionally act injuriously to our interests in case fntuie disputes arose between the Provinces iiml i he-
United States on the fishery question. The writer states that, ' seeking a soft muddy or sandy bed at the approach of
winter, it [the Mackerel] buries itself therein, first drawing a scale or film ovi-r r;i<-h r\r.' In a prior paragraph of
tlii.s same article the possibility of the hibernation of the Mackerel is advanced. Now, exactly these two arguments
were presented by Professor Hind, who wished to prove that the Markm-l was a local fish, in favor of the Provinces,
which assertions were entirely refuted by Prof. Spencer F. Baird, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and by
Prof. G. Brown Goode. The great argument used by the Provincial iish experts was to show that the Mackerel
belonged to their waters, and the ideas of hibernation were therefore represented. If this had been granted, our case


Fifth Annual Report of the United States Commissioner of Fisheries for the year 1877, pp. 50-70.
It is by no means demonstrated that certain schools of Mackerel do not remain throughout the
year in waters adjacent to the coast of Canada, but the weight of evidence at present seeniH to rest
with those who believe that the Mackerel are given to extensive migrations north and south along
our coasts. These migrations are believed to be carried on in connection with another kind of
migration which 1 have called "bathic migration," and which consists in a movement, at the
approach of cold weather, into the deeper waters of the ocean. The menhaden and many other
fishes have these two kinds of migrations, littoral and bathic. The sea-herring, on the other hand,
has extensive littoral migrations and probably very slight movements of a bathic nature. In some
the latter is most extended, in others the former. Anadromous fishes, like the shad and the ale-
wife, very probably strike directly out to sea without ranging to any great degree northward or
southward, while others, of which the Mackerel is a fair type, undoubtedly make great coastwise
migrations, though their bathic migrations may, without any great inconsistency, be as great as
those which range less.

Upon this point I cannot do better than to quote from a manuscript letter from Professor
Haiid to the Hon. Hamilton Fish, Secretary of State, dated July 21, 1873. Having expressed
certain views concerning the well-known phenomenon of the migration of the herring and shad,
he continues:

"The fish of the Mackerel family form a marked exception to this rule. While the alewife and
shad generally switn low in the water, their presence not being indicated at the surface, the
Mackerel swim near the surface, sometimes far out to sea, and their movements can be readily
followed. The North American species consist of fish which as certainly, for the most part at
least, have a migration along our coast northward in spring and southward in autumn, as do the
throngs of pleasure-seekers, and their habit of schooling on the surface of the water enables us
to determine this fact with great precision. Whatever may be the theories of others on the sub-
ject, the American mackerel-fisher knows perfectly well that in the spring he may find the schools
of .Mackerel oft' Cape Henry, and that he can follow them northward day by day as they move in
countless myriads on to the coasts of Maine and Nova Scotia."

The movements of the mackerel schools, like those of the menhaden, appear to be regulated
solely by the temperature of the ocean.

would have liuil. .MS far as Mackerel go, little to rest npou. As to hibernation of tbe Mackerel there are innii
reasons to suppose that nothing of tbe kind exists. In fact, hibernation is one of those ichthyological questions
which require very long research to know anything aboat. It does seem that sturgeon in Russian waters, and carp
in cold temperatures, take to the mud, and may, perhaps, do something like hibernation, but this habit has no prece-
dent in si-.-i-iisli. It may happen that a few individuals of tbe Scomber family have been inclosed in the winter season
in i In- waters of the Newfoundland coast. Such coses have undoubtedly happened, for on page G2 of the late report
"i tin- United States Commission the statement is made that in a river of Nova Scotia where a school of Mackerel had
been detained the fish \M-IV speared out of the mud. Returning to the numbing effecta of cold weather on sea-fish, in
in del- in show how unusual it must be, the American turbot is taken with hooks in the dead of winter under the floe
ii-r of North Green laud at a depth of 300 fathoms. If sea-fish were mummified in the ocean depths by the cold, because
m the deeper strata of tbe ocean temperatures are fairly uniform, once a fish had hibernated his sleep might continue
on forever. There can be no better proof of the migratory character of the Mackerel than to cite a paragraph from
tho 'Cape Ann Advertiser, ' published this week, where the fact is announced that the mackerel fleet havu gone off
llaiiera.s in hopes of securing Mackerel, and that some time ago 'vessels reported having sailed through immense
M-hools for forty miles.' The film over the eye of Mackerel Professor Hind placed great stress on, as ho supposed it
was u preparatory step to the liiliernatiii^ process. Now, this film over the eye, as Mr. Goodo shows, is not peculiar
lo the Ki-ombrn, for many lish, such as the shad, the alewife, the menhaden, the bluefish, the mullet, the lake white-
lish. and various eyprinoid fishes, have this membrane, though it never does cover the whole eye. The fact remains
I be proved that a skin forms over the eye in winter only. The writer of this article, has apparently culled his
t'.-ii'ts ill regard to Mackerel from one side, and h:\s read most superficially the whole of the testimony. 1'iiblic docu-
;:> -nt-,' are rarely of an amusing ehurueter, l>nt when they happen to be of inten >t. as \\.n- those published as 'The
Award of tbe Fisheries Commission.' it is most unfortunate when false deductions are derived from tin-in."


lu my essay upou menhaden, which has just been referred to, I have attempted to show, in a
preliminary way, the relations of the movements of the menhaden schools to the temperature of
the water at different stations along the coast in accordance with certain crude observations, which
at present constitute the only material available as a basis for such generalizations. I have there
claimed that menhaden make their appearance near the shore in the spring as soon as the tempera-
ture of the water in the harbors has reached a weekly average of 50, and that they disappear in
the fall soon after the waters have again cooled down to the same average temperature.

The Mackerel are partial to much colder waters. They range ten to fifteen degrees farther to
the north, and their southern limit is proportionally high. They appear earlier in the spring and
disappear later in the fall, and their presence is nearly synchronous with the time when the water
temperatures of the harbor have reached a weekly average of 45. It has been remarked tbat the
presence of the menhaden depends upon a weekly average of the harbor temperature of 50 or
more. These harbor temperatures are several degrees it is not known exactly how many higher
than those of the open ocean at the same latitude, and there can be no question that the menhaden
thrives in water as cold as 45. Mackerel will remain active and contented in a temperature of
40, or even less. The normal time of the departure of Mackerel from the coast is, therefore, a
month or two later than that of the menhaden.

There are well recorded instances of the capture of menhaden in Massachusetts Bay as late
as December, and there are also many instances where Mackerel have been taken not only on the
New England coast, but also in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, in midwinter. 1

Mr. John Fletcher Wonson tells me that at one time he left Gloucester on a halibut trip
January 1, and January 3 or 4, on George's Bank, caught a hogshead of herring and seven or eight
Mackerel in a gill-net. Schooner " Shooting Star" took a number of Mackerel on George's Bank
in March, 1856. 8

The fishermen on George's took Tinkers from the stomachs of codfish in February, 1878, using
them for bait. Sometimes five or six were taken from one fish.

In January. 1868 or 1869, Capt. Warren Brown, of the schooner "Charles Frederick," of
Gloucester, caught thirty Mackerel on a trawl-line set on the Middle Bank.

The "Yarmouth Herald" (Yarmouth, Nova Scotia), January 2, 1879, states that " two fine,
fat, fresh Mackerel were found among the kelp at Green Cove on Friday, December 28, 1878."

Basing their arguments upon such occurrences as these, Canadian writers have attempted to
prove that large bodies of Mackerel hibernate along their shores in the winter months. It is still
believed by many fishermen that the Mackerel, at the approach of cold weather, go down into the
iud and there remain in a state of torpidity until the approach of warm weather in spring. All
that can be said regarding this claim is that, although we do not know enough about the subject
to pronounce this impossible, American ichthyologists think they know enough to be of the opinion
that it is very decidedly improbable.

It seems only fair to quote in this connection a letter printed in " Forest and Stream," a leading
New York journal devoted to field sports and the fisheries, in criticism of views published at the

'Twenty Mackerel were caught in a gill-net at Provincotown January 17, 1878. Others were taken late in
December. Captaiu Harding tells me that they sometimes come ashore frozen in cold weather, and arc found in (lie
ice on the beach.

Early in February, 1881, small Mackerel five or six inches in length were found in considerable numbers in the
stomachs of hake and cod, tnken on the eastern part of Oeorge's Bank in tifty fathoms, and on the southeastern part
of Le Have in sixty and eighty fathoms of water ; sometimes ten, twelve, or fifteen in the stomach of a single iish.
On the 8th and 9th of February, Captaiu Ol&en observed them schooling at the surface on George's. Gloucester
fishermen had before seen them in winter on George's, but never so abundant.

"Gloucester Advertiser," April, 1856.


time in that paper, and also in the .Report of the Fish Commission, part v. I feel tin- utmost
confidence in I>r. (iilpin's statements as to facts observed, though my interpretation might pcrhups
lie different:

HALIFAX, June 19, 1878.

MK. EDITOR: In some papers published some time since in the "Forest and Stream" upon
tin- habits of the. Mackerel, it is asserted by Prof. Brown Goode that there is no reliable evidence
ut' Mackerel being seen upon ih- coast of Nova Scotia after the 25th of October, quoting me as his
authority. Mad he quoted me as giving the 1st of November, 1868, when the fish market at
Halifax was full, I should have felt more complimented, as I should have known he had read my
paper with more attention. In summing up my remarks 1 stated that Mackerel remain usually all
November on the surface in Nova Seotia, and during mild winters linger to December. This,
Professor Goodc sa\>. i> not reliable as scientific evidence, because no specific dates are given.
To admit this would l>e to destroy almost the whole mass of information compiled in the report of
both the Royal ami American Commissioners of English and American fisheries. But as I am
certain that Professor Goode's desire is to have the truth simply, will you allow me a place in your
columns to add to my previous assertions such specific dates as I may be able now to obtain,
though not admitting his principle?

On May 23, 1875, going into the Halifax fish market, I asked generally how long are Mackerel
in market. I was answered, generally all fhrough November. On asking how long in December
they had known them in market, Mr. Greywire said: "I recollect them as late as the 10th of
December. We keep our nets out to the 30th of November. Men hire to that time. Mackerel
are seen after that date, but the seas are so boisterous that our nets are destroyed. Some few
part ies will keep them out in December in spite of cold and storms." Mr. White corroborated this.
Mr. Thomas Brac.kett said he had taken them often in December, and olten in weather so cold
that the fish were frozen in removing them from the meshes of the nets, but could remember no
dates. Mr. William Duft'y stated he saw one once on the 24th of December. He recollected it
because it was Christmas eve, and on account of its rarity ; but he had frequently taken them
during December, though having no dates. The nets used are about two fathoms deep, set near
the shore in about five to ten fathoms of water. My own recollections, but without dates, are
seeing stops made in very cold weather and frozen groaud, which must have been late in November.
I think I have now made good my assertion that they linger to December, and that in any fature
history of their habits it must be assumed as truth that they remain in numbers during November,
but are found sparingly later on our coasts. Where they are during those dates in any intermediate
point from Maine to Virginia, must be left to American observers. When these blanks are filled
and a generalization made their history will be more complete, a task we may well leave in the
hands of the American Commissioners of Fisheries.

In my paper (1865) I speak of their asserted torpidity and the story of their blindness as
needing more proof before they are asserted as facts. I have had nothing to alter my opinion
since. In examining the eyes of many Mackerel on May 23 and 27 and October 27, in different
years, I have found that, as in most fish, the bony orbit is much larger than the base of the eye,
and that the space is filled by gelatinous substance, which may be called cellular membrane, and
adipose deposit to this transparent membrane arising from the outer angle of this orbit and spread-
ing half over the pupil of the eye. It may easily be raised and defined by passing a penknife
between it and the eye. At the inner angle there is also a similar, but much smaller, membrane,
not reaching to the eye. As the Mackerel appear on our coasts about the 15th of May, and these


observations were made the 23d, I do not think it can be asserted the eye is closed entirely in
spring; and as the same appearance is found in September, we must admit it to be a permanent
structure. An analogous membrane is found in the Clupeidce and doubtless other fish. On asking
Thomas Loyd, our roughest and oldest fisherman: "I don't know anything about the scales of the
eyes, but I do know that, curse them, they see too sharp for us, steering clear ot our spring nets,"
and doubtless old Tom was right.

On dissecting a Mackerel, May 23, 1 found the heart first presenting the tricornered ventricle
with its white aorta and deep-red auricle resting upon the fringe of cceca that covered the intes-
tines, sweeping down to the vent. The liver and stomach were both covered by the coeca. The
latter was about three inches long, its upper lobe thick and round, but ending in a narrow tail or
point. The cardiac end of the stomach was prolonged two and a half inches, ending in a point.
Tlie cfflca were attached to the gut about an inch below the pylorus. There was but little differ-
ence in appearance and size between stomach and gut. This we may roughly sum up: Stomach
and gut very simple; coaca usually large and complicated; liver small all noteworthy facts in the
study of comparative life. The fish being a male one, lobe on either side of ivory-white; milt
reached from gills to vent, slightly adhering to the sides by thin membrane, and covered by a
similar one. They were divided in lobes by shallow lines, the upper lobes slightly fimbriated.
On removing both entrails and milt a dark purple space about an inch wide extended from gills to
vent beneath the back bone. This, when opened, seemed tilled with coagulated blood. It had in
some respects the appearance of the air-bladder in the Salmonidte, though wanting in the direct
communication they have with the oesophagus. But this communication is also wanting in the
Oadida, where, especially in the hake, the air-bladder assumes its highest form of organization.
I have often found coagulation and reticulated plexi in air-bladders of other fish.

It has been asserted the European Mackerel have no air-bladders, and a new genus proposed,
but with more probability they have the same organization as our own, and the difference lies in
the opinion whether or not it is an air-bladder.

The Mackerel appear on the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, and almost simultaneously on the
Bay of Fundy, about the 15th of May. Nearly all spawners, male and female, perform a somewhat
easterly and northerly route, disappear from the surface in a few weeks and reappear again in
September without spawn and fat, remain in numbers during November, and very sparingly during
December, coming from the eastward, and then disappear. It may be asserted, generalizing from
observation extending over a series of eight or ten years, that they are kregular in their move-
ments as regards localities, though probably not as regards ocean surfaces.

The very great difficulty of accounting how these enormous masses of surface feeders find
food after disappearing from the surface has caused many ingenious theories as to the question in

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 50 of 146)