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exceeds three or four pounds. A specimen taken off Block Island, July 8, 1874, the first of the
season, measured twenty-six and one-fourth inches and weighed three pounds and five ounces.
It is said to be the largest ever taken in this section, and was a female with the ovary spent.
Those taken on the coast of New Jersey and farther to the eastward are considered much more
delicately flavored than the Chesapeake fish, and command a higher price in the market. In the
<inlf States, according to Mr. Stearns, the Spanish Mackerel are in great demand, though but few
are caught in the Gulf of Mexico, on account of the absence of proper nets.


This species was ascertained by Professor Jordan to occur abundantly in the Gulf of Cali-
fornia, and south as far as Mexico. It is for some reason not highly valued by the Mexicans.


The Cero is a West Indian species which has been recorded from Santo Domingo, Jamaica,
Cuba, Martinique, Porto Rico, and Brazil. A few specimens have been observed as far north as
Wood's Holl, Massachusetts. It is a magnificent fish. It often grows to twenty-five pounds, and
sometimes, it is said, to one hundred pounds in weight. Its habits are probably not unlike those
of the Spanish Mackerel. The name Cero is commonly accepted in the United States; it is u
corruption of the Spanish sierra, and the Mexicans call the fish by that name.

"The King-fish," writes Mr. Stearns, "are very abundant in the southern part of the Gulf and
common at some places in its northern portion. They live altogether at sea and are caught with
trolling-lines. At Key West they are important as food-fishes, large quantities being sold in the
markets. Two men iu a small sail-boat sometimes catch more than a hundred in a day, and 1
have seen the market so glutted with them that five cents would buy one of the largest size."

Professor Jordan states that they are regularly caught with trolling hooks by nearly every
steamer from Savannah to New York. 1


The King Cero of the Florida Keys grows to be five or six feet long and to twenty or thirty
pounds iu weight. This fish also occasionally wanders as far north as the southern shores of Cape
Cod iu summer. It is abundant in the West Indies, having been recorded from Cuba, Santo
Domingo, Jamaica, and Barbadoes. Cuvier, moreover, had a specimen from Brazil. It is more
than likely that this and the preceding species are both included by the Key West fishermen
under the name " King-fish," the differences in general appearance being so slight that it is hardly
likely that they would be noticed by ordinary observers.


The Pacific species may be called the Monterey Mackerel. It attains a length of about thirty
inches and a weight of about five or eight pounds. It has only been seen in the Monterey Bay,
where from five to forty individuals are taken every fall, most of them at Soquel. They appear
in September and disappear perhaps in November. Nothing further is known of their distribution
or habits. They always bring a very high price in the market (30 to 50 cents per pound), the flesh
being similar to that of the Spanish Mackerel of the East, which species this fish closely resembles.


This fish is one of those which appear to live for the most part iu the open ocean, wandering
hither and thither in large schools, preying upon other pelagic fishes, and approaching land only
when attracted by abundance of acceptable food. Several of the smaller species of the group
of Tunnies, to which it belongs, are known to sailors by the same name. The common Bonito of
England, Orcynus pelamys, is what is here called the "Striped Bonito," two or three specimens

1 A RAKE FISH. Captain Matthews, of the steamer " Oriental," who arrived Tuesday from Savannah, brought homo
a fine specimen of the King-fish, which was caught in this Gulf Stream on the passage. It was placed on exhibition
in the Qnincy market, at stalls 127 and 129, aud attracted considerable attention from the fact that it is the first one
of the kind ever seen here. It weighs about forty pounds, and more nearly resembles the Spanish Mackerel iu color
and form than any other fish usually seen in this market, although it is ranch larger. It is a very fat, handsome fish,
and IB said to be a nice article for food. Boston Journal, July 26, 1871.


of which have been detected in our waters since 187G, but the fish which most frequeutly
anil in greatest numbers approaches our shores is the one which is named at the head of this
section. Almost nothing is Known of its habits, and it is even impossible to define its geographical
inii^c with any degree of certainty, its distribution being quite unlike that of any other fish with
which we are acquainted. It may be said, however, that it is found only in the Atlantic Ocean.
On our coast it is found in summer between Cape May and Cape Sable, though rarely north of Cape
Ann : ' occasionally off Cape Hatteras and the mouth of the Chesapeake and in the Gulf of Mexico.
Specimens have been taken about the Canaries and Madeira, at the Cape of Good Hope and in
the Mediterranean. It has not been observed on the coast of Europe north of Gibraltar, nor at the

This fish does not appear to have been abundant in former years: it attracted but. little atten-
tion in our waters before 1860, although it was alluded to in 1815 by Mitchill, in 1842 by DeKay,
and in 1856 by Gill; none of these authors, however, seem to have regarded it as at all abundant. 1

A note from Prof. J. Hammond Triiinbull states : " This fish used to be quite common, in some
years, in the Stonington market. 1 have a note of a considerable number in market July 22, 1842,
their first appearance for the season."

Storer remarked in 1846: "This species, called by the fishermen in Boston market the 'Skip-
jack,' and by those at the extremity of Cape Cod the 'Bonito,' is very rarely met with in Massa-
chusetts Bay. It is occasionally taken at Provincetown. and even at Lynn. At some seasons it is
frequently caught at Martha's Vineyard with trailing bait."

During the past ten or fifteen years they have become exceedingly abundant about Block
Island and the eastern end of Long Island. 3 Fabulous quantities are taken in the pound-nets.

'August 6, 1876, Captain Webb, of Milk Inland, took seventy-three Bonitog in bis weir, and August 7 twenty-
eight more in au eight-inch gill-net.

'The following extract* from the journal of one of the earliest settler* of New England may refer either to this
fish or to one of the smaller species of Tunny:

"1635, JOLT 18 [near Newfoundland]. Saturday, wind northwest, a fair, cool day. We saw this morning a
great many of Bonitoes leaping and playing about the ship. Bonito in a fish somewhat bigger than a cod, but less
than a porpoise." Mather's Journal. Young's Chronicles of the First Planters of Massachusetts Buy Colony. Boston :
1846, p. 464.

"16'.t5, JULY 21 [near Newfoundland]. Tuesday morning, a great calm after a hot night. This morning our
seamen took a Bonito and opened him upon the deck; of which, being dressed, our master Bent Mathew Michel and
me part, as good ftsh in eating as conld bo desired. About noon the wind became northeast, good for our purpose,
so that we went that afternoon nine or ten leagues a watch." Mather's Journal. Young's Chronicles of the First
Planters of Massachusetts B;iy Colony. Boston : 1846, p. 4G4.

* BONITA. We did not say half enough the other day about the new visitor in our bay, the Bonita. If it Hhiill
become plentiful in our waters, as it promises to be, it will become a most valuable article of food. A correspondent,
whose opinion upon matters of this kind is ultimate, writes: "Your article on the Bonita is every word true; pray,
have your attention turned to fish, the great question (economical) of the day. Last night I had a fish on my table
which they said was a kind of Spanish mackerel; the moment I tasted it I said it was a Bonita, having eaten it thirty
years since, on my first voyage to India, and the taste hod never been forgotten. It is the salmon of the sea. Mark
its solidity of flesh, its great weight, its purity of taste, entire absence of the slightly decayed taste all fish h:is during
warm weather. It is as nourishing as beef." The remainder of the note is "strictly confidential," and so was the
basket which accompanied it with the choicest treasure of the sea covered with the greenest leaves of the land. We
certify from actual experiment that Bonita is the worthy rival of the Spanish mackerel, the sbeepsbead, and the
salmon. We are pleased to quote it in our household market report at the more reasonable price of twenty cents a
pound. Providence Journal, July, 1871.

The people of Rhode Island are happy in consequence of the appearance in their waters of that excellent fish, t In-
Bonita. This fish is esteemed superior to the Spanish mackerel, and nearly equal in flavor to the salmon. It has not
iii-i-n kuown in Rhode Island waters until recently; now it is so plentiful that it is sold in the Providence fish markets
.it twenty rents per pound. Germantown Telegraph, August 2, 1871.

THE BONITA. Mr. John Flyun, of the Citizens' Market, yesterday received another supply of that new and
dainty fish, the Bonita, and those who have not yet tasted of this worthy rival of the Spanish mackerel, the sbeeps-
head, and the salmon, will do well to call at his market to-day and obtain one of these rare visitors. Providence
Journal, 1871.


In 1877 four smacks were constantly running between Block Island and New York, carrying
each from 4,000 to 8,000 Bonitoes a week, or perhaps 20,000 pounds. The yield of Block Island
alone that summer was probably not less than 2,000,000 pounds. In one haul of the purse-seine
by the schooner "Lilian," of Noank, 1,500 were taken; and in August, 1874, 1,200 in one pound-net.

They seem first to have attracted the attention of New England authorities about 1865.
Genio 0. Scott, writing in 1875, remarked : "His first arrival along our beaches and in our bays
was about eight years ago, and his shoals have increased remarkably fast ever since his advent.
As a table luxury it ranks, with epicures, below the striped bass and bluefish, but, because of its
comparative rarity, it commands a price rather above either. The numbers of this fish annually
taken about the approaches to our harbors with the troll and in nets has increased so much that
it bids fair to become nearly as numerous as the bluefish."

HABITS, &c. In habits the Bonito has much in common with the blue-fish, though it is,
if possible, even more active and more the embodiment of perpetual and insatiable hunger. They
come to and go from the coast together, and are often taken together in the nets. Sometimes two
lines in one boat will fasten at the same time a bluefish and a Bonito. The Bonito, like the
bluefish, appear to be attracted to our waters by the great schools of mackerel and menhaden, upon
which they feed. The Bonito schools create much confusion as they pass through the water, and
their progress is marked by flocks of screaming gulls and terns, which follow them to prey upon the
remnants of their feasts. At the end of summer they disappear entirely. No very young Bonitos
have been found in our waters. Geuio C. Scott, however, records the capture of one in Jamaica
Bay in 1874, weighing less than a pound, and which he believes to have been hatched the previous
year. The Fish Commission also has one of the same size taken off Southern New England.
Charles Potter, of Norwalk, Connecticut, states that small specimens, six inches in length, were
from 1870 to 1874 frequently taken late in the fall in the weirs at Fisher's Island.

SIZE. A fish weighing ten pounds measures twenty-eight to twenty-nine inches ; eight pounds,
twenty-seven to twenty-eight inches ; seven pounds, twenty-six to twenty-seven inches ; six pounds,
twenty -five to twenty-six inches; four pounds, twenty-two to twenty-three inches. There have not
yet been found in the adults any traces of mature spawn, though one taken off Norwalk, July 23,
1874, had the eggs well formed though not nearly mature.

THE FISHERY. In 1875 the earliest Bonito was taken in the Robinson's Hole weir July 7, and
two more came along July 24. They were not abundant until August, when many more were taken
in Vineyard Sound by Oak Bluffs boats, trolling. The fishermen then believed that they were
gradually increasing in numbers and importance and taking the place of the squeteague which
were dying out. August 7 the weir at Cedar Tree Neck had taken nothing but Bonitoes, while
those farther west at Menemsha Bight had taken only squeteagne.

Bonitos are caught in the vicinity of Block Island with trolling-hooks. They bite sharply, like
blnefish. The best bait is an ordinary bluefish hook with a petticoat of red and white flannel,
though the fish will also take any bluefish lure.

On the eastern shore of Virginia Bonito are caught by harpooning, says Mr. 0. R. Moore, and
also with the hook. They are most numerous about the mouth of the York River. They come in
in June and leave in September. It is quite possible, however, that the Bonito referred to by Mr.
Moore is quite another fish the Cobia, Elacate atlantica.

USES. Tested side by side with the bluefish, at the same table, the Bonito seems not much
inferior, though the flesh is somewhat softer and more perishable.

The Bonito may be ranked among the many excellent food-fishes of our coast, and, in any


country not so abundantly supplied with finely-flavored fishes, it would be considered of tho
highest value. Their vitality is so great and their supply of blood so abundant that unless bled
immediately after capture their flesh, especially in warm weather, is apt to deteriorate. Great
quantities of them are taken to New York, and there, as well as in Rhode Island and Connecticut,
they are sold extensively under the name of "Spanish mackerel," at prices ranging from thirty five
to fifty cents a ]>oiind. This was the common practice in 1874, and has continued since. The state-
ment made by Scott in 1875, viz, that on account of their rarity they were preferred to the bluefish
and striped base, would not now be true; his prediction that they would in time become as
abundant as the blueflsh seems, however, during some years to have been almost verified.
The dealers, by the change of name in the market above referred to, are able to obtain a high
price for a fish which, under its own name, would be looked upon with suspicion. An absurd
report that the Bonito was poisonous was current in 1874, probably owing to the fact that similar
fish taken in warm climates are sometimes deleterious.

In 1874 the ordinary price in New York was one cent apiece, though in the wholesale markets
they commanded the same price as bluefish, and many were sold, as has been stated, at the high
rates of Spanish mackerel. The market was so glutted that many of the vessels could not dispose
of their cargoes.

According to Stearns, our Bonito occurs also in the Gulf of Mexico, where it is everywhere
abundant, and is found in the bays on the Florida coast. It usually moves, according to the same
authority, at the surface of the water in small schools. At sea it is found throughout the year,
and along the shore only in the summer. Small schools are sometimes taken in drag-seines in
shallow water. Its market value at Pensacola is not great, although it has become an article of

THE PACIFIC BONITO. On the California coast occurs a closely related species, Sarda chilennix,
which is thus described by Professor Jordan:

"This fish is every where known as the Bonito. The names 'Spanish Mackerel,' 'Skipjack,' and
' Tuna' are also sometimes applied to it. It reaches an average weight of about twelve pounds, but
the body is considerably longer and more slender than that of an Albicore of the same weight.
It ranges from San Francisco southward to Chili, being abundant in Monterey Bay and about the
Santa Barbara Islands in the summer and fall. It approaches to within half a mile of the shore,
where, in company with the barracuda, it is taken in great numbers by trolling. It spawns in August
or September. Its arrival is in early summer and its departure in the fall, at which season the
young are said to be found abundantly in the kelp. It feeds chiefly on anchovies and squids. As
a food-fish it is not held in high esteem, the flesh being coarse. Great numbers are salted and dried,
and are in that state considered far inferior to the barracuda and yellow-tail."

THE STRIPED BONITO. The Striped Bouito, already mentioned, is distinguished from other
species by the presence of four dark lines, which begin at the pectoral fin and run along the side
of the belly to the tail, the sides of the common Bonito being of a silvery white. This species, the
StrijHjd Bonito, is occasionally taken on the European coast, but rarely entering the Mediter-
ranean. It is found in the Pacific on the coast of China and Japan, and is the species most
commonly known to mariners as the Bonito, or Albicore, of the activity and voracity of which, as
observed from the decks of vessels at sea, so many descriptions have been written. The lirst
individual noticed on our coast was taken by Mr. J. H. Blake at Provincetown in July, 1S77.
Others have since been observed at Wood's Holl and in the New York markets.

One of the American men-of-war of Revolutionary times was named "Bonetta," after the
fishes of this group.


THE LITTLE TUNNIES. In addition to the Striped Bonito, which is, properly, a Tunny, there
are two other small Tunnies the Long-flnned Tunny, Orcynus alalonga, and the Silver-spotted
Tunny, Orcynm arpentivittatus which have since 1877 been added to the fauna of the United

The former of these two occurs in considerable abundance on the coast of California, and is
there also known as the Albicore. Concerning it Professor Jordan writes: "This fish reaches
a weight of about twelve pounds, and is much shorter and deeper than the Bonito of the Pacific.
It is found from San Francisco southward, but is abundant only in the channels about the Santa
Barbara Islands. It seldom comes within six miles of the shore, and it is taken by trolling. It
spawns about the middle of August, its arrival on the coast being determined by the spawning
season. It usually is present in June and July and disappears in the fall. It feeds chiefly on
anchovies and squid, and various deep-water fishes (Merludus, Sudis, Myctophum) arc found in
its stomach. As a food -fish it is even less valued than the Bonito, rarely selling for more than
twenty to twenty-five cents. It is abundant, but of little economic importance, being usually
fished for by sportsmen."


The most important of the Tunnies is the so-called Horse Mackerel, or Albicore, Orcynus
thynnus, the "Ton" or "Tuna" of the Mediterranean, and the "Tunny" of English-speaking people.

The distribution of this fish corresponds more closely with that of the ordinary species of the
Atlantic, since it occurs not only in the Mediterranean and the Western Atlantic north to the Gulf
of Saint Lawrence, but also on the coast of Europe to the Loffoden Islands, latitude 69.

The following account of this species is for the most part from the notes of Professor Baird:

Of this fish, as found in American waters, our naturalists have not much to say, the species,
although abundant at certain seasons of the year off particular parts of the coast, being not a
very familiar one to our writers. They seem to be rather a northern fish, and are said by Storer
to make their first appearance on our shores about Provincetown early in June, remaining until
October. Of late years they seem to be increasing in abundance northward, becoming more and
more common during the summer season at Newfoundland.

In 1878, Capt. Henry Webb, of Milk Island, near Gloucester, harpooned and killed thirty of
these monsters, weighing in the aggregate at least thirty thousand pounds. They had entered his
pound in pursuit of small fish, cutting without difficulty through the netting. One had his
stomach full of small mackerel.

According to Captain Atwood, on their first appearance in Massachusetts Bay they are very
poor, but by the beginning of September become quite fat and are very much hunted for the oil,
the head and belly especially furnishing sometimes as many as twenty gallons. They are har-
pooned on the surface of the water, much like the Sword-fish.

The early traditions of this fish in Massachusetts Bay speak of them as being sometimes so
tame as to take food from the hand; but they have long since given up this engaging habit.
Their flesh is not esteemed in the United States, being rarely, if ever, eaten, although much used
for mackerel bait. It is, however, more in favor in the Provinces. This species attains a very
great size. One specimen, taken in 1838 off Cape Ann, measured, according to Dr. Storer, fifteen
feet in length, and weighed one thousand pounds, while still larger individuals than, this are on

Their food while in our waters consists, it is said, mainly of menhaden, of which they destroy
a vast number. Their inclosure in the fishermen's nets, is not much desired, as they are apt to


become entangled in them and to do much injury in their efforts to escape. They are pursued by
thr killer whales, bd'oie which they flex- in great terror.

Strange to *a\ . although highly pri/.cd in the Old World from the time of the ancient Romans
to the present day. they are seldom, ii' ever, used for food iu this country. Although occurring
in large numbers and of remarkable size, no effort is made toward their capture; and though
not unfrequently taken in weirs and pounds along the coast, they are always allowed to rot on
the shore. Occasionally a portion of the flesh may be used asfood for chickens, but seldom, if ever,
for human consumption.

In the Mediterranean the Tunny is taken in large nets, known as madraguc* similar in many
respects to the so-called " traps" of Seconnet River in Rhode Island. The fish are used partly fresh
and partly salted, and they are put up in oil to a considerable extent and largely consumed in all
the Latin countries of Europe. Considerable quantities are salted and canned, and canned Tunny
of European manufacture is imported to New York in small quantities. The flesh is dark and not
usually attractive, although wholesome. They appears to attain a greater size in America
than in Europe, one of five hundred pounds in the Mediterranean being considered rather a
monster, while in America their weight is not unfrequently given at from twelve to fifteen hundred

Nothing definite is known iu regard to their mode of reproduction. The eggs are said to be
deposited early in June, and the young at hatching, according to Yarrell, weigh an ounce and a
half, reaching a weight of four ounces by August, and thirty ounces by October. 1

Mr. Matthew Jones, of Halifax, Nova Scotia, writes : " The Tunny is very common on the eastern
coast of Nova Scotia in summer, and is known to fishermen and others as the ' Albicore.' The Rev.
J. Ambrose informs me that it regularly visits St. Margaret's Bay every summer, several specimens
being taken and rendered down for oil. They were particularly abundant in 1876. They are
never seen in the Basin of Minas."

Captain Atwood contributes the following note on Horse-Mackerel in Cape Cod Bay :

"They don't come till the weather gets warm. We don't see them at first when we begin
setting mackerel nets, but about June they are liable to appear, and we find holes in the nets.
Sometimes in September they gill them for the sake of their oil. My brother had forty-seven holes
through one eighty-yard net in one night. When they strike a net they go right through it, and
when they go through it the hole immediately becomes round. It looks as if you could put a half
bushel through it. I said in my Lowell Institute lectures that a shark in going through a net
would roll himself up in it, but the Horse-Mackerel get right through, and the hole that they cut
could be mended in five minutes. The fishermen don't dread them much because they do the
nets so little injury. They remain with us through the summer and early autumn, when they are

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 56 of 146)